Click here to read the story in its entirety on The New Yorker webpage. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "Apollo" was originally published in the April 13, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.
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Okay, I can’t keep using our new baby as an excuse! I’ll get thoughts up on this one soon!

By | 2015-04-06T00:22:43+00:00 April 6th, 2015|Categories: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, New Yorker Fiction|Tags: |14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Adrienne April 6, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    Use that new baby as an excuse as long as you can! These days are so exhausting and mind-numbing, but so beautiful and rare….

    Onto the story… This one was a nugget. Character, setting, plot, theme, and conflict were quite neat and tidy. On a surface level it was an interesting story – all of the elements seamed together flawlessly, but on an even deeper level there was plenty to parse out and study and ponder.

    It was effective. Though not one I’d pick up to read again for entertainment, it was almost classic.

  2. Betsy April 7, 2015 at 7:55 am

    I enjoy Chimamanda Adichie. With her unemotional prose she can approach deeply emotional topics.

    This story is about betrayal and how then you live with that knowledge of yourself as betrayer. Very neatly (as Adrienne points out) done. I agree with Adrienne, though, the story was beyond neat, it was masterful. There is also, beside the idea of betrayal, the exploration of colonialism – the way Nigerian society has adopted the British model of house servants. But the story is more than a mechanical treatment.

    The distance that Adichie has her narrator adopt gives the story a coolness. That chill, that reserve, that pause, gives the reader space to experience what happens as something that tempts all of us – space to sense that the colonial flaw might exist in each of us. That desire to use other people.

    Something else that interested me greatly was a minor part — the way, in the story’s set-up, the boy is more interested in Bruce Lee than he is in his professorial parents’ books and arguments and ideas. His room has been invaded (like a colonialized country) with his parents’ books. He uses (!) Black Beauty and Water Babies as his footstool! This fascinates me.

    The professorial parents remind me of Amherst, that Five College place, where my husband and I lived for twenty-five years – Amherst – all-academics-all-the-time. So many of our children were fascinated with fantasy, the way Okenwo is fascinated with Bruce Lee. It’s as if the kids realized that despite all of our do-good/do-right/fix-the-world manias, the world was still a messy place. Thus fantasy, not realism, provided the real refuge – not projects, not arguments, not campaigns, not battles. There are still impaired drivers, despite all the mothers against drunk driving, despite all the phone calls, despite all the soul-bearing, the kids seem to be saying. There is still wa, regardless of the United Nations flag on the common and the fight about it. I sometimes wonder just how overwhelming the millenials found us – we elders so righteous, so hopeful, so cause-full, so determined to raise more do-gooders. Or were they just observing that we were on the phone most of the time? Or reading?

    And here the boy is years later – no wife, no kids, still visiting the parents quite regularly. It is as if he never got what he needed in the first place, and cannot keep from yearning for it.

    It’s as if Adichie is writing about balance – the way people (and societies) get pushed off balance, then swing the other way, too far, of course, and back again.

  3. John's April 10, 2015 at 3:54 am

    First let me say I wish I were Chimamanda. She’s the only African writer that can get away with such a story. You can take this to the bank: you would never be published by the new Yorker if you submitted this story… for starters, and maybe it’s just me, the narrator should probably have been a girl, could have worked better, and I am not saying this because the writer is female, a couple of Murakami’s female narrators are believable after all, but this lad by chimamanda, even if I was to assume that he’s gay he just doesn’t seem to work for me… the opening was brilliant I have to admit though. But when you get to phrases like “time collapsed ” I feel like a new Yorker editor should have pulled a red pen right there… but hey, what do I know? It’s a matter of taste and this wasn’t for me.

  4. lotusgreen April 11, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    Betsy! And mazel tov on new baby, Trevor! John’s — I think those red pencils must be on strike for all the use they’ve gotten this last year; frankly, I miss them.

    I am again thrust into that been-there-done-that-state-of-mind with this story. Beautifully written, I’ll agree, but there’s no newness to this story, within the context of the past year’s New Yorker offerings. Granted, it’s a classic theme, and granted as well we have all been there, but have we not met Raphael numerous times over the past year? Different guises, same faithless boy.

    Lily

  5. Poor Yorick April 13, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    Trevor, I’m new here but please accept my congratulations on your strong seed (oh, and the baby).
    Well put Lily, beyond the New Yorker, Briony Tallis came to mind. However, moving within those clumsy bookends, the older pseudo-sibling dynamic with Raphael was notable: mimicking tasting his blood ala Bruce Lee (could be my Tarantino coming out there), the thrill of that connection only to have it shattered when he’ll throw you under to talk to a cute girl. Not bad at all.

  6. Trevor Berrett April 13, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    Thanks for the congrats, everyone! We’re all doing well, and believe it or not I am keeping up with my reading of these stories — I just haven’t found much time to sit down and write much about them!

  7. Rosalind April 14, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    TED talks ” The danger of a single story” given by Adichie’s is captivating to watch. I’m not familiar with Nigerian culture so this story is enlightening for me.

    Trevor,Good luck with your new baby.

  8. Adrienne April 14, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    @ Rosalind – Thanks so much for sharing. It added to the reading of the story and deepened my thoughts…

  9. Greg April 18, 2015 at 9:37 am

    Welcome Back Betsy – We missed you sooooo much!……..and I love your points on the colonial tradition of using people, and how fantasy is the true refuge for many youth!

  10. Ken April 19, 2015 at 5:15 am

    Congratulations Trevor and I’m glad to see Betsy writing again! I’m with LotusGreen, I felt this was very familiar. The situation, in fact, resembles the narrative of the Michael Haneke film Cache with Daniel Auteuil as the haunted adult. The internalization of colonialism, the disapproving parents whose child follows a different path, the child’s falling back on privilege–this all felt very familiar. I wasn’t even that impressed with the style, it seemed artless.

  11. Sean H April 21, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    I agree that the male narrator stuck in my craw a bit and it felt like an author intentionally trying to write against gender (and doing so pretty unconvincingly — the character’s voice and attitude never seemed even remotely male/masculine), which is a shame because it’s a well-structured piece and almost achieves its goal of gut-wrenching reflection on the consequences of the actions of entitled youth. Adichie has talent but I’ve never been totally wowed by her and it’s hard to think that her gender, race and beauty aren’t big factors in her success.

  12. Roger April 22, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    I didn’t like this as much as “Checking Out,” published in TNY a couple of years ago and discussed on this blog at http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/2013/03/11/chimamanda-ngozi-adichie-checking-out/. In both stories, I found Adichie to be masterful in quickly and deftly sketching characters and in the pacing and rhythm of her prose. But, as Lilly and others point out, this story lacked originality. The basic plot feels like it has been provided many times before: an adult looking back regretfully at something done in childhood. It needed another layer of meaning, something more complex than what we get here. Tobias Wolff’s “Deep Kiss” is the best example I can think of. But Adichie doesn’t need to go that far – just something extra, some kind of twist would probably do. I think she is very talented and I look forward to more from her. Now I need to go check Google Images to see that beauty Sean mentions!

    I add my congratulations to Trevor about the new baby and to the welcome backs for Betsy.

  13. Roger April 22, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    Forgot to click “notify me” ….

  14. […] I missed before. And then there’s the subtext I never would have seen, like the post-colonial theme Betsy points out on The Mookse and the Gripes, or the nuggets Adichie mentions in her TNY […]

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