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Original Essays

Listening to Agu

by Uzodinma Iweala
  1. Beasts of No Nation: A Novel
    $5.50 Used Hardcover add to wishlist
    "[A] remarkable debut....It is a credit to Iweala, and to the future of fiction, that Agu's story is true, fundamentally true, in every way but the most superficial ? he does not literally exist. (Grade: A)" Entertainment Weekly

    "...one of those rare occasions when you see a first novel and you think, This guy is going to be very, very good." Salman Rushdie, from the 2005 Powells.com Interview

  2. Beasts of No Nation (P.S.)
    $3.50 Used Trade Paper add to wishlist

    Beasts of No Nation (P.S.)

    Uzodinma Iweala

It is starting like this. I am coming home one day when the sun is already going to his home, to be finding one magazine just lying like that on the table. It is telling me many things like what is happening in this world. What president and normal man is doing. What is happening with internet and computer. And it is also telling me that in this world they are using children to be killing killing — killing each other and all the other person in their hometown. I am not knowing too much about this as I am young person and young person in America is normally not thinking too much about anything but sport and womans and music. But when I am seeing this kind thing in magazine, it is making me to stop and say Kai! What kind whala is this for small boy even smaller than myself? I am not understanding this even though I am knowing it is very very bad.

But I am wanting to be understanding this kind thing, so I am writing even if I am not knowing what it is I am writing. I am writing and writing until story is just coming out of my head and onto paper. And in my story very young boy is killing one grandpa and his daughter because they are making it too hard for him to be getting the foods he is needing to eat to be killing killing. When I am finishing, I am thinking, yes yes, maybe I am knowing more about what it is meaning to be boy soldier, but then I am forgetting because there is too many thing to be doing in my life. I am almost finishing secondary schooling and I am needing to be going to the University, so I am thinking of all the other thing in this world and how they can be helping me and not what I can be doing for other person to be having good life. I am not remembering anything.

In the University, I am learning English well well. Just reading reading and writing writing so when I am leaving I can be getting good job and making all the money that is making you to be rich man. But then one day something is happening. I am meeting woman. She is very shrinking woman, so small I am even thinking that maybe she is girl instead of woman. Her hair is twisting into many many curl that are just going this way and that on her head, and she is having eye like Chinese eye even though I am knowing she is African and not Chinese. Everybody is calling her China so I am calling her that and she is talking to us about all the bad thing that are happening to her in this world. She is telling us that one day she is very young and having mother and father. And then one day they are just vanishing and she is being taken to be killing killing and fighting fighting all the time. And I am talking to China and telling her how I am studying English but my parent is wanting me to be reading medicine so I can becoming Doctor.

Ah, she is saying and just looking like she is wanting to be crying well well. I am having no mother and no father she is saying.

Kai! I am thinking. No mother and no father. Kai! War is very bad thing. But still I am wanting to knowing more. I am wanting to knowing what is making child to be killing killing. I am wanting to knowing how child is just living like that, not even having one minute to be going to school or eating food or playing game. I am thinking, How can I just be talking to this China like my life is so hard when really I am not suffering anything at all at all. I am not knowing what to be saying. I am not saying anything at all. Instead I am going home to be with my family and when I am thanking God for my family I am also asking to God, Why? Why am I being so lucky?

So I am thinking thinking and writing writing. I am writing about boy who is having family one time before there is war and how war is coming to take everything he is knowing and give him too many bad things to pay for it. I am writing about boy who is naming Agu but he is not speaking like Agu. Instead he is speaking like white man through his nose and sounding like white man. But it is not mattering because I am liking to write story even if it is not sounding the way it should be sounding. I am liking to know that by writing story I am finding what it is like to be living as child soldier.

Then my story is becoming book because I am having too too much to be saying to just writing simple story like that. I am going to Nigeria and I am sitting sitting and writing writing and I am listening to all the people in the country speaking. I am talking to them about war from 1966 and how they are seeing terrible thing. And I am reading about war all over the world and feeling very sad because I am thinking that God is forgetting us or we are forgetting God. But all the time I am writing writing, just writing until I am meeting one fine Professor who is naming Jamaica like the island. She is one very tall woman with face that is rounding well well and nose like African nose even if she is coming from island in the sea and not Africa. First she is scaring me and I am not wanting to speak because I am knowing she is very smart woman and everybody is knowing her. But then we are becoming friend and she is helping me to be knowing how it is I should be writing. She is telling me to listen listen listen. Don't just be writing but be listening and Agu will be speaking to you. So I am listening listening listening until Agu is speaking to me and telling me, Write this. Write that. You can be telling my story but only if you are telling it how I am speaking. And he is saying you can only be telling it if you are really trying to be knowing what it is I am feeling. So I am learning to talk how Agu is talking and he is talking to me about all the thing that is happening in his life. They are killing my father he is saying and I am writing it. I am killing woman with machete he is saying and I am writing it. He is saying I am not bad boy. I am not bad boy and I am writing it. And I am trying to feel how Agu is feeling, but it is making me to dream bad dream. Sometimes I am crying because of all the bad dream I am having and sometimes I am thinking human being is really devil. But all the time Agu is talking talking to me and I am writing writing. I am writing his story for you. spacer

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