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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHEN IS A HOLOCAUST NOT A HOLOCAUST?
The word `genocide' is used several times in this book. Alas, it had to be used often in the 20th century for programmes of extermination inflicted on various classes of people, whether the classification was defined ethnically (the usual reason) or in some other way, as in, say, Cambodia. A word that is never used at all is `holocaust', which is by general consensus...
Published 21 months ago by DAVID BRYSON

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars There Was a War
This book is a mixture of memoir and history of the Biafran War of 1967-1970, hence Achebe's description of it as a "personal history", an account of events from the perspective of himself and his family.

Nigeria had gained its independence from Britain in 1960 - the new country had a number of different peoples, speaking many different languages, who had...
Published 20 months ago by elkiedee


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5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable book, 27 Nov 2012
By 
Richard M. Seel (Norfolk UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a quite remarkable book. Chinua Achebe is a writer and poet and this book tells the story of Biafra.

Achebe clearly states that this is his personal story about what happened and although he manages to be dispassionate about the whole tragic story, his passion for his "country" and its people shines through. There is a great deal of information for someone not familiar with the Biafra story to take in but the realism of the situation is clear from the very beginning.

Achebe tells his tale with facts and as much accuracy as can be told by one man. His personal life story interweaves with the history of Nigeria and Biafra. The way in which different nations and different politicians and multi-national companies reacted from the time Nigeria became an independent country, no longer `governed' by the UK but not really ready to govern itself is clearly told. Biafra is a tragedy which should never have happened and one wonders whether humans will ever learn to share and work together.

Amidst the telling of the story of Biafra, Achebe shares with the reader his powerful poetry, which made me want to weep. We all could learn much from the events so movingly related but alas, this does not seem to be happening.

Review by Shirleyanne Seel.
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3.0 out of 5 stars there was a country that wasn't, 10 Nov 2012
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Chinua Achebe's reflection on the ill-fated Republic of Biafra could have been a good read but fell short in my opinion. As is to be expected, it is an intellectual exercise by the author full of his trade mark use of a mixture of his native language Igbo and a clear demonstration of his perfect use of English language. what I found disappointing is the lack of details of events in the book, for example, he did not give much details of his involvements, his activities and personal experience. the book lacked research evidence and detailed analysis using his personal experience to convey to the reader what really happened in the war and the role he played in it. It was almost as if he was telling a story that he heard from people who were there or took part. He failed to give details about the main characters or protagonist of the conflict notably Major kaduna Nzeogwu where he came from, his family and military background, Ifeajuna, Banjo, Ojukwu etc (he did a little bit that of Ojukwu. On the ingenuity of Biafrans and their inventions notebly the famous "Ogbunigwe" WMD, he started with an apology about his dislike for war and of being a man of peace. There was no reason for that, he is without a doubt a man of peace but one wanted to know more about the war and his reflection of it. He could have spoken about other inventions of the Biafrans such as how they refined petrol and made beer from cassava leaves etc., the role played by other Igbo people, and scientists, non intellectuals; what led to the disagreement between Ojukwu and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe . In short, more details was expected by me from the book especially as I was only six years old when the war started and and an Igbo man myself, I would have loved to hear more and know more from someone who was there in person and a participant. I am a fan of Achebe, his style and simplicity of writing of and his intellect I also think that the book is somewhat one-sided in favour of the Igbos albeit that should be be expected. A good book nonetheless
There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra
Festus Peace Ozor
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4.0 out of 5 stars Achebe's Upgrade and Renewal of Nigeria's History, 9 Nov 2012
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Chinua Achebe's 'There was a Country, ...' is a painstaking putting together of pieces of vital information, especially as regards the Nigerian crises of 1966-1970. It also contains details about his personal history vis-a-vis that of the Biafra of Ndi-Igbo's collective dream that failed to materialize, and his version of the various reasons why Biafra failed to survive, topmost of which were the concerted efforts of and the determination by all the major world powers (in particular, Great Britain), to prevent Biafra from succeeding. Furthermore, Achebe takes a good look into the future and highlights the various causes of the continued failure of the Nigerian state which successive governments in Nigeria, civilian and military, have refused to address properly. His observations tend to agree with much of the exposition contained in my own work, 'The Nigerian, an African Statesman Unfulfilled'.

Apart from some factual errors in his writing, e.g.,i.) on p. 67, Dr Okechukwu Ikejiana is stated as the chairman of the Nigeria Coal Corporation instead of as the chairman of the Nigeria Railway Corporation; ii.) on page 46 Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto is claimed to have founded the Northern Peoples' Congress (NPC) Party instead of Dr Russell Barau Dikko, who was the real founder of that political party, I find it to be a veritable piece of authentic Nigerian history that fills any gaps in the contents of that history and a must read for all students of modern history - all Nigerian school children and youths and all those who are interested in Africa and its peoples.
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5.0 out of 5 stars We are Countries, 6 Nov 2012
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The book opens up the ugly atrocities committed by the Nigerian government against the ethnic Igbos (Eastern Nigeria),and reiterated the truth about Biafra and this artificial enclave called Nigeria.Some individuals,who committed these heinous acts, who are still alive today, are rattled by these earth shaking revelations they would have preferred buried.The truth still remains 'THERE WAS A COUNTRY' Nigerians have realized this fact lately that some pseudo-leaders are calling for partitioning of the country.Achebe is the craft master of lucid prose... and the truth.

Ezimako Nzeaka
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very controversial piece of work, 6 Nov 2012
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China Achebe, no doubt, is a master story teller, perhaps the greatest of his generation. Although I may not and indeed, I did not agree with all he said in this new book, but the language, the style and the plot is vintage Achebe...clear language, elegant style and well-laid out plot.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great, 23 Nov 2012
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Good book, easy to read and a good account of the author's recolleaction of events. Thank you for capturing your views in a document for posterity.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read, 13 Oct 2012
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The best writer in Nigeria Chinua Achebe himself said you need to document events in your life. I was wondering when this would come out. Fantastic piece for posterity.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Subjective, but important, 4 Mar 2014
By 
Amazon Customer "maria2222" (London) - See all my reviews
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I want to first of all make very clear that this is Chinua Achebe's history (as readers will also see from the title of the book: There was a country – a PERSONAL history of Biafra). It describes his life from he was a kid growing up in colonial Nigeria, attending elite schools and generally getting on well with his parents despite the fact he wasn’t entirely convinced of the Christian religion they had adopted as opposed to the older religion of his ancestors and which was still important in the community.

“Igbo sayings and proverbs are far more valuable to me as a human being in understanding the complexity of the world than the doctrinaire, self-righteous strain of the Christian faith I was taught. This other religion is also far more artistically satisfying to me.”

He is well aware that he belongs to the “lucky” generation that was young when Nigeria went through a positive economic, social and political transformation from the 40s and onward and of course the 60s when the country finally went from colonized to independent country. As we now know, although the transition went smoothly at first, there was not yet real democracy which resulted in corruption and misrule and tribal differences which became more and more apparent.

In 1966 came a military coup which most of the population was entirely unprepared for as they saw themselves living in a generally very stable country. The Igbos led the coup, but they were also looked at with jealousy and hatred by many because despite being a minority they occupied the most important posts in society and did well generally. They were quickly overthrown and had to flee to the East where persecutions and massacres followed which meant that the East wanted independence from the rest of the country – and this resulted in the Republic of Biafra (May 1967) – made up of Igbo and Eastern peoples.

The next part of the story is a mix of Achebe’s experiences during – and historical facts from - the Nigerian-Biafra War that lasted from 1967 to 1970. It is of course coloured to a large extent by his own experiences as a fugitive with his young family, the loss of his good friend Christopher Okigbo, and the frustration he felt with the lack of response from the international community. More than 2 million Biafran people, many innocent children and women, were killed and despite it being declared a genocide from certain official channels, the UN and other international institutions did not react in time and Harold Wilson’s Britain maintained its support to federal Nigeria throughout. I agree with some of the other readers that he sometimes goes overboard in his emphasis on what can be read as the Igbo’s elitist superiority intellectually and compassionately, but I do not think this should be interpreted as such, but maybe rather as a cry for more innocent days where things were better and where there was a lot of optimism for the future of the proud and well-educated country (and here I mean the country as a whole, because although he decries the loss of Biafra, he also decries the corruption and mediocrity he currently sees in Nigeria and he still has hopes for a better future for the country overall, although he is realistic and knows that it will take a lot of work as is pointed out in the last chapters).

As an intellectual he places a high importance on education as a weapon against corruption and misrule. I agree with this, but can’t help but think that there is a big part missing about who actually had access to this much lauded education. It is not clear from the description whether it was the general population or only the chosen few. Having an intellectual ruling class that stresses the importance of education over other more pressing issues for the not so well off doesn’t make sense either. And there must have been something seriously wrong in the country to create such jealousy and hatred.

I think this is a very important book about a war that unfortunately looks too much like other wars we have seen before and after. This is an Igbo description of the horror and frustration and as such it is impressively level-headed and reasonable. In order to get the full picture, we need to see other sides of the story, but there is no denying that it is a terrible and shameful part of history how the international community stood by and allowed it to happen – despite it being fed to them by TV on a daily basis. Something that’s unfortunately all too common still!

As an aside, I also thought it was interesting to see the setting in which some of his other works came to be.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on Biafra, 27 Feb 2013
By 
K. Nwangwu - See all my reviews
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Like him or hate him the author has touched a lot of nerves from the extreme sadists to even moderate people. Someday, the UN would treat the case of Biafra.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ceejay Okezie, 17 Feb 2013
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A MASTERPIECE PECULIAR TO THE AUTHOR, WITH A SENTIMENTAL TILT THOUGH. A MUST READ FOR ANYONE SEEKING THE TRUTH ABOUT NIGERIA WITH PROGRESSIVE SOLUTION IN MIND.
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There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra
There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra by Chinua Achebe (Paperback - 25 April 2013)
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