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Sozaboy by Ken Saro-Wiwa

Sozaboy (1985)

by Ken Saro-Wiwa

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156376,544 (3.81)18
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    Allah is Not Obliged by Ahmadou Kourouma (prezzey)
    prezzey: Both are novels about naive young males thrust into armed conflict in Africa.

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Difficult and poetic, this text reads more like poetry than fiction. It is, in the end, a very sad book when given thought, but I think the emotion is somewhat lightened by the difficulty of the language and the distance we seem to keep from the main characters. I've got little to say about it because I do have mixed feelings. At parts, I enjoyed it very much, but at others, I wanted much more. Certainly, though, if you're interested in innovative narrative language or in first person coming of age stories, this might be for you. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Feb 5, 2012 |
The challenge on beginning this book for me was getting into the rhythm of Saro-Wiwa's prose . His use of a kind of invented bastardized Nigerian pidgin English mixed in with healthy dollops of satire to tell the story of a hapless young man's experiences before, during and after the Nigerian/Biafran civil war. It's not just a comedy by a long shot--it was a serious look at an awful situation which I remember quite well from my youth in the late 60's being all over the newspapers and news television at that time. Of course we only saw then what those mediums would show us and when you're bordering on teenage or so there is only so much you take from events so far away--so much you can construct with it. But even not understanding it very well there was no denying the magnitude of the disaster.

Reading Saro-Wiwa's book almost 40 years after those events--many of the mental pictures of death and starvation come back to mind. That he chose an unique colloquial way of expressing this serious satire through this hapless young soldiers eyes actually at least in my case drew me into the story. In a sense a comparison could be made to James Kelman's booker prize winning 'How late it was, how late'--which used a heavy Scots spoken language dialect to narrate the grim experiences of an ex-con beaten into blindness by policemen. In the right hands this approach can be a very effective way to convey your story. And Saro-Wiwa's hands in this regard are just fine. Like Kelman's book the humor only accentuates the grimness of the story. In 'Sozaboy's case however that story came from an actual dark reality. Anyway this is well recommended.

On a side note: Ken Saro-Wiwa as it happens was executed by his own government in 1995. Convicted in a kangaroo court for murders he had no part in. He was an activist for his Ogoni people and wanted Nigerians to control their own wealth--particularly their oil wealth. His activism went further than that but as happens he ran up against oil interests (Dutch Shell Company) and the Military dictatorship then running his country he was convicted despite being innocent and hung. ( )
3 vote lriley | Aug 2, 2009 |
This book is written entirely in a form of pidgin English, which makes it a bit difficult to understand, but not too tough once you get into it. It's told from the point of view of Mene, a young man growing up in a tiny village in Nigeria in the 1960's. His village is caught up in the country's civil war and Mene, despite having no understanding of what the war is about, is proud to become a soldier, a "soza," so he can wear a uniform and be a big man. He quickly discovers that being a soldier isn't as glorious as he expected. But this isn't really a story about war. It's the story of how war affects innocent civilians and about life in hungry, war-torn, disease-ridden, superstitious areas of Africa. It's not a happy story. It's an interesting look into a time and place that most of us know very little about, and don't really want to know much about because when we look, we don't like what we see. This story is challenging to read in both its language and its subject matter, but it's a challenge that more of us should undertake. Luckily, at 180 pages, this book is mercifully short. ( )
  stubbyfingers | Nov 8, 2008 |
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