There Was a Country is a vivid firsthand observation of Nigeria’s civil war, also known as the Biafran War. Achebe masterfully relates his experience, both as he lived it and how he has come to understand it. The conflict, from 1967 to 1970, was infamous for its savage impact on the Biafran people, many of whom were starved to death after the Nigerian government blockaded their borders. Achebe took the Biafran side in the conflict and served his government as a roving cultural ambassador. This vantage allowed him to absorb the war’s full horror. He communicates that horror with breathtaking honesty in There Was a Country.
Decades in the making, There Was a Country ushers in 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. Achebe marries history and memoir, poetry and prose, and combines all these elements with a keen observation and forty years of research and reflection. There Was a Country is a powerful reminder that artists have an obligation to tell the truth of their experience, no matter how painful.