Beasts of No Nation

Beasts of No Nation

by Uzodinma Iweala


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The harrowing, utterly original debut novel by Uzodinma Iweala about the life of a child soldier in a war-torn African country—now a critically-acclaimed Netflix original film directed by Cary Fukunaga (True Detective) and starring Idris Elba (Mandela, The Wire).

As civil war rages in an unnamed West-African nation, Agu, the school-aged protagonist of this stunning debut novel, is recruited into a unit of guerilla fighters. Haunted by his father’s own death at the hands of militants, which he fled just before witnessing, Agu is vulnerable to the dangerous yet paternal nature of his new commander.

While the war rages on, Agu becomes increasingly divorced from the life he had known before the conflict started—a life of school friends, church services, and time with his family, still intact. As he vividly recalls these sunnier times, his daily reality continues to spin further downward into inexplicable brutality, primal fear, and loss of selfhood. In a powerful, strikingly original voice, Uzodinma Iweala leads the reader through the random travels, betrayals, and violence that mark Agu’s new community. Electrifying and engrossing, Beasts of No Nation announces the arrival of an extraordinary new writer.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060798680
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/15/2006
Series: P.S. Series
Edition description: REPRINT
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 189,319
Product dimensions: 4.88(w) x 7.12(h) x 0.49(d)
Lexile: 1140L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Uzodinma Iweala received the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, all for Beasts of No Nation. He was also selected as one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists. A graduate of Harvard University and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, he lives in New York City and Lagos, Nigeria.


Potomac, Maryland

Date of Birth:

November 5, 1982

Place of Birth:

Washington, D.C.


A.B., Harvard University, Magna Cum Laude in English and American Literature and Language, 2004

Read an Excerpt

Beasts of No Nation

A Novel
By Uzodinma Iweala

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Uzodinma Iweala
All right reserved.

ISBN: 006079867X

Chapter One

It is starting like this. I am feeling itch like insect is crawling on my skin, and then my head is just starting to tingle right between my eye, and then I am wanting to sneeze because my nose is itching, and then air is just blowing into my ear and I am hearing so many thing: the clicking of insect, the sound of truck grumbling like one kind of animal, and then the sound of somebody shouting, TAKE YOUR POSITION RIGHT NOW! QUICK! QUICK QUICK! MOVE WITH SPEED! MOVE FAST OH! in voice that is just touching my body like knife.

I am opening my eye and there is light all around me coming into the dark through hole in the roof, crossing like net above my body. Then I am feeling my body crunched up like one small mouse in the corner when the light is coming on. The smell of rainwater and sweat is coming into my nose and I am feeling my shirt is so wet it is almost like another skin. I want to be moving, but my whole bone is paining me and my muscle is paining me like fire ant is just biting me all over my body. If I can be slapping myself to be making it go away I am doing it, but I cannot even move one finger. I am not doing anything.

Footstep is everywhere around me and making me to think that my father is coming to bring medicine to stop all of this itch and pain. I turn onto my back. The footstep is growing louder, louder, louder until I am hearing it even more than my own breathing or heart beating. Step slap, step slap, step slap, I am hearing getting louder, louder, louder and then shadow is coming into the light from under the door.

Somebody is knocking. KNOCK KNOCK. But I am not answering. Then they are angrying too much and just kicking so the whole of this place is shaking and the roof is falling apart small small so that more light is coming in. And the wood everywhere is cracking until I am hearing PING PING and seeing screw falling from the door into bucket near my feets. The sound is fighting the wall, bouncing from here to there, through the net of light, until it is like the sound is pushing the door open so there is so much brightness. BRIGHTNESS! So much brightness is coming into my eye until I am seeing purple spot for long time. Then I am seeing yellow eye belonging to one short dark body with one big belly and leg thin like spider's own. This body is so thin that his short is just blowing around his leg like woman's skirt and his shirt is looking like dress the way it is hanging from his shoulder. His neck is just struggling too much to hold up his big head that is always moving one way or the other.

I am looking at him. He is looking at me. He is not surprising at all to be seeing me even if I am surprising for him, but his face is falling and becoming more dark. He is sniffing like dog and stepping to me. KPAWA! He is hitting me.

Again and again he is hitting me and each blow from his hand is feeling on my skin like the flat side of machete. I am trying to scream, but he is knocking the air from my chest and then slapping my mouth. I am tasting blood. I am feeling like vomiting. The whole place around us is shaking, just shaking rotten fruit from the shelf, just sounding like it will be cracking into many piece and falling on top of us. He is grabbing my leg, pulling it so hard that it is like it will be coming apart like meat, and my body is just sliding slowly from the stall out into the light and onto the mud.

In the light, my breath is coming back and using force to open my chest to make me to coughing and my eye to watering. The whole world is spreading before me and I am looking up to the gray sky moving slowly slowly against the top leaf of all the tall tall Iroko tree. And under this, many smaller tree is fighting each other to climb up to the sunlight. All the leaf is dripping with rainwater and shining like jewel or glass. The grasses by the road is so tall and green past any color I am seeing before. This is making me to think of jubilating, dancing, shouting, singing because Kai! I am saying I am finally dead. I am thinking that maybe this boy is spirit and I should be thanking him for bringing me home to the land of spirits, but before I can even be opening my mouth to be saying anything, he is leaving me on my back in the mud.

I can see the bottom of truck parking just little bit away from me. Two truck is blocking up the whole road and more are parking on the roadside. The piece of cloth covering them is so torn up and full of hole and the paint is coming off to showing so much rust, like blood, making me to thinking the truck is like wounding animal. And around all the truck, just looking like ghost, are soldier. Some is wearing camouflage, other is wearing T-shirt and jean, but it is not mattering because all of the clothe is tearing and having big hole. Some of them is wearing real boot and the rest is wearing slipper. Some of them is standing at attention with their leg so straight that it is looking like they do not have knee. Some of them is going to toilet against the truck and other is going to toilet into the grasses. Almost everybody is carrying gun.


Excerpted from Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala Copyright © 2005 by Uzodinma Iweala. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Amitav Ghosh

“[Beasts of No Nation] is a work of visceral urgency…it heralds the arrival of a major talent.”

Chris Abani

“Uzodinma Iweala is a gifted and brave writer.”

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Beasts of No Nation 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
countrylife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Young Agu lives a regular life in West Africa, with books and a family who loves one another. As civil war encroaches on their existence, Agu is captured and forced into soldier-hood with the ones who ravage their village, under a cruel and twisted leader.The author skillfully shows the thoughts and feelings of how a young boy would react to finding himself in such horrible circumstances, with his conscience tearing him apart, having always been a ¿good boy¿, now forced to do bad things. The author is from Nigeria, though the nation torn by civil strife is not named. But the setting felt very real, too. Very well done.
sarah-e on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I understand why so many people feel strongly about this book, why they appreciate it, and that it impacted them profoundly. Ultimately, this book was not for me. It was too violent, too sad, and I didn't want to feel hopeless for the main character but I did. That said, it was told in a wonderfully different way and I would read other works by this author - I would hope they were not so violent.
TheAmpersand on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Maybe everyone should read a novel written in "rotten English" once in a while. Sure, it's ungrammatical, difficult to get used to, and demands a certain amount of patience, but precisely because it makes mincemeant of the grammar and diction that most of us expect from serious novels it's got a vivacity and immediacy that's wonderful to experience. Like second-language learners whose imprecise use of tired clichés inadvertently breathes new life into them, the language used in this novel opens up whole new vistas for English by flat-out disregarding most of its rules. Perhaps readers who've resigned themselves to the fact to the fact that English has more-or-less reached the limits of its expressive capability should pick up "Beasts of No Nation" just so they can be proven wrong.That said, I'm not sure if "Beasts of No Nation" is really a great novel. I don't think it achieves the emotional resonance of Ken Saro-Wiwa's wonderful - and, frankly, somewhat similar - "Sozaboy," and some readers will likely find its limited and necessarily repetitious vocabulary frustrating. There's also the problem of subject matter. The fact that the book relates the heartbreaking story of Agu, a child soldier caught up in one of the continent's civil wars, makes it difficult to judge on purely aesthetic grounds. One supposes, after all, that there are plenty of children like Agu who cannot tell any other story about themselves. On a realted note, the fact that the novel's author, Uzodinma Iweala, is a highly educated, well-to-do son of a Nigerian emigrant family who came across most of this material by working with former refugees also suggests a host of questions concerning appropriation and authenticity that are also, I imagine, delicate and complicated. Still, I'd be interested to know how "rotten English" might tell stories that were less sad than Agu's, if perahps also less socialy useful. Has somebody written rotten English's "Pride and Prejudice" yet? How about its "Portnoy's Complaint?" Now, that`s something I'd like to read.
ocgreg34 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Life for the boy Agu in his West African country changes in an instant. The threat of war treading into his peaceful village forces his mother and sister to flee while he and his father stay behind to protect the village. As the soldiers overtake the village, Agu's father is killed, leaving him to either become a child solider or die like a coward.Agu's world is full of bloodshed, anger, desolation. Through it all he wonders about how his world has changed, how he has become used to killing in order to keep worse from happening to him. His surprising strength in such a mad world, keeping hope alive that he might find his mother and sister and that he might one day continue his education to become a doctor, allow him to not go completely mad himself. "Beasts of No Nation" is a gritty, graphic and uncompromising portrait of life as a soldier, as seen through the eyes of a child.
pharmakos555 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Obviously a gripping topic, the story of a child soldier in an unidentified African civil war, the real achievement of the book is formal / stylistic. The pidgin English of the first person narration is a rushing, staccatto, permanent present-tense. Worth reading for form alone, like Gertrude Stein or Joyce in a weird way.

(My reservations about the use of dialect by a Nigerian-American writer--dialect has a prickly history in American fiction, right?--were mostly resolved reading interviews about how the author developed it).
Gary10 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Story of a 10-year old African boy displaced by war and forced to become a child soldier for a militia. Unusual and creative--and chilling.
FicusFan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An unmoving, wooden novel about the experience of a child soldier in an unnamed West African nation. It is written in a child's voice, and in pidgin English. It might as well be in gibberish. On top of that in the middle of the mayhem, the POV goes off telling local myths and legends, so the narrative is practically incoherent. It is probably a coping mechanism for the child, but it makes for boring reading. The author is an American born here but with relatives and cultural ties to Nigeria, not one of the many reformed survivors who at one time was a child soldier. Nasty, Brutish, and mercifully Short.
MusicMom41 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Warning: This book is not for the faint-hearted. Agu is a young village boy in an unnamed African country, the son of a school master with a mother who teaches him to read at home so that he is able to start school very young. When war breaks out Agu is young enough to be evacuated with the mothers and children but instead he stays with his father in the village. When the attack comes his father is killed and Agu runs away. He is picked up by a guerilla-type marauding ¿army¿ and comes under the protection of the commandant of this group. The story is told both by relating his experiences with this army and by his reminiscences of his former life in the village. It is a harrowing and heartbreaking coming of age story with a small sign of hope at the end. It is also a fictional glimpse of some of the things that are happening in Africa today, which makes it even more heartbreaking. A memorable read¿4 starsThanks to Richard for sending me this book. It was a real "stunner"--I read it in one sitting. First because I couldn't put it down and second because if I did put it down I was afraid I wouldn't have the courage to pick it up again!
joeltallman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The narrator's voice is an amazing creation. For that alone--not to slight the compelling look at child soldiers in Africa--this book should be read.
bibliobibuli on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can't recommend this little book (142 pages) too highly. It's the story of a child swept up into the chaos of Nigeria's Civil War, abducted by a rag-tag group of rebels and forced to become a child soldier. Agu narrates his own story in broken English: the voice is very well done, capturing the essence of Nigerian pidgin without ever slowing the writing down.The book addresses a very basic human question - how can an individual be drawn in to committing inhuman acts? Poignant flashbacks of family and school days show us Agu's life before the war. But his descent into hell is rapid and fueled by starvation, drugs and the sure knowledge that if he does not kill, he will himself be killed. Soon he is slaughtering innocent victims along with the rest, and even deriving pleasure from it. Despite the setting , the book could actually have been set anywhere in the world where children are recruited to fight. I must also add that I love this particular paperback edition from HarperPerennial for its handfeel, cover design, the flexibility of the spine, the weight of the pages, the size of print ... and all the add-ons at the end including an essay by the author talking about how the book came to be written. This is how I would like all paperbacks to be.
kalobo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good raw, short novel of young boy, Agu, recruited into a unit of guerilla fighters in West African nation torn by civil war. Brutal killings, pedophilia of commander. Agu struggles to make sense of good and evil in his world.
writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
'So I am joining. Just like that. I am a soldier.' - From Beasts of No Nation, page 11 -Uzodinma Iweala set out to tell a universal story about terrible violence and brutality. It is a story, set in an unnamed African nation, about a child soldier named Agu who is recruited by a ruthless commandant The novel unfolds through Agu's unique voice, which is at once both foreign and difficult to understand as it is poetic."His language is a construct, loosely based on Pidgin English, inspired by voices of ordinary Nigerians, and of course by such writers as Ken Saro-Wiwa, Chinua Achebe, and Amos Tutuola." - Uzodinma Iweala, 2005 -I must admit to some ambivalence around Agu's voice. Initially, I was put off by the lilting choppiness of it - but as I read, it took on a lyrical and rhythmic quality that seemed to suit the subject matter. There are times when the reader feels almost as if she is watching a dream unfold.The novel flows from past to present to a boy's fantasies of an uncertain future. It gives the reader glimpses into Agu's life before war came to his tiny village, and then reveals the numbing and harsh realities of his present life. Agu's friend, Strika, is equally haunting though we hear his voice only once. When Agu sees Strika drawing a picture in the dirt of a man and woman with no head he begins to understand his friend's silence.'His picture is telling me that he is not making one noise since they are killing his parent.'- From Beasts of No Nation, page 36 -Beasts of No Nation is a devastating novel about a boy's shattered life. It is a demanding book which although slim, packs a huge punch. Sorrowful and stunning in its simple narration - this book will weigh heavily on the reader's heart.
madler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an amazingly powerful book. I nearly put it down 20 pages into it because the language was distracting and the violence was unbearable. The experience of reading it was altogether unsettling. I'm so glad I kept reading. The further I read, the more I felt compelled to continue. It's a book that will stay with me for a long time.
getupkid10 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Written in pidgin English, and taking place in an unnamed African nation, Beasts of No Nation is the first person account of a child, Agu, forced to take part in a brutal war that he doesn't fully understand. As the book progresses, Agu is sodomized by his general and is forced to become a killing machine. An amazing book, that is so genuine and authentic. Although it didn't get as much popular fanfare as A Long Way Gone, I believe it does a superb job of explaining the life of a child soldier.
deckla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fictional account of the same experience detailed in Ismael Beah's nonfiction account, propped up prominently in your local Starbucks. The voice is totally convincing. The relation between the two boys is moving. And there's the slightest flicker of hope at the end of this dark, dark tale.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderful book
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Wordzmind More than 1 year ago
Written in Pidgen English, Beasts of No Nation captures the life of a child soldier perfectly. With his family torn apart by war, Agu, the child soldier that this book is based around, is adopted by militants. He becomes a man way before his time. All of the horrors of war are known by him. He is property of times that he has no control of. The title is perfect. I highly recommend this book. American teenagers would be wise to read it and thank God that they live here.
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FocoProject More than 1 year ago
What¿s that? You had a bad childhood? Dad spanked you with a leather belt because you punched your brother? Mommy didn¿t let you go out with your friends because they were hanging out with college boys? You only had one electronic game console and it was not the most current one? Damn, that must have been hard. But hey, at least your dad was not shot in front of you. Right? At least you were not forced to join a militia, and then asked to kill other children or women by jumping on their chest until their lungs are bruised to a pulp and they spit out bloody messes out of their mouth.

I assure you, however bad your childhood was, it will not compare to the childhood of Agu, a Nigerian child caught in the claws of Civil War. Homeless and left without a family, he is forced to become a man long before his time, conflicting with everything he has ever thought, stuck between survival and morality.

Though a bit difficult to read, given the fact that it is writen as if Agu himself were telling (with grammatical errors, phonetic spelling and expressed in broken english) the story, this story grabs you by the throat and forces you into it. For a first novel¿well hell even if it were not a first novel¿this book is a raw literary blade. A must read and to boot, its not a terribly long read, approximately 150 pages¿