Armed struggle

<strong>Song for Night</strong>

Chris Abani <em>Akashic Books, 164pp, £7.99</em>

Song for Night reveals, with no harshness spared, the journey of My Luck, a West African child soldier who has led a platoon of mine defusers for three years. It begins as he loses his platoon and goes in search of it through the war-torn terrain, in a tired fight for survival, which is all he knows.

On this eerie and increasingly dreamlike quest, My Luck reflects upon his botched military training and his experiences of a war with which he has become inexplicably entwined. He is revealed as a rapist, a killer, a leader – as a little boy and a man, and, by his own admission, as neither. Perhaps most poignantly, we learn that he has a huge capacity for love.

In so few pages, Abani achieves a great deal. Without an ounce of pity, we see brutal war through My Luck’s eyes: “The amount of blood on my hands doesn’t grant me the luxury of complacence, and no amount of horror seems to have inured me to my own pain, or fear . . . only to that of others: war . . . hasn’t made me braver, only more callous.” With the poetic beauty of F Scott Fitzgerald and the frankness of Irvine Welsh, Abani addresses a world too horrific for contemplation. Both compelling and barely readable, this novella depicts events that we may be too ashamed to allow ourselves to believe to be true.

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