From the legendary author of Things Fall Apart—a long-awaited memoir of coming of age in a fragile new nation, and its destruction in a tragic civil war
For more than forty years, Chinua Achebe maintained a considered silence on the events of the Nigerian civil war, also known as the Biafran War, of 1967–1970, addressing them only obliquely through his poetry. Decades in the making, There Was a Country is a towering account of one of modern Africa’s most disastrous events, from a writer whose words and courage left an enduring stamp on world literature. A marriage of history and memoir, vivid firsthand observation and decades of research and reflection, There Was a Country is a work whose wisdom and compassion remind us of Chinua Achebe’s place as one of the great literary and moral voices of our age.
Achebe's reminiscences of Biafra, a country whichthat spent the entirety of its brief existence, from 1967 to 1970, in civil war with Nigeria, result in an uneasy mix of history and memoir. After an insightful, masterful account of his education, his attention wavers between the individual and the international without settling on a steady tone. Readers will find his legendary gift with imagery in several poems, as well as in details such as Biafran citizens being warned against wearing the colorful clothing most visible to Nigerian bombers, a brilliantly selected example of war's reach into the previously mundane. But the narrative as a whole never coalesces, and after Biafra declares independence it keeps swinging abruptly between the trivial and the heart-stopping: Achebe never unpacks; he tries to stay alive; his wife employs men to redecorate. Nagging questions remain at the end about his stance towards the conflict, during which he served as cultural ambassador for Biafra, while a closing call for "patriotic consciousness" to overcome Nigeria's current problems fails to convince. Only in a concluding poem does Achebe put his finger on the main theme of this stubbornly loyal celebration of unfulfilled possibility: "haunted revelry."
Customer ReviewsSee All
I am Igbo. My father fought in this war. Growing up I only got one side of the story, but as I aged, I began to realize that it's important to understand both sides of every story. This war was tragic, but thanks to this book and authors like Uncle Achebe, I'm coming to terms with my history (past and present).
There was a Country
Without a doubt, Chinua Achebe is one of the greats of modern literature in the English language, and perhaps the greatest to come out of my native Nigeria and the African continent. I cannot wait to read this account. My only concern though is that he holds nothing back and that the book says a lot more that has already been said elsewhere by Achebe and others about the Biafran story.
This is Achebe at his best! Well thought out prose. Refreshing to read the Biafra side of the story