There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra. The book is a chronicle of his hopes for Nigeria independence in 1960; how hope turned sour amid corruption, continued Western interference, and ethnic competition; and the terrible story of how his native Biafra (region) attempted and failed to secede from the federal state. A massacre of some 30,000 Eastern region Nigerians -- members of his Igbo people -- prompted the secession in 1967; federal Nigerian forces killed some three million Biafrans by direct military invasion and a blockade of food stuffs in the war that followed. The war (and Biafra's independence) ended in 1970 but Achebe still was moved to add his final witness to that terrible experience in this 2012 book.
Achebe published his first novel about one African experience of British colonialism, Things Fall Apart, in 1958 and was immediately recognized as an accomplished literary interpreter of his country to English speaking readers. I remember reading Things Fall Apart in high school in the early 1960s while studying decolonization. In this new book, he recalls meeting some South Korean students who had also read it in high school -- and who recognized the sort of interaction it portrays between colonizer and indigenous people because they too had been colonized -- not by Britain, but by Japan.
Achebe's memoir is well worth reading for its history of the Biafra war and insight into the failure of the Nigerian state to deliver on the promise of democracy and independence. But, in light of the author's passing, it seems more important to dwell on some of his observations on his vocation as a writer; this was a man who viewed his own talents within the frame of his responsibilities to his community.
The United States seems bent on meddling further in the affairs of Africans, extending our military presence (AFRICOM), competing with China for the continent's resources. Somehow, I cannot trust we'll have much care for the powerless. That, if it comes at all, will have to start with Africans.