There Was a Country: A Memoir

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From the legendary author of Things Fall Apart—a long-awaited memoir of coming of age in a fragile new nation, and its destruction in a tragic civil war

For more than forty years, Chinua Achebe maintained a considered silence on the events of the Nigerian civil war, also known as the Biafran War, of 1967–1970, addressing them only obliquely through his poetry. Decades in the making, There Was a Country is a towering account of one of modern Africa’s most disastrous events, from a writer whose words and courage left an enduring stamp on world literature. A marriage of history and memoir, vivid firsthand observation and decades of research and reflection, There Was a Country is a work whose wisdom and compassion remind us of Chinua Achebe’s place as one of the great literary and moral voices of our age.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin
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Published on
Oct 11, 2012
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Pages
352
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ISBN
9781101595985
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
History / Africa / West
History / Military / Wars & Conflicts (Other)
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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When Alexandra ("Bo") Fuller was home in Zambia a few years ago, visiting her parents for Christmas, she asked her father about a nearby banana farmer who was known for being a "tough bugger." Her father's response was a warning to steer clear of him; he told Bo: "Curiosity scribbled the cat." Nonetheless, Fuller began her strange friendship with the man she calls K, a white African and veteran of the Rhodesian war. With the same fiercely beautiful prose that won her acclaim for Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, Fuller here recounts her friendship with K.

K is, seemingly, a man of contradictions: tattooed, battle scarred, and weathered by farm work, he is a lion of a man, feral and bulletproof. Yet he is also a born-again Christian, given to weeping when he recollects his failed romantic life, and more than anything else welling up inside with memories of battle. For his war, like all wars, was a brutal one, marked by racial strife, jungle battles, unimaginable tortures, and the murdering of innocent civilians—and K, like all the veterans of the war, has blood on his hands.

Driven by K's memories, Fuller and K decide to enter the heart of darkness in the most literal way—by traveling from Zambia through Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) and Mozambique to visit the scenes of the war and to meet other veterans. It is a strange journey into the past, one marked at once by somber reflections and odd humor and featuring characters such as Mapenga, a fellow veteran who lives with his pet lion on a little island in the middle of a lake and is known to cope with his personal demons by refusing to speak for days on end. What results from Fuller's journey is a remarkably unbiased and unsentimental glimpse of men who have killed, mutilated, tortured, and scrambled to survive during wartime and who now must attempt to live with their past and live past their sins. In these men, too, we get a glimpse of life in Africa, a land that besets its creatures with pests, plagues, and natural disasters, making the people there at once more hardened and more vulnerable than elsewhere.

Scribbling the Cat is an engrossing and haunting look at war, Africa, and the lines of sanity.

Chinua Achebe is considered the father of modern African literature, the writer who "opened the magic casements of African fiction." The African Trilogy--comprised of Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God, and No Longer at Ease--is his magnum opus. In these masterly novels, Achebe brilliantly imagines the lives of three generations of an African community as their world is upended by the forces of colonialism from the first arrival of the British to the waning days of empire.

The trilogy opens with the groundbreaking Things Fall Apart, the tale of Okonkwo, a hero in his village, whose clashes with missionaries--coupled with his own tragic pride--lead to his fall from grace. Arrow of God takes up the ongoing conflict between continuity and change as Ezeulu, the headstrong chief priest, finds his authority is under threat from rivals and colonial functionaries. But he believes himself to be untouchable and is determined to lead his people, even if it is towards their own destruction. Finally, in No Longer at Ease, Okonkwo's grandson, educated in England, returns to a civil-service job in Lagos, only to see his morality erode as he clings to his membership in the ruling elite. 

Drawing on the traditional Igbo tales of Achebe's youth, The African Trilogy is a literary landmark, a mythic and universal tale of modern Africa. As Toni Morrison wrote, "African literature is incomplete and unthinkable without the works of Chinua Achebe. For passion, intellect and crystalline prose, he is unsurpassed."
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