Email address:. Beasts of No Nation. Uzodinma Iweala. As civil war rages in an unnamed West-African nation, young Agu is recruited into a unit of guerilla fighters and his daily reality spins downward into inexplicable brutality, primal fear, and loss of selfhood. What The Reviewers Say.
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Uzodinma Iweala, author of a highly acclaimed first novel, Beasts of No Nation, a first-person account of the life of a child soldier in Sierra Leone, read from his novel and discussed its purpose and meaning at a CGD event last week. The audience also watched an excerpt from War Dance , a forthcoming film about former child soldiers in Uganda by filmmaker Sean Fine.
Video of Iweala's reading and a transcript of the discussion with Iweala and Fine are now online. Afterwards, Iweala answered questions about the book:. A: The idea came during my senior year of high school. I flipped open a Newsweek magazine and there was an article about a child soldier in Sierra Leone. I was ignorant and I felt like I wanted and needed to know more about the political and humanitarian issues.
Most importantly for me, I wanted to take the issue away from the more intellectual discussions and focus on the emotional component of the story. It was the emotions stirred up by face-to-face interaction with a survivor of this terrible phenomenon that got me ready and able to write. Q: When you spoke at the CGD event, several people asked you what could be done to address the problems that give rise to child soldiers. You were reluctant to offer prescriptions. A: There are two reasons.
Second, I think that the book is part of the solution -- raising awareness. I believe that art and literature appeals to a different side of the human intelligence -- the emotional intelligence. I think this very powerful and often underappreciated by action-oriented people.
Sometimes one needs to slow down and understand an issue emotionally before prescribing a solution. I had to slow down emotionally to really try and grasp what it meant to be in the situation of a child soldier before I could say I know now how to respond. I want to be able to help others to do the same. How do the differences between documentary film and narrative fiction shape the ways in which you and Sean address this difficult topic?
A: Fiction allows one to take liberties, leaps of imagination that help to tell the story. If the story holds together and is effective in bringing the reader to a new emotional and intellectual plain, then the writer has done his job. In my mind the documentary film maker is more constrained by the facts of a given situation. How did you imagine your way into the mind and heart of a child forced to kill?
A: I did my research. I talked to people. I read lots and lots on everything from child psychology to interviews with former child soldiers. And then I sat with that knowledge that I had gathered and just tried to absorb it all.
There had to be a period when all I did was to sit and try to absorb. Then I wrote, rewrote and rewrote again until that boy came to life within the context of the story.
Q: Hearing you read from Beasts of No Nation was chilling, and reading it is emotionally quite challenging. Was it emotionally difficult for you to write? A: Beasts of No Nation was an incredibly hard book to write. There is nothing more troubling, other than being a victim or an unwilling perpetrator of violence, than spending every waking moment for a year with stories and images of violent actions.
I have to say that I was relieved when I finished writing the book. Skip to main content. Our Experts. Attend an Event. Connect with Us. For Media. You are here Home. March 6,
The lost boys
Earlier this year Granta published Delia Jarrett-Macauley's first novel, Moses, Citizen and Me, the considered and multi-layered story of a Sierra Leone family blasted apart by one of its children turning boy soldier in the civil war. It is a novel remarkable for its slowed, measured pulse and its calm analysis, its keenness to promise hope and rehabilitation even after the worst. It is chilling to compare Beasts of No Nation, a first novel by Uzodinma Iweala, who is 23 and a Harvard graduate and has worked with Nigerian child soldiers in rehabilitation. This is the live underbelly of such a situation, in a novel so scorched by loss and anger that it's hard to hold and so gripping in its sheer hopeless lifeforce that it's hard to put down. In the writing, Beasts of No Nation is totally and shockingly alive from its very first paragraph.
Child Soldiers: Q&A with Uzodinma Iweala, author of Beasts of No Nation
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