Wednesday, December 9, 2015

BEASTS OF NO NATION by Uzodinma Iweala

Agu is a young boy in a war-torn African country, who becomes a soldier to stay alive.  His narration in his version of English struck me as sounding very authentic, but it is a little unusual.  He endures some horrific abuses and is more than just an observer in numerous atrocities against innocent civilians, but his biggest problem is his conscience.  He tries to rationalize to himself that God will forgive him for all the people he has killed because he is performing his duties as a soldier.  The only way that he can assuage his guilt and suffering is to focus on the past—his previously carefree childhood—and on his hopes for a future as a doctor or engineer.  These thoughts, especially his dreams for the future, contrast sharply with the agony that is his current life, serving as the companion and bodyguard to the Commandant of his unit, while sacrificing his innocence to the Commandant’s whims.  I can’t imagine the impact of these types of experiences on the psyche of an adult, much less a young boy.  His deep emotional scars could spur him to great achievements, or they could be so debilitating as to inhibit his ability to have a normal life—whatever that is.  First, though, he has to survive, and, if nothing else, the kid has the will to live and is prepared to make the necessary compromises. 

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