When the Nigeria-Biafra civil war ended in July 1970, the Commander in Chief of the Federal Army, General Yakubu Gowon, declared that there was “no victor no vanquished” and, consequently, drew an iron curtain on a painful historical moment. This closure foreclosed further engagements with the events of the war in a manner that imposed a “code of silence” on its historiography. However, in the face of this silence and the silencing of public remembrances, private remembrances have continued to bloom. And in recent times, these remembrance(s) have fertilized a virulent demand for secession. I argue that literary accounts of the conflict question its ‘closure’ through what I call ‘lack of return.’ Relying on Van der Merwe and Gobodo-Madikizela’s conception of narratives as spaces of healing, I engage in a close reading of one fictional account—Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy—and two memoirs—Achebe’s There Was a Country and Chukwurah’s The Last Train to Biafra—to examine how narratives of Biafra call attention to the persistent freshness of the wounds and trauma of the war by creating stories that lack denouement. I find that in these texts, the silencing of ordnance doesn’t herald a return home—whether spatially or mentally. Consequently, these stories could be read as palimpsests that reveal a need for spaces of narrative engagements, abreaction, and healing.
Abani Chris. Song for Night. New York: Akashic 2006.
Achebe Chinua. Girls at War and Other Stories. New York: Anchor 1991.
Achebe Chinua. There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra. London: Penguin 2012.
Achebe Chinua. Things Fall Apart. 1958; New York: Anchor 1994.
Adichie Chimamanda Ngozi. Half of a Yellow Sun. Lagos: Farafina 2006.
Adimora-Ezeigbo Akachi. “From the Horse’s Mouth: The Politics of Remembrance in Women’s Writing on the Nigerian Civil War.” Body Sexuality and Gender: Versions and Subversions in African Literatures 1 ed. Flora Veit-Wild and Dirk Naguschewski Matatu 29–30 (Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi 2005): 221–230.
Alabi-Isama Godwin. The Tragedy of Victory: On-the-Spot Account of the Nigeria-Biafra War in the Atlantic Theatre. Ibadan: Spectrum 2013.
Armstrong Andrew. “Speaking Through the Wound: Irruption and Memory in the Writing of Ben Okri and Festus Iyayi.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 13:2 (2000): 173–183.
Baxter Peter. Biafra: The Nigerian Civil War 1967–1970. Warwick: Helion and Company 2015.
Bhabha Homi. “The World and the Home.” Social Text 31/32 (1992): 141–153.
Bhabha. Homi. “On Global Memory: Thoughts on the Barbaric Transmission of Culture.” UC Berkeley 2008. www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Fp6j9Ozpn4&t=315s Accessed: 10/09/2018.
Caruth Cathy. “Parting Words: Trauma Silence and Survival.” Cultural Values 5:1 (2001): 7–26.
Caruth Cathy. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma Narrative and History. Baltimore MA: Johns Hopkins University Press 1996.
Chukwurah Diliorah. Last Train to Biafra: Memoirs of a Biafran Child. 2014; Constellation Publishers 2015.
Coundouriotis Eleni. “The Child Soldier Narrative and the Problem of Arrested Historicization.” Journal of Human Rights 9:2 (2010): 191–206.
Dalley Hamish. “The Question of ‘Solidarity’ in Postcolonial Trauma Fiction: Beyond the Recognition Principle.” Humanities 4:3 (2015): 369–392.
Effiong Philip. The Caged Bird Sang No More: My Biafra Odyssey 1966–1970. Pinetown: 30 Degrees South Publishers 2016.
Ejiogu E.C. “On Biafra: Subverting Imposed Code of Silence.” Journal of Asian and African Studies 48:6 (2013): 741–751.
Ejiogu E.C. “Book Review.” Journal of Asian and African Studies 48:3 (2013): 387–390.
Ekwensi Cyprian. Survive the Peace. 1976.
Falola Toyin and Ezekwem Ogechukwu eds. Writing the Nigeria Biafra War. Woolbridge: James Currey 2016.
Felman Shoshana and Dori Laub. Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature Psychoanalysis and History. Abingdon: Routledge 1992.
Freud Sigmund. Moses and Monotheism. Transl. Katherine Jones. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psychoanalysis 1939.
Garuba Harry. “Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy and the Logic of Minority Discourse.” Before I am Hanged: Ken Saro-Wiwa Literature Politics and Dissent ed. Onookome Okome. Trenton NJ: Africa World Press 2000:25–35.
Gobodo-Madikizela Pumla. “Trauma Forgiveness and the Witnessing Dance: Making Public Spaces Intimate.” Journal of Analytical Psychology 53:2 (2008): 169–188.
Gould Michael. The Biafran War: The Struggle for Modern Nigeria. London: I.B. Tauris 2012.
Hartman Geoffrey. “On Traumatic Knowledge and Literary Studies.” New Literary History 26:3 (1995): 537–563.
Hawley John C. “Biafra as Heritage and Symbol: Adichie Mbachu and Iweala.” Research in African Literatures 39:2 (2008): 15–26.
Ifowodo Ogaga. History Trauma and Healing in Postcolonial Narratives: Reconstructing Identities. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2013.
Ike Chukwuemeka. Sunset at Dawn. 1976; Ibadan: University Press PLC 2014.
Iroh Eddie. Toads of War. London: Heinemann 1979.
Jeyifo Biodun. “First There Was A Country; Then There Wasn’t: Reflections on Achebe’s New Book.” Journal of Asian and African Studies 48:6 (2013): 683–697.
Jorre John de St. The Brothers’ War. 1972: London: Faber and Faber 2012.
Just Daniel. “The Poetics of Elusive History: Marguerite Duras War Traumas and the Dilemmas of Literary Representation.” The Modern Language Review 107:4 (2012): 1064–1081.
LaCapra Dominick. Writing History Writing Trauma. Baltimore MA: Johns Hopkins UP 2014.
Levy Daniel and Natan Sznaider. “Memory Unbound: The Holocaust and the Formation of Cosmopolitan Memory.” European Journal of Social Theory 5:1 (2002): 87–106.
Mbao Wamui. Unavowable Communities: Mapping Representational Excess in South African Literary Culture 2001–2011. Unplished PhD Thesis Department of English Stellenbosch University 2013.
McLuckie Craig W and McPhail Aubrey eds Ken Saro-Wiwa: Writer and Political Activist. London: Lynne Ryner Publishers 2000.
Motsemme Nthabiseng. “The Mute Always Speak: On Women’s Silences at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” Current Sociology 52:5 (2004): 909–932.
North Michael. “Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy: The Politics of Rotten English.” Public Culture 13:1 (2001): 97–112.
Obasanjo Olusegun. My Command: An Account of The Nigerian Civil War 1967–1970. 1980; Lagos: Kachifo Limited 2015.
Okparanta Chinelo. Under the Udala Trees. London: Granta 2015.
Omotosho Kole. The Combat. London: Heinemann 1972.
Pape Marion. Gender Palava: Nigerian Women Writing War. Trier: WVT 2011.
Saro-Wiwa Ken. Genocide in Nigeria: The Ogoni Tragedy. London: Saros 1992.
Saro-Wiwa Ken. Sozaboy: A Novel in Rotten English. 1985; London: Longman 1994.
Scott Joan W. “The evidence of experience” Critical Inquiry xvii (Summer 1991):780–808
Ukiwo Ukoha. “Violence Identity Mobilization and the Reimagining of Biafra.” Africa Development 34:1 (2009): 9–30.
Van der Merwe Chris and Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. Narrating Our Healing: Perspectives on Working through Trauma. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholar 2007.
Winter Jay. Remembering War: The Great War Between Historical Memory and History in the Twentieth Century. New Haven CO: Yale UP 2006.