“This uprising will bring out the beast in us.” -Fela Kuti

February 3, 2007

beasts of no nation

Uzodinma Iweala has produced a harrowing first novel, Beasts of No Nation. It is difficult to classify this book as a novel. The reality and the horror of war, delivered in the voice and through the eyes and ears of- not even a young man, but a boy, just seems so horrifying real. I have stayed up late into the night reading before, but typically because the story was enjoyable and I wanted to continue reading. I wanted this one over with- not because it was poorly written or unbelivable. I simply didn’t want to face it another day. It impacts.

The author does not waste time. You are slapped in the face in the first pages, and the story never lets up.

I am looking at him. He is looking at me. He is not surprising at all to be seeing me even if I am surprising for him, but his face is falling and becoming more dark. He is sniffing like dog and stepping to me. KPAWA! He is hitting me.
Again and again his is hitting me and each blow from his hand is feeling on my skin like the flat side of a machete. I am trying to scream, but he is knocking the air from my chest and then slapping my mouth. I am tasting blood. I am feeling like vomiting. The whole place around us is shaking, just shaking rotten fruit from the shelf, just sounding like it will be cracking into many piece and falling on top of us. He is grabbing my leg, pulling it so hard that it is like it will be coming apart like meat, and my body is sliding slowly from the stall out into the light and onto the mud.

Iweala, a Harvard graduate, does a wonderful job of giving voice to a youngster in an unamed West African nation, as he descends into a civil war that he has no way to understand or survive without deep scars. Obviously this is not a feel-good novel. At times very graphic, this book does not veil any truths. But if you can bear to take a very original look from a different angle into this war-torn world, this one succeeds on many levels.

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