Picture of author.

Ahmadou Kourouma (1927–2003)

Autor(a) de Allah Is Not Obliged

19 Works 848 Membros 28 Reviews 5 Favorited

About the Author

Inclui os nomes: A. Kourouma, Ahmadou Kourouma

Image credit: Ahmadou Kourouma

Obras de Ahmadou Kourouma


Conhecimento Comum

Nome padrão
Kourouma, Ahmadou
Data de nascimento
Data de falecimento
Côte d'Ivoire
Local de nascimento
Boundiali, Côte d'Ivoire
Local de falecimento
Lyon, France
Locais de residência
Lyon, France
insurance company director



“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.” Birahima, a child-soldier, narrates this book, winner of Prix Renaudot. I understand Kourouma’s decision to use a child-soldier as a narrator. His approach is unsentimental and unmanipulative and, in more nuanced prose, could have been devastating. But Kourouma is too enamored of his decision and spends too much time highlighting his own cleverness at the expense of a damning indictment.
Birahima has three exclamations/curses (in what I presume is the Malinke language) and he uses them frequently. Far too frequently. And while that may be how a child Birahima’s age really talks, it quickly becomes intrusive and distracting. Likewise, Kourouma has Birahima regularly define certain words for the reader in parentheses. Ordinary words as well as unusual Malinke (or other African languages) words. I can find no rhyme or reason for which words are defined. But again, Kourouma uses this device so frequently (often multiple times on a page) that it is annoying and distracts from the story. The subject of the book is important and needs to be told. But I found Kourouma’s stylistic tics so off-putting that they undercut his message. Appalling incidents of torture, dismemberment, rape, and murder lost their power because so much of Birahima’s narration is rendered in overstated, over-the-top prose. Kourouma is telling a gruesome, almost unspeakable story but the impact was so attenuated by his style of narration that the book became a effort instead of a riveting read.
The first half of the book clings to the story of Birahima searching for his aunt. Then, midway through the book, Birahima begins a tiresomely cynical narration of the political history of the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia in the 1990s and early 2000s. Here especially, Birahima displays a wisdom and perceptiveness far beyond that of most children his age; it is jarring to have him narrate events around him as a child and then only a sentence later display a prescient, nuanced understanding of the larger circumstances and context. Either Birahima is a child with all the advantages (and limitations) that that choice entails or he is not. He can’t be both child and adult whenever shifting his insights suits Kourouma’s purposes. I liked Kourouma’s Suns of Independence and looked forward to this book. I wish I could recommend it.
P.S. Having written all of this, I must now add this addendum. In poking around the internet, I found “Childhoods Dis-ordered: Non-Realist Narrative Modes in Selected Post-2000 West African War Novels,” a Ph.D. dissertation by Cecilia Addei from the Department of English, University of the Western Cape in South Africa. I was pleased to find this work well-written and with an interesting and thought-provoking thesis. The author examined four different books, including Kourouma’s novel. Ms. Addei’s interpretation of the use of the various dictionaries is completely different from my take and I think it is well worth considering because she offers a cogent and (almost) convincing explanation for the style I disliked.
”In a world turned upside down, Birahima still wants to prove the truthfulness of his story…. Birahima’s commitment is to make his absurd story believable so he explains words which will validate his experience…. Even though Birahima seeks different ways to validate the absurdity of his war story, by appealing to God as guarantor of truth and the wisdom in folklore, the dictionaries are the final evidentiary support of the truth he wants to establish…his most authoritative form of validation…. Thus we see Birahima using more words to explain single words yet not achieving the reality he wants to achieve. This is due to the fact that language cannot let the actual reality reveal itself so we see at the end of the novel that the reader is taken back to the beginning with Birahima, unable to validate his absurd story and the reader not making any progress. Birahima will tell us his story again to prove its truthfulness and when we reach the end we will again go back to the beginning in an infinite and eternal circle that imitates the fact that there is no escape from language into truth. Birahima’s inability to prove the truthfulness of his story using dictionaries is in consonance with Jacques Derrida’s idea that language produces meaning only with reference to other meanings against which it takes on its own significance….”​
Although she hasn’t quite convinced me, I think she makes a good case for her interpretation. My reading about the book showed that opinions about the book vary quite widely. Notwithstanding my dissatisfaction, I would recommend considering the book. I’ve read Kourouma before (The Suns of Independence) and been impressed; perhaps I’m dismissing this work too easily.
… (mais)
Gypsy_Boy | outras 16 resenhas | Jun 13, 2024 |
Very enjoyable. Better known for his later work, Allah is Not Obliged, Kourouma is from the Ivory Coast and here tells the story of Fama and Salimata, a husband and wife torn apart by the collision between traditional and post-colonial cultures. Fama is the last of a line princes who had reigned over the Malinke people and now he seeks his place in the new, independent national bureaucracy. Meanwhile, his wife, Salimata, haunted by memories of a ritualistic excision and a brutal rape, is intent of bearing a child to whom their legacy may be passed. Kourouma uses tales and proverbs from the Malinke tradition to help depict the confusion, contradictions, and dreams of people living through the turbulence of newly won independence.… (mais)
Gypsy_Boy | outras 2 resenhas | Aug 25, 2023 |
En Aláno está obligado, Birahima, insolente narrador, es un niño malinké cuyo destino lo obliga a convertirse en niño-soldado y sobrevivir, pasando de facción en facción y país en país, entre las entrañas de golpes de Estado,complots, alianzas y ejecuciones amparadas por discursos maniqueos, tribales e internacionales. Esto le permite observar íntimamente la cruda condición humana y describir, con un desconcertante humor involuntario, la realidad de África del Oeste (Burkina Faso, Costa de Marfil, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leona) de la década de los noventa, por la que desfilan personajes como Foday Sankoh, Samuel Doe, Prince Johnson, Charles Taylor, Houphouët-Boigny y Muammar Khadafi, entre otros.… (mais)
Natt90 | Oct 23, 2022 |
The Suns of Independence is a novel of early postcolonial Africa. The central character is Fama, the last chief of the once-powerful
Dumbuya tribe that ruled over Horodugu -- an area that has now been divided between two newly independent African states, the Ebony Coast and the Socialist Republic of Nikinai.
CarrieFortuneLibrary | outras 2 resenhas | Sep 5, 2022 |



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½ 3.7

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