When Updike waded into Nigerian politics

BBC News recently ran a story by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani about Nigerian blogger Teslim Omipidan, whose passion for history and all things Nigerian has connected famed American writer John Updike to his country’s politics. Here is one of Omipidan’s stories:

In October 1961 a young American named Margery Michelmore caused a stir when, in the midst of Peace Corps training at the University of Ibadan in southwestern Nigeria, she decided to send a postcard to a friend back home. In it, she described the “squalor and absolutely primitive living conditions” of her new environment. “A Nigerian saw the postcard before it was mailed; distributed photocopies around the campus—sparking riots from the students who found the private message outrageous, and an international incident that eventually drew the involvement of then US President John F. Kennedy.”

Where does Updike come in?

“Back in 1961, acclaimed writer John Updike absolved Margery Michelmore of blame in the postcard incident. ‘Miss Machelmore did not sin in saying in a personal missive that she was startled, coming fresh from Foxboro, Massachusetts, to find the citizens of Ibadan cooking in the streets,’ he wrote in the 28 October issue of that year’s The New Yorker. ‘And the fellow student who picked up the dropped card and, instead of mailing it, handed it to the local mimeographer seems guilty of a failure of gallantry. One may or may not cook in the streets, but one does not read other people’s mail and then demonstrate because it is insufficiently flattering,'” Updike had written in “The Talk of the Town.”

Read the whole article:  “The Nigerian blogger scouring the past to inform the future”

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