Achebe Disappoints Me in His Last Book

Achebe-countryChinua Achebe, renowned author of “Things Fall Apart” disappointed me in his last book “There was a Country”, a personal recollection of the Nigerian Civil War (a.k.a Biafran War).

This is not an original assertion since many other people have expressed disappointment for various reasons.  The nobel laureate Wole Soyinka for one, thought that in the interest of national unity Achebe did not need to resurrect bitter stories that could sow more discord.  Some yorubas (Achebe was Igbo) thought the story’s account was biased against them.

My reasons are simply literary.

I am writing this a good one month after reading the book.  I have let the thoughts and ideas percolate and allowed my conclusions be firmer in my mind before writing this.  My conclusion, and to put it as charitably as I can, considering the author’s status, is: it is not one of his greatest literary works.

I do not think senility is to blame, considering his advanced age when he wrote the book.  I believe he was too wrapped up in the accounts, too passionate (because he was so deeply involved), that he allowed his emotion to take precedence.

For one, the latter section of the book is a very disorderly account.  One many occasions he repeats himself and I have to ask myself, “Didn’t Chinua Achebe already say this earlier?”.  And indeed he had.

He also took a lot of liberty with some facts in my opinion.  Maybe this is the scientist in me, but when an author has to repeatedly say “I was told that” without citing his source and especially when speaking about serious life and death matters, you have to start to question his objectivity.

Now considering that I have read other accounts of the Biafran Civil War, including that by Frederick Forsyth, I could not but notice many factual inconsistencies.

Take note:  I am a great supporter of the Igbo people and their right to self determination, even if that means granting them a nation of their own.  

1 thought on “Achebe Disappoints Me in His Last Book”

  1. I finished reading the book in question yesterday and here are my views:

    The book has 333 pages and is broken into

    – Main story 258 pages

    – Appendix 8 pages

    – Notes 53 pages

    – Index 14 pages

    The great author sited 389 sources under the Notes section. I only encountered four occasion where he said “I was told that”. The book is has four parts:

    Part 1: The author narrates the history of his family, the excellence educational institution the British setup, his academic journey and the history of Nigeria from author’s birth till 1967.

    Part 2. The author narrates the history of Nigeria (1967 till 1969) with the special emphasis on the civil war. Here he had hard knocks for Gowon and Ojukwu because they had many opportunists to prevent the war and when the war started they still have many opportunities to end it much sooner and save the millions of lives.

    Part 3: The author narrates the history of Nigeria (1969 till 1970) with special emphasis on how the civil war came to an end and action taken against the Igbos after the war ended. This Part 3 in pages 233, 234, and 235 contains statements against Late Chief Awolowo that has offended many Yoruba leaders.

    Part 4: The author narrates the rapid decline of a great country, Nigeria from after the war till today. His view is that corruption, injustice and the sidelining of the Igbos are to be blamed.

    My conclusion is that the book is excellently written and has more than enough sources for you to do your research to verify statements made. I learnt a lot from this great book and one of the many event I did not know about was the fact that it was General Ojukwu that release Chief Awolowo from Calabar prisons.

    This book should be read and should not sit on a shelf. I am giving away my copy to anyone who wants to read the book but can not afford the =N=3,550 to buy it. It is my expectation that everyone that has a copy of this book will read it and pass it on to family and friends to read

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