Monday, 17 November 2014

Beasts of No Nation

(November 2014)



Fucking hell. Not an easy read, this. Harrowing, frequently appalling, and just downright distressing, but then given it’s about a child soldier press-ganged into conflict in an unnamed African country those are exactly all the things it should be.

Agu lives in an unidentified country, and as it heads towards civil war his scholarly father and god-fearing mother ignore the warning signs until it is too late. His village is overrun by rebels, who kill his father and forcibly recruit him as a child soldier. His recruiter is a mute child little older than himself, who beats him, pulls him from his hiding place, and presents his to the self-styled ‘Commandant’.

The subsequent atrocities Agu inflicts (and has inflicted upon him; the Commandant’s troop also doubles as a personal harem of catamites) are all narrated in a patios that emphasizes the dissonance between the horrific events and the still childish viewpoint of those who perpetrate them:

He is taking my hand and bringing it down so hard on top of the enemy’s head and I am feeling like electricity is running through my whole body. The man is screaming, AYEEIII, louder than the sound of bullet whilstling and then he is bringing his hand to his head, but it is not helping because his head is cracking and the blood is spilling out like milk from a coconut. I am hearing laughing all around me even as I am watching him trying to hold his head together. He is annoying me and I am bringing the machete up and down and up and down hearing KPWUDA KPWUDA every time and seeing just pink while I am hearing the laughing KEHI, KEHI, KEHI, all around me.

And I think I’m going to leave this post there, and let that paragraph carry it. I’ve been trying to write about this for almost three weeks now, and while I’ve been ridiculously busy with other stuff, I suspect I’d have managed to get more down about a less draining book by now. It kinda reminds me of the Hiroshima Peace Museum; as a member of the human race you must see it once if you have the opportunity, but for your own peace of mind repeat visits are not recommended. Get it, read it, then give it to a friend, for both your sakes.


8 comments:

  1. Everyone should be made to read accounts like this once in a while as they're usually the only way to convince most people living in politically and economically stable regions that what they have, the sense of safety and well-being... it's an illusion.

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    1. That's pretty much it in a nutshell.

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  2. I think I may have suggested this book to you... It is a masterwork, in any case.

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    1. You did and it is. Should have credited you in the post, so let me say thanks here instead. As I said, not a pleasant experience, but definitely a necessary and valuable one. Thank you.

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  3. Now a movie.
    http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/mar/04/netflix-beast-of-no-nation-boycotted-idris-elba

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    1. I saw! And with man of the moment Mr Elba as well. Not sure I'll be able to convince my wife to watch it on our sole annual cinema trip, but if gets more people to read the book then it's all to the good.

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    2. Oh, and worth noting that for some reason a couple of older posts here attract spam like shit brings flies. Neuromancer's popular right now, for some reason. Anyway, comment moderation is on for anything older than a month :)

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    3. Movies out? Even if I had the time, my misanthropy and claustrophobia.

      Netflix - American account.

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