Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Book Review: Allah is Not Obliged by Ahmadou Kourouma

In Ahmadou Kourouma's last published novel "Allah is Not Obliged" he takes us through the war- torn nations of Liberia, Sierre Leone and Côte d'Ivoire, in the eyes of a child soldier (Birahami) in the form of a first person written journal. Birahami describes for us ( in usually very little detail) the many people he has met and the atrocities he has seen.

Birahami tells us his short biography early on, a rotten childhood dropping out of school 3 years through primary school and eventually ends up in different warlord factions in Liberia. Moving from army to army by making up stories, while in search of his Aunt.

And that is essentially the plot. In understanding that is not the point of the book, it is still rather flat. While in the process of telling this lackluster story, he tells us much of what the situation is of these civil wars and the many true stories of the warlords and countries so it is as much a history book as it is a novel.

While the first person narrative would make for a more personal and emotionally capable platform. It fails to do so, Birahami does describe the plenty of human atrocities that did occur such as mutalation, cannibalism and plenty of rape and murder. But is all too spread out unrelated and rather cheaply put together, it tries to fit too much into too little of pages and the reader is thus incapable of any sort of emotional reaction. So what we have is part a history book, a part novel and a mostly depressing book.

The narrator of this (Birahami) puts the acts as plainly as day leaving no suspense for anything and the many inconsistencies of the writing throughs you from place to place and doesn't allow the reader to settle in on the story. He deviates many times from the story, such as a dead body he recognized to be someone he knew, and continues to give a 2 page biography on the victim.

Birahami tries to keep things funny but this also fails, he uses vulgar language and is constantly explaining words and idioms such as 'ultimatum' and 'out of the blue' in a rather condescending tone that ends up being quite redundant.

The inconsistencies I pointed out earlier also come up, as for being so young how is he to know all that he knows? He describes in the form of a professional historian writer the conditions and the happenings of these countries, but is quite ignorant of other items that appear in the book.

In conclusion, the setting and the history is quite interesting and informative and should be read by anyone interested in the history. But besides that specific reader, the books' overall story is quite dull, the protagonist is bland, and is neither funny or heart wrenching as it is claimed to be. In the end you feel saddened and depressed for the many wrong doings going on in the world, and quite ticked that you even read it.

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