Author: Chinua Achebe
Comfort level: Easy reading
Synopsis: Readers and followers of Chinua Achebe’s works will find that this work starts as a personal diary of Chinua Achebe and his pursuit of Biafra, Nigeria, and the continent of Africa. The account begins with the Achebe’s father and his misfortune turned to fortunate. His father was an orphan child, as a result, he fostered by his extended family. However, Achebe’s father became a Christian and a scholar. In turn, the children of his father are privy to an excellent education and the challenges of reaching full potential. The Achebe children do not fall short of the expectations of their parents. In fact, Achebe continues to assume the role of griot and acts as the conscious and heartbeat of his country. The memoir acts as a conduit for the reader to experience the metamorphosis of a country and a man. Modernity was thrust upon Nigeria and Africa. Achebe alerts the reader to the preparations that were made by the British to nurture a false independence. At this point, this work becomes the account of a nation, not one individual, facing changes and dishevel. Most of all, Achebe concedes his innocence and ignorance of the fact that Nigeria was being disrobed of tradition in favor of Modernity and the illusion of a Postcolonial state. Chinua Achebe speaks through this book of the pain of watching, defenselessly, as parties assumed power and squashed any hope of a true democracy. Readers see Wole Soyinka, as a partner, not a rival of Chinua Achebe in the pursuit of ceasing the battle between Biafra and Nigeria. Soyinka and Achebe knew the cost of the war, in terms of lives and unity of Nigeria and the unity continent of Africa. Achebe, readers learn, was forced into exile. Soyinka was a lone voice of reason silenced only by numerous periods of incarcerations…in theory. Yet, Soyinka and Achebe became beacons of Biafran and Nigerian reason from inside and outside the country. In essence, Achebe makes a case for the continued journey, the incomplete legacy of Nigeria and Africa. But, Achebe is most skilled in his current work, There Was A Country (2012), is making himself, Nigeria, Africa, the world, and you….accountable for what he has witnessed.
Voyeurism is not acceptable. For Achebe, voyeurism is least acceptable when there are those brave and willing to stand against tyranny and imperialism…as we stand idle. I think that this book is the best work that I’ve read in years. Every educator, student, and citizen (of whatever state) ought to read this book and assume accountability for what continues to transpire in Africa. We can no longer blame the victims.
Critique: This book is a blend of craft and conscious. Chinua Achebe is a blessed storyteller. We all know this. But, There Was A Country (2012) is evidence that Chinua Achebe can speak in the vein of the ‘African I’ in political terms. What is the ‘African I’? It is a narrative voice indigenous to Africans. Africans often, in literature and life, see themselves as part of a community larger than the mere self. The community is the individual and the individual is but a facet of the community. This book was a great resource. I learned about Biafra. I learned of Achebe’s role in the development of Biafra. I learned of his lost dream for Biafra. I was able to see his growth from the boy to the international statesman. Biafra, Nigeria, and Africa are seen with greater clarity as result of this book. Biafra was starved. Nigeria was starved. Africa was starved. Chinua Achebe makes his case well.