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Chris Abani, Song For Night

I was very impressed and quite moved by Chris Abani's Song For Night, a powerful and often harrowing novella of war and remembrance. The story is told through the inner voice of My Luck, a 15-year-old boy soldier in an ethnic civil war in Nigeria, Abani's native country. My Luck has the unenviable role of leader of a platoon of landmine diffusers - small, nimble youths who incapacitate mines ahead of the advancing infantry. Separated from his unit after being rendered unconscious by a mine blast, My Luck wanders the ravaged countryside. While his expressed intent is to find his way back to the platoon, he is strangely reticent, seeming to hold back and not push forward as aggressively as he should. His meandering journey provides him plenty of time to reflect on his past: his family life before the conflict, his basic training and his comrades, but, most graphically, the horrific scenes of battle, pillaging and deprivation which torment his dreams by night and conjure disturbing visions by day. Abani, who is also a poet with several published collections to his name, writes in brisk, vivid and lyrical prose which somehow lends beauty to an otherwise grim narrative. Abani provides yet another portrait of the horror and senselessness of war, but instead of a simple polemic delivers a compelling story and a protagonist whom, as he searches for inner peace, that the reader can't help feel compassion for.

Song For Night is a rather remarkable book, one which will stay with me for quite some time.

Special thanks to Akashic Books for providing me with a review copy.

February 5, 2008 in Books | Permalink