Allah Is Not Obliged by Ahmadou Kourouma

Estimated read time 3 min read

“The 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.“

Now, this is how to write the opening sentence of your novel!🔥. I read the first sentence of this novel nine years ago, and it has been on my tbr list since then. Imagine how happy I was when my dear friend from secondary school offered to get a copy for me on my birthday last year🥺. I’m so grateful for the kind of thoughtful friends I have been blessed with ❤️.

Allah Is Not Obliged is narrated from the POV of Birahima, a 10-year-old boy who, after his mother dies, leaves Ivory Coast in search of his aunt, who lives in Liberia with the help of Yacouba, the grigriman. They are captured on their way to Liberia, and Birahima is forced to become a child soldier.

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When done properly, I love books written from the POV of teens because, most times, people think children do not understand what’s happening, but they do. It’s quite fascinating to see things from the eyes of a child, especially one like Birahima, who has a somewhat lighthearted approach to nearly everything happening around him.

Kourouma perfectly captured the horrors of being a Liberian citizen in the 1990s through the eyes of Birahima.

Birahima, our male protagonist, remains proud despite everything he passes through. He tells his story in French with the help of a dictionary to ensure that he uses the right words. He even uses some words whose meanings he isn’t sure of to impress anyone reading his story. He’s such a funny character, and I quite enjoyed his sense of humour 😂 even though some of his jokes are very dark🤭.

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While reading this novel, we find out that the Liberians summoned and paid huge amounts to the likes of Yacouba, the grigriman (magician), to make talismans and amulets for them anytime they were going to war. Ironically, they already possessed guns and bulletproof jackets, which showed just how complicated and confused they were. They were caught between their cultural traditions and colonialism, which is a recipe for disaster.

My favourite character in this novel is Aminata Gabrielle🥺. She was a brave woman who gave her all to protect the girls under her care from evil men who thought they had the right to be with any woman simply because they were men. Although she was faced with so much opposition, she never gave up. A true visionary, just like Bweeza from Kintu!❤️.

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This book explores really gory themes such as rape, cannibalism, war, military coups, and death, so please proceed with caution.

Allah Is Not Obliged ticks off the 5th prompt in the #somethingbookishreadingchallenge, an Instagram-based challenge to read a book set in West Africa. I decided that I was going to read a book set in Liberia instead of Nigeria, where I’m from, but Kourouma took me to Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, and Liberia😍.

I like this book especially because I got to read an account of war from the POV of a child. However, the repetitions of several phrases and even words were quite annoying. I also felt like some of its authenticity got lost in translation because of some sort of disconnect. If you want to see 1990s Liberia but from the POV of a child, this is the book for you😚.

Stephanie Ozoemena

Stephanie discovered her love for reading at the tender age of 7 and she has not looked back since then. When she is not reading, she is daydreaming about traveling to the numerous countries she has read about in books.

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