Beasts of No Nation

“The whole world is spreading before me and I am looking up to the grey sky moving slowly slowly against the top leaf of the tall tall Iroko tree. And under this, many smaller tree is fighting each other to climb up to the sunlight.… This is making me think of jubilating, dancing, shouting, singing because Kai! I am saying I am finally dead.”

Agu is a young boy recruited by a guerilla unit during a civil war in an anonymous West African country. Taken away from his Bible-reading, spiritual mother, now amidst brutal men, Agu is torn between the beastly violence he witnesses and the paternal figure of his commander, in a brutal world where crime is ordinary and humaneness remains rare and precious.

 Although situated in a long line of child soldier stories, Iweala’s brilliant novel is really a story about how language creates things, images, and worlds.

Language is one of the major achievements of this novel. It is through language and dialogue that Agu fights his demons and rediscovers the innocent, “normal” boy he once was. And through Agu’s eyes the reader comes to know the savagery, but also the spectacular beauty of his world. A world haunted by fear, the horrors of war and the absence of humanity, and mirrored by his inside words.

Instead of chronicling a coming-of-age or a loss of innocence, Beasts of No Nation is more about exploring what innocence actually is. And in Iweala’s novel, it is synonymous with being able to speak for oneself, to voice out the demons inside oneself. Innocence is letting go and freeing oneself and, for Agu, freedom is speech.

Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala

Harper Perennial | 2006 | ISBN: 978-0060798680

Review by Ioana Danaila

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Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She has published short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish and teaches English to high school students in France.

South Sudan: Child cry of war | Onam Liduba

I was found along the road side in open ash air
I grew like a child of leach
No mother and no father
I feed on bitter leaves and roots in the desert
I stay in rain and hot sun for fear
Are all children in the same condition?
No, a child elsewhere enjoys the calm blue sky
And the love of his parents
A fox has a den and a bird has nest
But the child of war has nowhere to lay his head
For fear of bombs and bullets in southern Sudan
O God lift up this child of war

 

 

Onam Liduba was born in  Southern Sudan. Displaced by the war, he lived in different refugee camps where he attended and then taught secondary school classes. In 2000, Liduba was granted asylum by the U.S., and in 2001, he was sent to Chicago where earned multiple degrees. In 2007, Liduba founded a non-profit organization called the Pari People Project to build a clinic and to provide school supplies for students in the Lafon area of Sudan.

Ishmael Beah: An Interview

We were fortunate enough to get an interview with the author of our first review (A Long Way Gone), Ishmael Beah. We had a great conversation, not only was Beah gracious in accommodating our probing questions into the intense emotionality behind the book, but also astute in discussing Sierra Leone today, his hopes for his country, and efforts to make it a place that matches those hopes. 

Ishmael Beah

ARBWhile reading A LONG WAY GONE, we were both moved and intrigued by the way you wove past and present to provide a fuller narrative. How was the process of going back and sorting through your memories to put the book together?

BEAH: It was very difficult to relive the memories of the war during the writing of the book. It was also the first time that I had allowed myself to delve back fully into what had happened as I needed to relive it again to be able to write it with the same emotions, feelings of the boy I had been in the war.

I wanted the reader come along the journey, to see hear, smell, and be close to what it felt like.

Of course this brought about nightmares and flashbacks again. I am happy that I did though; it is a small price, remembering, however difficult it was during writing, to pay so that people can know the story.

I survived and that comes with a responsibility.

So I wrote all I could remember and double checked the memories. The ones I doubted, I threw out and of course I also decided to leave out some things so that the book didn’t become a celebration of violence but rather showing what violence does to the human spirit.

Continue reading “Ishmael Beah: An Interview”