'Allah is Not Obliged' is the relentlessly brutal but nonetheless hilariously acerbic sixth novel originally written in French by Ivorian writer Ahmao'Allah is Not Obliged' is the relentlessly brutal but nonetheless hilariously acerbic sixth novel originally written in French by Ivorian writer Ahmaodou Kourouma, whose central conceit is that it is written as the first-person account of a child soldier who has travelled through West Africa, principally in Liberia and Sierra Leone and now finds himself with a stack of dictionaries and some paper.
Kourouma's narrator, Birahima, has a narrative voice full of such wit and mockery for the sheer horrors (and there are horrors, let me tell you) of civil and tribal war that the novel almost seems as if it's going to be a masterpiece along the lines of 'Catch 22' or 'Slaughterhouse Five' but is utterly betrayed by a small portion of the novel when Kourouma intrudes on the text with historical and political asides, though admittedly necessary for a Western audience, were pulled off with such disregard for the mechanics of the text he had already set up that they act almost as bayonet wounds. If the central conceit of this novel is that it is being written by a child soldier, then it follows that it is impossible to suspend disbelief when said child soldier starts ranting about the history and politics of Liberia and Sierra Leone in the way an educated Ivorian adult would.
The other flaw is that Birahima's frequent dashes to a dictionary work sometimes (especially when he uses them for a bitter joke, see: his definition of peacekeepers) they do break up the prose a little too much and become rather repetitive.
On the other hand the usage of repetition at times also lends credence to the idea that this novel approaches 'Catch 22' or 'Slaughterhouse Five' and honestly I enjoyed 'Allah is Not Obliged' almost in the same way I did them. Unfortunately Kourouma snatches defeat from the jaws of victory with a novel which has one really deep flaw and a real need to be far more expanded (which would have happened if Kourouma had finished the sequel before he died) to achieve that level of greatness.