Childhoods dis-ordered: Non-realist narrative modes in selected post-2000 West African war novels
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This study explores how selected West African war novels employ non-realist narrative modes to portray disruptions in the child’s development into adulthood. The novels considered are Chris Abani’s Song for Night (2007), Ahmadou Kourouma’s Allah is Not Obliged (2006), Uzodinma Iweala’s Beasts of No Nation (2005) and Delia Jarrett-Macauley’s Moses, Citizen and Me (2005). These novels strain at the conventions of realism as a consequence of the attempt to represent the disruptions in child development as a result of the upheavals of war. A core proposition of the study is to present why the authors in question are obliged to employ non-realist modes in representing disrupted childhoods that reflect the social and cultural disorder attendant upon war. The dissertation also asks pertinent questions regarding the ideological effect of these narrative strategies and the effect of the particular stylistic idiosyncrasies of each of the authors in figuring childhood in postcolonial Africa. The novels in question employ surrealism, the absurd, the grotesque and magical realism, in presenting the first person narratives of children in war situations, or the reflections of adult narrators on children affected by war. This study further analyses the ways the aesthetic modes employed by these authors underscore, in particular, children’s experiences of war. Through strategic use of specific literary techniques, these authors highlight questions of vulnerability, powerlessness and violence on children, as a group that has been victimised and co-opted into violence. The study further considers how these narrative transformations in the representations of children in novels, capture transformations in ideas about childhood in postcolonial Africa.