No words for violence? Song for Night
in Chris Abani
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Song for Night (2007) is the story of My Luck, a West African boy soldier in search of his lost platoon, across a nightmarish desolated landscape, both geographically and metaphysically. His journey through the horrors of a civil war becomes a sorrowful quest, a descent into hell that eventually leads to the possibility of a re-emergence into light, however ambiguous. Though some reference to the Igbo ethnic group and its traditions lead us to suppose the story refers to the Nigerian Civil War, the location remains intentionally undefined, and time is difficult to keep, as the narrative moves from vaguely recognisable historical/cultural details to an increasingly eerie landscape inhabited by ghosts and a lost humanity maimed by war. The analysis focuses on the elaborate construction of the dumb child soldier’s sign language and ‘telepathic’ communication with the reader; on love and sex as a way to withstand war – a queering agent which inflects childhood in unexpected ways; on My Luck’s difficult passage to the world of the dead. Some rich and strange metamorphosis happens along the way: a recovery of memory and a sense of community which reaches beyond family and people, and extends to all that lives, to the planet and the stars that shine in the African sky.


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