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Allah is Not Obliged
Cover of Allah is Not Obliged
Allah is Not Obliged
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ALLAH IS NOT OBLIGED TO BE FAIR ABOUT ALL THE THINGS HE DOES HERE ON EARTH.These are the words of the boy soldier Birahima in the final masterpiece by one of Africa's most celebrated writers, Ahmadou Kourouma. When ten-year-old Birahima's mother dies, he leaves his native village in the Ivory Coast, accompanied by the sorcerer and cook Yacouba, to search for his aunt Mahan. Crossing the border into Liberia, they are seized by rebels and forced into military service. Birahima is given a Kalashnikov, minimal rations of food, a small supply of dope and a tiny wage. Fighting in a chaotic civil war alongside many other boys, Birahima sees death, torture, dismemberment and madness but somehow manages to retain his own sanity. Raw and unforgettable, despairing yet filled with laughter, Allah Is Not Obliged reveals the ways in which children's innocence and youth are compromised by war.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

ALLAH IS NOT OBLIGED TO BE FAIR ABOUT ALL THE THINGS HE DOES HERE ON EARTH.These are the words of the boy soldier Birahima in the final masterpiece by one of Africa's most celebrated writers, Ahmadou Kourouma. When ten-year-old Birahima's mother dies, he leaves his native village in the Ivory Coast, accompanied by the sorcerer and cook Yacouba, to search for his aunt Mahan. Crossing the border into Liberia, they are seized by rebels and forced into military service. Birahima is given a Kalashnikov, minimal rations of food, a small supply of dope and a tiny wage. Fighting in a chaotic civil war alongside many other boys, Birahima sees death, torture, dismemberment and madness but somehow manages to retain his own sanity. Raw and unforgettable, despairing yet filled with laughter, Allah Is Not Obliged reveals the ways in which children's innocence and youth are compromised by war.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One 1The full, final and completely complete title of my bullshit story is: Allah is not obliged to be fair about all the things he does here on earth. Okay. Right. I better start explaining some stuff.First off, Number one . . . My name is Birahima and I'm a little nigger. Not 'cos I'm black and I'm a kid. I'm a little nigger because I can't talk French for shit. That's how things are.You might be a grown-up, or old, you might be Arab, or Chinese, or white, or Russian - or even American - if you talk bad French, it's called parler petit negre - little nigger talking - so that makes you a little nigger too. That's the rules of French for you.Number two . . . I didn't get very far at school; I gave up in my third year in primary school. I chucked it because everyone says education's not worth an old grandmother's fart any more. (In Black Nigger African Native talk, when a thing isn't worth much we say it's not worth an old grandmother's fart, on account of how a fart from a fucked-up old granny doesn't hardly make any noise and it doesn't even smell really bad.) Education isn't worth a grandmother's fart any more, because nowadays even if you get a degree you've got no hope of becoming a nurse or a teacher in some fuckedup French-speaking banana republic. ('Banana republic' means it looks democratic, but really it's all corruption and vested interests.) But going to primary school for three years doesn't make you all autonomous and incredible.You know a bit, but not enough; you end up being what Black Nigger African Natives call grilled on both sides. You're not an indigenous savage any more like the rest of the Black Nigger African Natives 'cos you can understand the civilised blacks and the toubabs (a toubab is a white person) and work out what they're saying, except maybe English people and the American Blacks in Liberia, but you still don't know how to do geography or grammar or conjugation or long division or comprehension so you'll never get the easy money working as a civil servant in some fucked-up, crooked republic like Guinea, C(tm)te d'lvoire, etc., etc.Number three . . . I'm disrespectful, I'm rude as a goat's beard and I swear like a bastard. I don't swear like the civilised Black Nigger African Natives in their nice suits, I don't say fuck! shit! bitch! I use Malinke swear words like faforo! (my father's cock - or your father's or somebody's father's), gnamokode! (bastard), walahe! (I swear by Allah). Malinke is the name of the tribe I belong to. They're Black Nigger African Savages and there's a lot of us in the north of C(tm)te d'lvoire and in Guinea, and there's even Malinkes in other corrupt fucked-up banana republics like Gambia, Sierra Leone and up in Senegal.Number four . . . I suppose I should apologise for talking right at you like this, on account of how I'm only a kid. I'm maybe ten, maybe twelve (two years ago, grandmother said I was eight, maman said I was ten) and I talk too much. Polite kids are supposed to listen, they don't sit under that talking-tree and they don't chatter like a mynah bird in a fig tree. Talking is for old men with big white beards. There's a proverb that says,'For as long as there's a head on your shoulders, you don't put your headdress on your knee.' That's village customs for you. But I don't give two fucks about village customs any more, 'cos I've been in Liberia and killed lots of guys with an AK-47 (we called it a 'kalash') and got fucked-up on kanif and lots of hard drugs.Number five . . . To make sure I tell you the life story of my fucked-up life in proper French, I've got four different dictionaries so I don't get confused with big words. First off, I've got the Larousse and the Petit Robert, then, second off, I've got the...
About the Author-
  • Ahmadou Kourouma was born in the Ivory Coast in 1927. He was the author of the novels The Suns of Independence, Monnew, and Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote. Hailed as one of the leading African writers in French, he died in 2003.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from February 12, 2007
    The late Ivory Coast author and political activist Kourouma (Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote
    ) writes with a brutal and obscene frankness reminiscent of Celine in this powerfully tragic novel about a West African child soldier who learns early that "Allah is not obliged to be fair about all the things he does here on earth." Unsure if he's 10 or 12 years old, "rude as a goat's beard" Birahima, a third-grade dropout, recalls how his once-beautiful mother became an amputee who "moved on her arse like a caterpillar" and that he suspected her of being a soul-devouring sorceress. After her death, the boy is entrusted to a roguish shaman and sent to live with an aunt in Liberia. En route, they fall into the clutches of a warlord, and Birahima joins their forces as a boy soldier, witnessing and participating in all manner of savagery. Although Birahima's regurgitation of word definitions and chunks of West African history is awkward, this French import is a worthy if difficult read. And the popularity of the current Starbucks pick, the child soldier memoir A Long Way Gone
    , can't hurt sales potential.

  • The Spectator (London)

    "A tour de force -- original, irreverent, brutal, funny, poetic -- in which history and myth are brilliantly evoked." --The Independent (London)"This is one of the funniest, most powerful, most intense novels to appear in French for a decade." --Le Nouvel Observateur (Paris)"Shocking and deeply moving. . . . . An African Lord of the Flies." --The Guardian (London)"Witty and wholly authentic. . . . Spellbinding. . . . Kourouma has been likened to Voltaire. . . Gabriel García Márquez also comes to mind, likewise John Updike's sparkling ventriloquism."

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