Download There Was a Country PDF book freee By Chinua Achebe – There Was a Country By Chinua Achebe: From the legendary author of Things Fall Apart comes a long awaited memoir of coming of age with a fragile new nation only to watch it torn asunder in a tragic civil war. Buy from Amazon
The defining experience of Chinua Achebe’s life was the Nigerian civil war, also known as the Biafran War, of 1967-1970. The conflict was infamous for its savage impact on the Biafran people, Chinua Achebe’s people, many of whom were starved to death after the Nigerian government blockaded their borders. By then, Chinua Achebe was already a world-renowned novelist, with a young family to protect.
He took the Biafran side in the conflict and served his government as a roving cultural ambassador, from which vantage he absorbed the war’s full horror. Immediately after the war, Achebe took refuge in an academic post in the United States, and for more than forty years he has maintained a considered silence on the events of those terrible years, addressing them only obliquely through his poetry. Now, decades in the making, comes a towering reckoning with one of modern Africa’s most fateful events, from a writer whose words and courage have left an enduring stamp on world literature.
Review – There Was a Country PDF
The importance of the pen, the brush and the voice of the artist asa social critic and as an interpretive lens to focus on the intricaciesas well as the banalities of inter-human conflict may or may notcarry less weight than they did in distant and not so distant past.This of course is a question of perspective; but even in the age of the saturation coverage of wars and insurrections by theapparatus of the mass media, the nuanced touches provided bythe evocative poet and the erudite writer can give new dimensionsof insight into the background, the evolution and the effects of thewars waged by mankind.Certainly those artists whose works have profoundly captured theimagination and which have been indelibly marked in humanmemory thus becoming part of the general narrative of historicalconsciousness have consistently spoken of the inherent basenessof wars: its infliction of mass suffering and its capacity forunleashing the demonic qualities that lie dormant in men. There Was a Country PDF
The destructiveness inherent in war; the anti-thesis of the creativeimpulse of the artist has frequently cast the artist as being anti-war. But while Pablo Picasso’s monumental Guernica , the depictionof a Nazi air raid on a Basque city during the Spanish Civil War,projects the pacifist’s angst at the evident traumas induced on awretched and defenceless civilian populace, the role of many anartist has not been confined to one of conscientious neutrality.There are those who have used their talents to extol the virtues of patriotism and the valour inherent in sacrificing self in the cause of the nation. There are those who have taken unambiguous stancesfor both belligerence and for resistance.The Nigerian Civil War fought between 1967 and 1970 was a warwhich engaged a number of figures drawn from the nation’scultural life. The dramatist and later Nobel Laureate, WoleSoyinka, made efforts geared towards creating what he termed a ‘third force’ for compromise as the fractured nation hurtledinexorably towards a military showdown. He was jailed for histroubles by the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon. There Was a Country PDF
Another figure, one not widely known outside of literary circles,but whose status has grown in succeeding decades, the poetChristopher Okigbo, was not content to remain in civilian life and joined a regiment of the secessionist army of Biafra.He met his death at the age of 37; an ending which inspired theKenyan academic Ali Mazrui to indict Okigbo for “wasting his talenton a conflict of disputable merit” in his work The Trial of Christopher Okigbo . “No great artist,” he argued, “has a right tocarry patriotism to the extent of destroying his creative potential.” For Chinua Achebe, author of the seminal work Things Fall Apart ,the Nigerian Civil War was one in which he had no choice but toinvolve himself. As he explains in his book There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra , the integration of art with thecommunity in traditional African society formed the basis of hiswar time ambassadorial role in promoting an internationalawareness of the plight of the short-lived Biafran state which wascomposed in the main of people of his Igbo ethnicity; a peoplewho had endured a series of pogroms in the lead up to the war. There Was a Country PDF
Achebe was in the vanguard of those artists who although initiallyabsorbed with writing about the effects of colonial society on the African psyche would later become pre-occupied with the events inpost-colonial Nigeria, events which took on increasinglydysfunctional turns.Indeed his fourth novel, the unerringly prescient A Man of the People , ends with a military coup, an event which for the first timetook place in Nigeria at the time of the book’s publication andwhich served as a trigger that would lead to a concatenation of violence: communal massacres, a second army mutiny and finallyan armed conflict replete with the brutal instruments and cynicalpolicies of warfare.It is a war which was widely covered by Western correspondentsand produced books by the likes of John De St. Jorre andFrederick Forsyth, who in contrast to De St. Jorre’s attempts at aneven-handed approach, was an unabashed polemicist for theBiafran cause.There Was a Country PDF
The writers Arthur Nwankwo and Samuel Ifejika also contributedan important book during the war, and later in the re-unitedNigeria, as taboos associated with dredging up the past began torelax, a plethora of books authored by former stalwarts of theBiafran military machinery created an industry of memoirs. Younger generations of Nigerian writers such as ChimamandaNgozi Adichie have used the war as a backdrop to their work. Achebe for his part although far from reticent about the ills whichcontinue to plague Nigeria confined expressions of his war timeexperiences to poetry writings; twelve of which are interspersed atintervals in this his long awaited memoir of his wartimeexperiences.The war of course remains a sensitive issue in Nigeria for a greatmany reasons; the narrative remains a contested one, but in theminds and the hearts of many Igbos who have for long claimed tobe marginalised from the centres of power and influence, itsignified more than physical and material defeat: It was awholesale destruction of the spirit; of the post-Independence-era There Was a Country PDF
zeitgeist of optimism and aspiration in a society still operating withsome semblance of meritocratic values. Defeat represented theextirpation of all that they considered to be morally right and just. Achebe’s book works around this central thesis: The Igbos werethe willing acquirers of Western culture and that the synthesis withtheir pre-existing cultural mores of what he considers to be their ‘individualism’, democratic ethos and competitive spirit enabledthem to supersede other ethnic groups in the British createdcolonial order. This led to tensions and their subsequent removalfrom positions of leadership by forcible means which included astrategy of ethnic cleansing.For Achebe, the importance of the civil war had profoundconsequences which went further than the territorial borders of Nigeria. It was he argues “a cataclysmic event which changed thecourse of Africa.” In his typically direct, uncluttered style Achebe weaves acompelling literary reportage of roots which were embedded in anancient society existing within a colonially imposed order and howthat cultural dialectic shaped him and the wider destiny of hispeople within the multi-cultural potpourri of the conglomeratestate of Nigeria.Thedramatis personae of the era, their backgrounds theirmotivations and his critique of their respective roles at this mostcritical of periods are laid out: The rival colonels Yakubu Gowonand Odumegwu-Ojukwu; the leader of the Yorubas, Obafemi Awolowo, as well as key military and political figures on theNigerian and the Biafran sides. Achebe also considers the role of the wider world in a conflictwhich in his view was influenced foremost by the necessitiesof realpolitik and not by the objective application of moralstandards.But for all the moral weight behind it and sympathy that the plightof the Igbos engendered, one of the key criticisms of the Biafranenterprise was that its leaders did not provide a clear and distinctidea platform to serve as a template for the rest of Nigeria and the African continent other than one which was dominated by a tribal group seeking self-determination.The Nigerian Civil War has been typically viewed as onepermeated by the ultimate reality of naked tribal interests inconflict and not as a battle of ideas. Achebe attempts to redressthis by addressing the motivation behind the Ahiarra Declaration of 1969 which he describes as an attempt aimed at expressing the “intellectual foundation” of the new nation of Biafra. The effect of the declaration on world opinion at the time waslimited and in certain quarters, it was derided as an ill-sortedhodge-podge of ideas and intentions.But the task of evolving a fundamental core of ideas and preceptsaimed at transforming an ex-colonial, multi-clan group into a self-constructed modern nation deserves the sort of consideredattention Achebe’s book is not able to fully explore. There Was a Country PDF
Granted, Achebe’s explorations do take account some of thephilosophical and cosmological constructs of the pre-colonial Igboand the effect these have had on the Igbo psyche in the modernworld. But a consideration of the efficacy of Igbo nationalism andthe collective identity of the people must acknowledge to a greaterdegree the historical record.From the Igbo-Biafran perspective there have been few if any trulyintrospective works which have considered the viability of a Biafranstate from the point of view of the historical reality that there wasnever a united Igbo nation which operated as a cohesive nationalentity. A study of the period before colonial conquest reveals not a unitedkingdom of Biafra but an aggregate of disparate villages andhamlets whose communities became steeped in the conduct of thebrutal trans-Atlantic slave trade.The argument that by the dawn of the colonial era, the Igbos hadnot evolved to a feudal level of social organisation and developedattendant indigenous institutions of governance, akin to say tothat of the neighbouring Edo people, may of course be met with a riposte that the social organisation practised by many Igbocommunities manifested a form of ‘republicanism’ and ‘individualism.’ But whatever the interpretation given to the underlying nature of the relative sophistication of these descriptions, the reality wasthat tensions arose during the civil war between Igbo-Biafransbased on their places of origin as indeed they did with the non-Igbo minorities within the borders of the former Nigerian EasternRegion without whose acquiescence the Biafran project wasdoomed to fail.The unity of the Igbos based on their collective fortune as asuccessful people in the post-colonial order as well as their ill-fortune through the trauma of pogroms and abuse,understandably provided the strong, emotionally groundedimpetus to create a separate nation.Nationalism, a concept that is inherently grounded in the practiceof self-invention, can be a force for self-transformation. But whileemotion may serve as an excellent form of petrol, it is, in the finalanalysis, a poor engine.That said, Achebe has produced an extremely readable personalhistory in which he provides a masterful series of vignettes thatgreatly sensitize the reader to the struggles, the triumphs and thetragedy of the artist and his people during an era of rapid changeand great turbulence.(c) Adeyinka Makinde (2012)
Introduction – There Was a Country PDF
An Igbo proverb tells us that a man who does not know where the rain began to beat him cannot say where he dried his body. The rain that beat Africa began four to five hundred years ago, from the “discovery” of Africa by Europe, through the transatlantic slave trade, to the Berlin Conference of 1885. That controversial gathering of the world’s leading European powers precipitated what we now call the Scramble for Africa, which created new boundaries that did violence to Africa’s ancient societies and resulted in tension-prone modern states. It took place without African consultation or representation, to say the least. Great Britain was handed the area of West Africa that would later become Nigeria, like a piece of chocolate cake at a birthday party. It was one of the most populous regions on the African continent, with over 250 ethnic groups and distinct languages. The northern part of the country was the seat of several ancient kingdoms, such as the Kanem-Bornu—which Shehu Usman dan Fodio and his jihadists absorbed into the Muslim Fulani Empire. The Middle Belt of Nigeria was the locus of the glorious Nok Kingdom and its world-renowned terra-cotta sculptures. The southern protectorate was home to some of the region’s most sophisticated civilizations. In the west, the Oyo and Ife kingdoms once strode majestically, and in the midwest the incomparable Benin Kingdom elevated artistic distinction to a new level. Across the Niger River in the East, the Calabar and the Nri kingdoms flourished.
If the Berlin Conference sealed her fate, then the amalgamation of the southern and northern protectorates inextricably complicated Nigeria’s destiny. Animists, Muslims, and Christians alike were held together by a delicate, some say artificial, lattice. 1 Britain’s indirect rule was a great success in northern and western Nigeria, where affairs of state within this new dispensation continued as had been the case for centuries, with one exception—there was a new sovereign, Great Britain, to whom all vassals pledged fealty and into whose coffers all taxes were paid. 2 Indirect rule in Igbo land proved far more challenging to implement. Colonial rule functioned through a newly created and incongruous establishment of “warrant chiefs”—a deeply flawed arrangement that effectively confused and corrupted the Igbo democratic spirit. 3 Africa’s postcolonial disposition is the result of a people who have lost the habit of ruling themselves. We have also had difficulty running the new systems foisted upon us at the dawn of independence by our “colonial masters.” Because the West has had a long but uneven engagement with the continent, it is imperative that it understand what happened to Africa. It must also play a part in the solution. A meaningful solution will require the goodwill and concerted efforts on the part of all those who share the weight of Africa’s historical burden. Most members of my generation, who were born before Nigeria’s independence, remember a time when things were very different. Nigeria was once a land of great hope and progress, a nation with immense resources at its disposal—natural resources, yes, but even more so, human resources. But the Biafran war changed the course of Nigeria. In my view it was a cataclysmic experience that changed the history of Africa. There Was a Country
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Achebe begins his story with Nigeria’s birth pangs and the story of his own upbringing as a man and as a writer, so that we may understand both the young country’s keen sense of promise, which too quickly turned to horror, and Achebe’s view of the particular obligation of the artist, especially in a time of war. For Chinua Achebe, to be a serious writer is to be a committed writer – to speak for one’s history, one’s beliefs, and one’s people, especially when others cannot.
A marriage of history and memoir, vivid first-hand observation and decades of further 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.
About the Author – There Was a Country PDF
Chinua Achebe (/ˈtʃɪnwɑː əˈtʃɛbɛ/, born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe; 16 November 1930 – 21 March 2013) was a Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, and critic. His first novel Things Fall Apart (1958) was considered his magnum opus, and is the most widely read book in modern African literature. There Was a Country PDF
Raised by his parents in the Igbo town of Ogidi in South-Eastern Nigeria, Achebe excelled at school and won a scholarship for undergraduate studies. He became fascinated with world religions and traditional African cultures, and began writing stories as a university student. After graduation, he worked for the Nigerian Broadcasting Service (NBS) and soon moved to the metropolis of Lagos. He gained worldwide attention for Things Fall Apart in the late 1950s; his later novels include No Longer at Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964), A Man of the People (1966), and Anthills of the Savannah (1987). Achebe wrote his novels in English and defended the use of English, a “language of colonisers”, in African literature. In 1975, his lecture An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” featured a famous criticism of Joseph Conrad as “a thoroughgoing racist”; it was later published in The Massachusetts Review amid some controversy. There Was a Country PDF
When the region of Biafra broke away from Nigeria in 1967, Achebe became a supporter of Biafran independence and acted as ambassador for the people of the new nation. The war ravaged the populace, and as starvation and violence took its toll, he appealed to the people of Europe and the Americas for aid. When the Nigerian government retook the region in 1970, he involved himself in political parties but soon resigned due to frustration over the corruption and elitism he witnessed. He lived in the United States for several years in the 1970s, and returned to the U.S. in 1990 after a car accident left him partially disabled. There Was a Country PDF
A titled Igbo chieftain himself, Achebe’s novels focus on the traditions of Igbo society, the effect of Christian influences, and the clash of Western and traditional African values during and after the colonial era. His style relies heavily on the Igbo oral tradition, and combines straightforward narration with representations of folk stories, proverbs, and oratory. He also published a number of short stories, children’s books, and essay collections. From 2009 until his death, he served as David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and Professor of Africana Studies at Brown.
Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Photo by Stuart C. Shapiro [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons