About this writer
In his book about the Biafran war, Achebe veers towards partisan politics rather than a personal memoir or balanced retelling of the history.
In the opening pages of his new memoir, There Was A Country, Chinua Achebe lays claim to ‘story’, as an almost proper noun in the grandest, most comprehensive of definitions. This story is not just for audiences in the West, with their long history of partial, often reductive interest in Africa, but also for his country of Nigeria and the continent that contains it, as well as for his children and grandchildren – for, basically, everyone.
It is the story of Biafra he proposes to tell. In 1967, after seven years of shoddy nation-building, three eastern states lumped together and broke away from the federation of Nigeria. Achebe, who had come to international attention with his first novel Things Fall Apart, published nine years before, went to work for the secessionist government’s Ministry of Information. He travelled around drumming up support for the break-away nation, telling its story to Westerners and Africans alike. He also helmed the National Guidance Committee, which wrote up high-concept ideology to brand what at first seemed like an emerging nation.