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.

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Everybody out!