Allah Is Not Obliged

PEN PROMOTES white on black




Allah is Not Obliged by Ahmadou Kourouma

Translated from French by Frank Wynne

Published by William Heinemann, Aug 2006


Birahima is ten years old. He is from the Ivory Coast. He is a soldier. *

When Birahima’s mother dies, he leaves his native village – accompanied by the sorcerer Yacouba – to search for his aunt Mahan. Crossing the border into Liberia, they are seized by a rebel force and press-ganged into military service. Birahima is given a Kalashnikov, scant rations of food, and plenty of dope. Fighting in a totally chaotic civil war, and alongside many other child soldiers, he sees death, torture, amputation and madness, but somehow manages to retain his own sanity…

Told in the remarkably realised voice of a ten-year-old boy, Birahima’s story is tinged with both humour and disdain. As Birahima takes us through the bloody battlefields of horrific warfare, he makes no attempt to explain the inexplicable. Yet, by making us both sick with despair and filled with laughter at the incredible and the ridiculous, his story brings us closer to comprehending the rivalries, power structures and customs that fuel Africa’s bitter wars.


Ahmadou Kourouma was born in the Ivory Coast in 1927, and has been hailed as one of the leading African writers in French. Allah Is Not Obliged is his last novel. He died in 2003.

 Ahmadou Kouroma has built a reputation for himself as a writer who brings the problems and difficulties of life in Africa into sharp focus.Allah Is Not Obliged deals with the issue of child soldiers in Liberia and Sierrra Leone. Kouroma uses satire to lay bare the corruptions of the regimes which allow and encourage these activities, and is undaunted in his distinctive and vehement convictions.

Born in Sligo, Ireland, in 1962, Frank Wynne has worked in journalism and as a magazine publisher. His translations have been published by Weidenfeld, Fourth Estate, Penguin and Heinemann.




Writers in Translationis promoting Allah is not Obliged online at

Originally posted with the url:

About English PEN staff

This content is published by the English PEN staff.

View all posts by English PEN staff →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *