Book Review – Allah Is Not Obliged

TITLE OF BOOK: Allah is Not Obliged

AUTHOR: Ahmadou Kourouma

ISBN: 978-0-099-43392-7
BOOK REVIEWER: Mof’Oluwawo O MojolaOluwa


“I was flicking through the dictionaries that I’d just inherited… That’s when this brilliant idea popped into my calabash (my head) to write down my adventures from A-Z… It was at that moment that my cousin, the doctor, said to me, ‘Tell me everything, little Birahima, tell me everything you’ve seen and done… The full, final and completely complete title of my bullshit story is: Allah is not obliged to be fair about all the things he does here on earth.”

‘Allah is Not Obliged’ is a detailed recount of war and wartime events from a young boy’s point of view. Birahima, a young boy of ten tells of life before and during the rebel wars in Africa and how they changed his life and that of those around him.

Born in 1927 in Boundiali, Ivory Coast, Ahmadou Kourouma studied science in France and was in the French colonial army. He later ran into trouble with the then Ivory Coast regime and was imprisoned. He was to later spend several years in exile. A playwright and award winning author, he died in 2004.

Birahima, a recalcitrant and unschooled young orphan sets out in search of his aunt Mahan in Liberia with the secret dream of becoming a child soldier, a dream which’s full import his young mind did not then know nor understand. In company of Yacouba, his clan’s person who was also a money multiplier and marabout, he plunges into a whirlwind of experiences good and bad, mostly bad, surviving the wars by a hair’s breadth. The book chronicles the duo’s variegated experiences as narrated by Birahima himself with the eponymous supposition that ‘Allah is not obliged to be fair about all the things he does here on earth’ repeated throughout the story.
‘Allah is not Obliged’ is one rib-tickling read and this is most ironical because the account therein is a sad, nay, gory tale of man’s inhumanity to man. It boasts of a wide-ranging thematic occupation entailing women rights, magic and the dark arts, war and war crimes, violence, dictatorship, military rule, guerrilla warfare, ethnic bigotry, religious rites to mention a few.

Using the first person narrative technique, he recounts even the most horrid details with unmatched hilarity. A satire of war and warfare, the story progresses by way of unmistakable sardonicism. If you ask me, Kourouma is a rather captivating storyteller and a satirist extraordinaire. Another interesting feature is the explanation of difficult words as found in his inherited dictionaries- The Larousse and The Petit Robert, the Glossary of French Lexical Particularities in Black Africa and the Harrap’s. But even this I perceive, appears a deliberate attempt at mischief if words as simple as ‘counsel’, ‘flock’, ‘kid’,  are explained and words as complex on the face of it, as ‘prestidigitation’, ‘blethering’ ‘parricide’ are left unexplained. But then, the simplicity or complexity of a word or the other is quite relative and subjective.

An inexhaustible conglomeration of literary gems, it boasts of literary devices such as foretelling, flashback, repetition, and sarcasm; and is simply worded even a child can read it, but hey, the protagonist himself is only a kid.
The book reeks of foul language, but perhaps it emphasizes the war induced foulness of the story’s atmosphere. The manner in which Kourouma takes the liberty to go vulgar goes to heighten the intended sarcasm and humour. The plot evidences extensive research and informed opinions on the issues raised in the story. ‘Allah is Not Obliged’ is a classic, take that from me.

‘Birahima is ten years old. He is a soldier… This is his story.’


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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Marshar says:

    War doesn’t come and go without leaving a gory
    memory. Both the young and the old would,
    certainly, have some excruciating experiences, in
    so far they were the “unfortunate” witnesses of
    war. War doesn’t discriminate! Hence, the reason
    a 10 year old Birahima could give such a full,
    fiery and fury narration. It’s nothing but a solid
    account from a helpless babe!

    It’s a sorry case to loose peace only to find it.

    It’s a nice review. More ink, MojolaOluwa.


    1. You’re right on! Thanks for stopping by.


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