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Publisher's Summary

From the legendary author of Things Fall Apart comes a long-awaited memoir about coming of age with a fragile new nation, then watching it torn asunder in a tragic civil war.

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, Achebe took refuge in an academic post in the United States, and for more than 40 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.

Achebe masterfully relates his experience, both as he lived it and how he has come to understand it. He 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 might come to understand the country's promise, which turned to horror when the hot winds of hatred began to stir. To read There Was a Country is to be powerfully reminded that artists have a particular obligation, especially during a time of war. All writers, Achebe argues, should be committed writers - they should speak for their history, their beliefs, and their people.

Marrying history and memoir, poetry and prose, There Was a Country is a distillation of vivid firsthand observation and 40 years of research and reflection. Wise, humane, and authoritative, it will stand as definitive and reinforce Achebe's place as one of the most vital literary and moral voices of our age.

"1966", "Benin Road", "Penalty of Godhead", "Generation Gap", "Biafra, 1969", "A Mother in a Refugee Camp", "The First Shot", "Air Raid", "Mango Seedling", "We Laughed at Him", "Vultures", and "After a War" from Collected Poems by Chinua Achebe. Copyright 1971, 1973, 2004 by Chinua Achebe. Used by permission of Anchor Books, a division of Random House, Inc. and The Wylie Agency, LLC.

©2012 Chinua Achebe (P)2012 Penguin Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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The Audible Edition Is a Disaster

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Mr. Akinnuoye-Agbaje, a non-Igbo speaker who simply happens to be of Nigerian-descent, manages to mispronounce every Igbo word in the book, making it a particularly painful experience to listen to his reading. It wouldn't have required much to learn how to pronounce these words properly, without which their meanings are lost. I'll be exploring the possibility of getting my money back. There's no imaginable reason why an Igbo speaker could not have been recruited to read this book for Audible. That this was not the case is simply inexcusable.

What didn’t you like about Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s performance?

His pronunciation of Igbo words are embarrassingly silly, to put it mildly.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

I own both the British and American hardback editions, so, of course, i think the book is brilliant. But I could not suffer through the very first few minutes of the reader's performance.

Any additional comments?

Audible should withdraw this disaster, and have a native speaker of Achebe's language read the book.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A mockery of a person that speaks igbo

The narrator did not in opinion did not consult an igbo speaking person to learn the words pronunciation in the content of a well beautiful writing by a renowned brilliant writer Chinua Achebe. It makes me angry to listen to the book demolished by the narrator. Please for the sake of the heroic writer find someone to re-narrate the book. For a person like me who is from the village and town its annoying. Please forgive me passion the may be prejudicial on the review.
Thank you
Chukka.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Tell your story.

The narrator didn't do justice to the pronunciation of the Igbo words but apart from that it was good. There were funny moments but it is indeed a serious story and I got a message from it. My most memorable moment was when the reader read about the triumph of the written word and this book did triumph for me in that sense.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great read

I really liked the book. it provides great insight into post colonial Nigeria. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding Nigerian political history.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Very informative entertaining story!

What did you love best about There Was a Country?

I loved the level of detail of the book while maintaining its ease of reading.

Who was your favorite character and why?

N/A

How could the performance have been better?

The narrator seemed not to be well-prepared to handle this novel. He pronounced every single name of person and place, but for one or two, inaccurately. Even the author's name wrong. Both times. Unfortunately, this takes away from the quality of the performance for those who have heard the names before, and is misleading for those who haven't.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

What country will there be?

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • taiye
  • CLARKSBURG, MD, United States
  • 11-09-12

Great book for every Nigerian

Would you consider the audio edition of There Was a Country to be better than the print version?

As a young Nigerian with a lot of questions why the country had depleted culturally and economically to the level which we find ourselves today, this book exposes some very important facts in history that helps one comprehend where things went southward, it would also probably help we the future/ unborn generations identify this thorns and avert it repeating itself in future.

Geat Book!!!!

Who was your favorite character and why?

Chris Okigbo

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

yes

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very informative

loved the story. very informative. the narrator made it come alive to me as a listener

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Bad narrator No effort to pronounce the Igbo words

I am so disappointed. I could not concentrate on the book because I kept hating on the narrator. The Igbo names, places and sentences were pronounced wrongly, totally off. I would think that Audible would get someone who speaks the language to record this book. This is a complete disagrace to me as an Igbo person and also to my hero Chinua Achebe. His book was not given the best narrator. I hope they can work on this for future readers.

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Great story, poor narration.

Achebe has delivered an awesome and riveting review of the Biafran war. It was challenging hearing all the mispronounced words. Its bad enough hearing all the Nigerian names and cities butchered. It transitions to unacceptable when you mess up English words. I wonder if anyone actually listened to the audio version before it was posted. Maybe get a local to redo it. I decided to by the actual book instead.

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Gave me a deeper perspective

Any additional comments?

This book really helped me get an in-depth idea of the politics of the Biafran war and of Chinua Achebe's life. It was a worthwhile read. It would have been awesome if the reader had some instruction on pronouncing Igbo words, since it is a tonal language.. pronunciation is of utmost importance. :) Otherwise, good experience.