True, the sun is stinging, beaches are finally open and summer mode has set in. Well, with the exception of the upcoming evil, exams. That being said, we don’t have any time for lengthy books. For avid readers who want to immerse themselves in a poignant novella whilst toasting under the sun, however, I have the book for you.
“Song for the Night,” a 165 page-book, is a powerful novella by Nigerian author Chris Abani. Abani, with his assortment of books, poems and award-winning novellas, has quite the interesting background.
Imprisoned three times, Abani wrote fictional stories with political meaning that were considered anti-government. He was also determined to change the stereotypical image of Africa being merely a land of poverty, war and endless deserts.
The first page of the book brings a powerful paragraph:
“What you hear is not my voice. I have not spoken in three years: not since I left boot camp. It has been three years of senseless war, and though the reasons for it are clear, and though the reasons for it are clear, and though we will continue to fight until we are ordered to stop—and probably for a while after that—none of us can remember the hate that led us here.”
Abani, however, describes himself as a “zealot of optimism.” He manages to emanate hope through every sorrowful, heart-wrenching story he carves.
In his aforementioned novella, he uses lyrical, enigmatic prose to transform us into the body of the 15 year-old child soldier, My Luck. As My Luck walks through an unnamed war in Nigeria, losing his family members, loved ones and all that he owns, we venture with him on the journey of death.
The passion entwined with grief in which My Luck engulfs the reader sways us to the point where we are touched beyond “Song for The Night” being a mere description of the foreign, unknown land of Africa. It becomes an embodiment of humanity that we try to understand and grasp.
This book goes beyond My Luck, beyond Nigeria and beyond Africa. It resonates within our context of a war-torn land and extends not only to Lebanon, but to most if not all our neighboring countries.
Abani helps us realize the bitter truth of the subjugation of children to child soldiery. Towards the end of the book, when My Luck crosses the river to approach death we are hit with the question by Ijeoma, My Luck’s lover, “What kind of God makes a world like this?”