The harrowing, utterly original debut novel by Uzodinma Iweala about the life of a child soldier in a war-torn African country
As civil war rages in an unnamed West-African nation, Agu, the school-aged protagonist of this stunning novel, is recruited into a unit of guerilla fighters. Haunted by his father’s own death at the hands of militants, which he fled just before witnessing, Agu is vulnerable to the dangerous yet paternal nature of his new commander.
While the war rages on, Agu becomes increasingly divorced from the life he had known before the conflict started—a life of school friends, church services, and time with his family, still intact. As he vividly recalls these sunnier times, his daily reality continues to spin further downward into inexplicable brutality, primal fear, and loss of selfhood.
In a powerful, strikingly original voice, Uzodinma Iweala leads the reader through the random travels, betrayals, and violence that mark Agu’s new community. Electrifying and engrossing, Beasts of No Nation announces the arrival of an extraordinary writer.
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About the Author
Date of Birth:November 5, 1982
Place of Birth:Washington, D.C.
Education:A.B., Harvard University, Magna Cum Laude in English and American Literature and Language, 2004
Read an Excerpt
Beasts of No NationA Novel
By Uzodinma Iweala
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Uzodinma Iweala
All right reserved.
It is starting like this. I am feeling itch like insect is crawling on my skin, and then my head is just starting to tingle right between my eye, and then I am wanting to sneeze because my nose is itching, and then air is just blowing into my ear and I am hearing so many thing: the clicking of insect, the sound of truck grumbling like one kind of animal, and then the sound of somebody shouting, TAKE YOUR POSITION RIGHT NOW! QUICK! QUICK QUICK! MOVE WITH SPEED! MOVE FAST OH! in voice that is just touching my body like knife.
I am opening my eye and there is light all around me coming into the dark through hole in the roof, crossing like net above my body. Then I am feeling my body crunched up like one small mouse in the corner when the light is coming on. The smell of rainwater and sweat is coming into my nose and I am feeling my shirt is so wet it is almost like another skin. I want to be moving, but my whole bone is paining me and my muscle is paining me like fire ant is just biting me all over my body. If I can be slapping myself to be making it go away I am doing it, but I cannot even move one finger. I am not doing anything.
Footstep is everywhere around me and making me to think that my father is coming to bring medicine to stop all of this itch and pain. I turn onto my back. The footstep is growing louder, louder, louder until I am hearing it even more than my own breathing or heart beating. Step slap, step slap, step slap, I am hearing getting louder, louder, louder and then shadow is coming into the light from under the door.
Somebody is knocking. KNOCK KNOCK. But I am not answering. Then they are angrying too much and just kicking so the whole of this place is shaking and the roof is falling apart small small so that more light is coming in. And the wood everywhere is cracking until I am hearing PING PING and seeing screw falling from the door into bucket near my feets. The sound is fighting the wall, bouncing from here to there, through the net of light, until it is like the sound is pushing the door open so there is so much brightness. BRIGHTNESS! So much brightness is coming into my eye until I am seeing purple spot for long time. Then I am seeing yellow eye belonging to one short dark body with one big belly and leg thin like spider's own. This body is so thin that his short is just blowing around his leg like woman's skirt and his shirt is looking like dress the way it is hanging from his shoulder. His neck is just struggling too much to hold up his big head that is always moving one way or the other.
I am looking at him. He is looking at me. He is not surprising at all to be seeing me even if I am surprising for him, but his face is falling and becoming more dark. He is sniffing like dog and stepping to me. KPAWA! He is hitting me.
Again and again he is hitting me and each blow from his hand is feeling on my skin like the flat side of machete. I am trying to scream, but he is knocking the air from my chest and then slapping my mouth. I am tasting blood. I am feeling like vomiting. The whole place around us is shaking, just shaking rotten fruit from the shelf, just sounding like it will be cracking into many piece and falling on top of us. He is grabbing my leg, pulling it so hard that it is like it will be coming apart like meat, and my body is just sliding slowly from the stall out into the light and onto the mud.
In the light, my breath is coming back and using force to open my chest to make me to coughing and my eye to watering. The whole world is spreading before me and I am looking up to the gray sky moving slowly slowly against the top leaf of all the tall tall Iroko tree. And under this, many smaller tree is fighting each other to climb up to the sunlight. All the leaf is dripping with rainwater and shining like jewel or glass. The grasses by the road is so tall and green past any color I am seeing before. This is making me to think of jubilating, dancing, shouting, singing because Kai! I am saying I am finally dead. I am thinking that maybe this boy is spirit and I should be thanking him for bringing me home to the land of spirits, but before I can even be opening my mouth to be saying anything, he is leaving me on my back in the mud.
I can see the bottom of truck parking just little bit away from me. Two truck is blocking up the whole road and more are parking on the roadside. The piece of cloth covering them is so torn up and full of hole and the paint is coming off to showing so much rust, like blood, making me to thinking the truck is like wounding animal. And around all the truck, just looking like ghost, are soldier. Some is wearing camouflage, other is wearing T-shirt and jean, but it is not mattering because all of the clothe is tearing and having big hole. Some of them is wearing real boot and the rest is wearing slipper. Some of them is standing at attention with their leg so straight that it is looking like they do not have knee. Some of them is going to toilet against the truck and other is going to toilet into the grasses. Almost everybody is carrying gun.
Excerpted from Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala Copyright © 2005 by Uzodinma Iweala. Excerpted by permission.
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What People are Saying About This
“[Beasts of No Nation] is a work of visceral urgency…it heralds the arrival of a major talent.”
“Uzodinma Iweala is a gifted and brave writer.”