In the February 8, 2013 edition of the Times Literary Supplement, Alex de Waal reviews Chinua Achebe’s There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra. You will need a subscription to access it.

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2 Responses to Review of Chinua Achebe’s There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra

  1. Dr. Chii Ughanze-Onyeagocha says:

    “There Was A Country” by Chinua Achebe.

    A writer pulls his best works from experience. Chinua Achebe’s parting criticisms on Nigeria, “There Was A Country” will eventually go down history beside “Things Fall Apart”. The two books stimulate controversy. The two books are thought provoking. They tend to provoke negative ones from the books’ objects of criticisms. For example “Things Fall Apart” provokes negative thoughts mainly from our colonial power, Britain. Chinua’s criticisms are focused on the negative job Britain did in Nigeria as a colonial power.
    “There was a country” is provoking negative thoughts mostly from Nigerians. Our negative ways are what have held Nigeria down and the object of the books criticisms.

    America did not become great through being praised and pampered by her writers. No one knows this better than we blacks in America. For all of us around Chinua’s generation, who have been forced to live in America by these negative events going on at home, such as extreme corruption, which has led to acute joblessness and wide spread crimes in Nigeria know what our criticisms and other forms of activism, especially in the sixties have done to improve America. This is most noticeable in racial matters. The result has been a racially better America and the first black president. America still has a lot more work to do but we all agree that racially it is a far cry from the sixties and seventies. This is what Chinua has done all his life for Nigeria.On departing this Earth, he then leaves this book “There Was A Country” to continue the fight since Nigeria is still down on the floor.

    There is no Nigerian I know that loves Nigeria more than Chinua.It is all over his work especially this most controversial last book. You see this in the sub texts.

    He was one literary giant that was not afraid to use his potent war weapon,his pen, to write his convictions. He sacrificed a Nobel prize to this. Dissidents often do not receive laurels from their targets. The nobel group are Europeans, same colonialists. Fela Ransomekuti, another very powerful fighter– who spent his life using his own potent weapon, music to fight Nigeria’s evil ways did not receive laurels from Nigeria.
    Chinua refused awards from Nigeria but accepted from the world.Why? The reason should be obvious to most analytical minds. He loved Nigeria deeply but Nigeria continued to fail him.A great analogy would be the situation between a teacher and his favorite student, his most brilliant student. He expects a lot from this student. When the student starts “messing up” he gets unusually disappointed. The level of disappointment is not same as he would feel for other students.

    “There Was A Country.” That was Biafra,no matter how briefly it lived, there was a country. Chinua was just drawing our attention to–the principles of Biafran Revolution which led to the secession of the East. These principles were called the Ahiara Declaration. It was a model country where justice,peace, law and order reigned. The pogrom was on and Igbos were being slaughtered in many part of Nigeria. One can understand how people who were facing extermination like the Jews during their Holocaust would want a model country where there would be peace, justice, law and order.Chinua lived through this war and saw these slaughterings so it was very emotional to him hence the plenty of space he gave to the Igbo side of this war.

    “there Was A Country” is such a great title for this book. there was that model country, Biafra. The Igbos had peace, justice,law and order in it’s short life. Without this model country they would have been exterminated.

    I will end this writing with this comment. The damage the colonial power did on the Nigerian mind through missionaries and similar actors is proving tougher to overcome than the problems from the Biafran War. For example even in this 21st century, generations away from the colonial days, Nigerians still give their children English names!
    This damage can only be compared to the one the slave masters did on the minds of the slaves in the diaspora. It has been terribly hard for them to overcome. The mind is very powerful. When it is damaged, a lot of serious damages follow. To overcome this damage, all of us both in Africa and the diaspora have to recognize that our minds are damaged first.
    Then repair will follow. Recognition comes through criticism.
    That’s what Chinua did in—There was a country. Nigeria should wake up, start
    healing, so it will move forward at a pace expected of her.

  2. I subscribe. I like the name of the foundation’s work and I know I have to work in my home country.
    And I must say that I was poor in the country. i am love of peace.

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