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There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra Hardcover – October 11, 2012
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""Memoir and history are brought together by a master storyteller."
"Chinua Achebe's history of Biafra is a meditation on the condition of freedom. It has the tense narrative grip of the best fiction. It is also a revelatory entry into the intimate character of the writer's brilliant mind and bold spirit. Achebe has created here a new genre of literature in which politico-historical evidence, the power of storytelling, and revelations from the depths of the human subconscious are one. The event of a new work by Chinua Achebe is always extraordinary; this one exceeds all expectation."
--Nadine Gordimer, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature
Top Customer Reviews
In Part one, Achebe reveals the golden days of Nigeria and how through hard work and support from his family he positions himself to receive the baton from exiting colonialists at the dawn of Nigeria's independence. Achebe's story in this regard is the story of how the Igbo, in only 30 years, were able to bridge the educational gap that the people of the then Western Nigeria had as a result of early exposure to Western education. Achebe's early childhood story and path to success mirror the drive that has propelled the Igbo since they became part of Nigeria- a drive that came from Igbo republican society that abhors royalty, encourages competition, and rewards personal achievement. In stories of personal struggle, rugged determination and unique foresight, Achebe makes it known that there is no magic wand behind the Igbo emergence and attainment of preeminent position in the Nigerian project other than by shared industriousness. The consequence of this accomplishment was an immediate fear of Igbo domination. That fear quickly took hold in the psyche of other Nigerians and practically truncated the Nigerian dream of Achebe generation.Read more ›
So, rather than dwell on Achebes' account of the genocide perpetrated by Gowon and given economic strength and dimension by Awolowo, which has been universal knowledge just reinforced by Achebe for posterity, I want to focus on something that is happening and what could happen to Anambra State if these "Politicians with plenty of money and very low IQ" are allowed to have their way.
It was primarily because of these politicians who Achebe called renegades trying to turn Anambra state into "a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom," that made him (Achebe) reject being among six recipients of Nigeria's second-highest award, the Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic in 2004. These are men with distorted minds and evil in their hearts. They lit series of fires and watched the radio and TV houses began to take a new ugly shape and face as smoke billowed into the early morning sky. The smoke got into their lungs, caused them to cough but delighted their evil heart all the same. On that faithful November morning, we all asked was this real? Tears spilled down our cheeks. We listened and watched without comprehension. We felt a sudden pain behind our breastbone, vulnerable and defeated.Read more ›
The book is broken into four parts - something the writer Obi Nwakanma has cleverly observed also corresponds to the four market days in the Igbo week and a may have provided the super structure for Achebe's literary world view. Nnena Orji also has admirably observed that "It seems...that the insertion of poems in the story is also a throw-back to Igbo traditional narrative styles that emanated from the oral tradition where the story itself was interspersed with chanting, singing and poetry. It occurred to me that Professor Achebe was making a concerted effort to embrace this "authentic African narrative structure" and was not, as some other shallow readings have suggested, just experimenting or taking artistic license.
In the western literary tradition, narrative structure followed very strict rules. I think it was G.F.W. Hegel in the 19th century that referred to poetry as "the universal art of the mind [that] runs through all the arts and is art's highest phase, one phase higher than music?" Poetry was treated as an art form apart and was hardly `married with prose."
Part one of the book deals with Professor Achebe's family and coming of age. Tender descriptions of his mother and father and their interactions with English clergy are particularly touching. His own education and encounter with some of founders of modern African literature are also found here with luminous beauty.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Insightful poetic and puts this important piece of history into perspective. You however miss Achebe's creative writing while reading it.Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
It paints an almost forgotten picture of a Nigeria that was forming a.d how things go wrong. A bit skewed to favour the narrative of the author but historical writings can't be... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Oshomha Obemeata
Bold and amazing write up but I expected him to go further to profer way forward in the life of Igbos vis-a-vis present day Nigeria since Biafra is not realizable now.Published 11 months ago by Obinna Ezeihuoma