Allah is Not Obliged
Author: Ahmadou Kourouma
Translator: Frank Wynne
Original language: French
Published by: William Heinemann, 2006
Birahima is ten years old. He is from the Ivory Coast. He is a soldier.
When Birahima’s mother dies, he leaves his native village – accompanied by the sorcerer Yacouba – to search for his aunt Mahan. Crossing the border into Liberia, they are seized by a rebel force and press-ganged into military service. Birahima is given a Kalashnikov, scant rations of food, and plenty of dope. Fighting in a chaotic civil war, and alongside many other child soldiers, he sees death, torture, amputation and madness, but somehow manages to retain his own sanity…
Told in the remarkably realised voice of a ten-year-old boy, Birahima’s story is tinged with both humour and disdain. As Birahima takes us through the bloody battlefields of horrific warfare, he makes no attempt to explain the inexplicable. Yet, by making us both sick with despair and filled with laughter at the incredible and the ridiculous, his story brings us closer to comprehending the rivalries, power structures and customs that fuel Africa’s bitter wars.
'A work of luminous humanity'
'Powerful, shocking and deeply moving... an African Lord of the Flies'