Close
Book review December 2016

Life

Book review December 2016

 

INSIDE NIGERIA’S UNHOLY WAR BY MIKE SMITH

An insurgency in Nigeria by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram has left thousands dead, shaken Africa’s biggest country and worried the world. Yet it remains a mysterious – almost unknowable – organisation. With rough exhaustive on-the-ground reporting, Mike Smith takes readers inside the conflict and provides the first in-depth account of the violence and unrest.

He traces Boko Haram from its beginnings as a small Islamist sect in Nigeria’s remote north-east, led by a baby-faced but charismatic preacher, to its transformation into a hydra-headed entity, deploying suicide bombers and abducting schoolgirls. Much of the book is told through the eyes of Nigerians who have found themselves caught between frightening insurgents and security forces accused of horrifying brutality.

It includes the voices of a forgotten police officer left paralysed by an attack, women whose husbands have been murdered and a sword-wielding vigilante using charms to fend off insurgent bullets.

It journeys through the sleaze and corruption that has robbed Africa’s biggest oil producer of its potential, making it such fertile ground for extremism. Along the way it questions whether there can be any end to the violence and the ways in which this might be achieved.

Interspersed with history, this book delves into the roots of this unholy war which is set to shape the destiny of Africa’s biggest economy and most populous state.


COMBATANTS, IMPUNITY AND STATE FORMATION BY MARIELLE DEBOS

How do people live in a country that has experienced rebellions and state-organised repressions for decades and that is still marked by routine forms of violence and impunity? What do combatants do when they are not mobilised for war? Drawing on over 10 years of fieldwork, Marielle Debos explains how living by the gun has become both an acceptable form of political expression and an everyday occupation.

Written by one of the foremost experts on Chad, this book shows how armed violence has become both an ordinary form of political struggle and a practical occupation.

Contrary to the popular association of violence and chaos, she shows that these fighters continue to observe rules, frontiers and hierarchies, even as their allegiances shift between rebel and government forces, and as they drift between Chad, Libya, Sudan and the Central African Republic. Going further, she explores the role of the globalised politico-military entrepreneurs and the long involvement of the French military in Chad.

Ultimately, the book demonstrates that ending the war is not enough. The issue is ending the “inter-war” which is maintained and reproduced by state violence. Combining ethnographic observation with in-depth theoretical analysis, Living by the Gun in Chad helps our understanding of the intersections of war and peace. Author Marielle Debos is an Assistant Professor in Political Science at the University Paris Ouest.


THE SELLOUT BY PAUL BEATTY

The winner of the Man Booker Prize 2016, author Paul Beatty is an African-American writer living in New York. He is the first writer of African descent to win this, one of the world’s most notable literary prizes. The book is a biting satire about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the US Supreme Court.

Born in Dickens on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles, the narrator of The Sellout spent his childhood as the subject of his father’s racially charged psychological studies. He is told that his father’s work will lead to a memoir that will solve their financial woes. But when his father is killed in a drive-by shooting, he discovers there never was a memoir. All that is left is the bill for a drive-through funeral.

What is more, Dickens has literally been wiped off the map to save California from further embarrassment. Fuelled by despair, the narrator sets out to right this wrong with the most startling action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.

In his trademark absurdist style, which has the uncanny ability to make readers want to both laugh and cry, The Sellout is an outrageous and outrageously entertaining indictment for our time.

Olivia Williams, one of the Man Booker Prize 2016 judges, commented: “I was banned from reading in bed because I was laughing so much.”

Related Posts

  • Group D preview

    Perhaps the most exciting narrative about this group lies with the return of Uganda to the pinnacle of African football after nearly 40 years in …

  • Group C preview

    Front-loaded with some of the most exciting young African talent at the competition, with the likes of Hakim Ziyech and Franck Kessie, will have scouts, …

  • Group B preview

    Group B lends itself to being one of the more exciting groups at this year’s tournament. Algeria, Senegal, Tunisia and Zimbabwe will looking to advance …

  • Group A preview

    As Gabon, Burkina Fasso, Cameroon and Guinea Bissau lock horns in the opening round of fixtures at this year’s Afcon, New African provides you with the …