I can say that my whole artistic career was probably sparked by this tension between the Christian religion of my parents, which we followed in our home, and the retreating, older religion of my ancestors, which fortunately for me was still active outside my home. I still had access to a number of relatives who had not converted to Christianity and were called heathens by the new converts. When my parents were not watching I would often sneak off in the evenings to visit some of these relatives.
Almost 30 years before Rwanda, before Darfur, more than 2 million people – mothers, children, babies, civilians – lost their lives as a result of the blatantly callous and unnecessary policies enacted by the leaders of the federal government of Nigeria.One of the most anticipated books of the year, it has been reviewed in The Washington Post, The London Review Of Books, The Boston Globe, The New Republic, The Christian Science Monitor, Counterpunch, and The Financial Times. Ike Anya, author of People Don't Get Depressed In Nigeria (previously), writes a review for African Arguments.
As a writer I believe that it is fundamentally important, indeed essential to our humanity, to ask the hard questions, in order to better understand ourselves and our neighbours. Where there is justification for further investigation, justice should be served.
I bring all this up because if you read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or Ike Anya or Chika Unigwe or Noo Saro-Wiwa or Uzodinma Iweala—all Nigerians reviewing the book in prominent American or British newspapers, for what it’s worth—you will find almost none of the personalities, dirty laundry, and petty score-settling. Why is that? Is it that Americans and Britons can’t be bothered to learn about that stuff, so it got edited out or was never written?The Millions, in The Defeated Write History: Chinua Achebe’s There Was a Country addresses the question: 'But why the long delay? Why did it take Achebe so long to write such a book?'
In a collection of his essays, Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays, 1965-1987, Achebe writes of his distance from the traditional Igbo religions, being the son of Christian converts, and how that distance helped him gain a deep understanding of them. What he writes appears to also justify the decades he’s taken to tackle the Biafran cause. “The distance becomes not a separation but a bringing together like the necessary backward step which a judicious viewer may take in order to see a canvas steadily and fully.”
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