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The War Novel
Today:Wednesday, July 23, 2014


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One important event which has been a source of inspiration for novel writing in the last twenty years is the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-70. The context of Soyinka's Season of Anomy is the Civil War and a great deal of the action, especially in the later part of the novel, is in consequence of the war. But there are many other novels written about the war mostly by people who were in the theatre of war and who experienced the events directly. Some of the novels, for example Vincent Ike's Sunset at Dawn (1976) and S. 0. Mezu's Behind the Rising Sun (1971 ) are thinly fictionalised records of events of the war. They catalogue the struggle of a people, sometimes in an epochal manner, at a time of great communal stress, and give details of those errors and misdeeds which eventually led to defeat and capitulation.


Other novels, for example, I.N.C. Aniebo's The Anonymity of Sacrifice (1974) and Isidore Okpewho's The Last Duty (1976) are not so much concerned with the big political and military issues of the war, but rather use the war as a context for exploring the human drama thrown up by the war situation, in terms of class conflict and hatred with in the army or social and domestic problems of sur vival, ego-boosting or marital infidelity during the war. Yet other novels like Cyprian Ekwensi's Survive the Peace (1976) and Ken Saro-Wiwa's Sozaboy (1985) treat the aftermath of the war, especially the problems of dislocation and disorien tation of some of the psychological victims of the war, and the corrupt implementation of the policy of amnesty and rehabilitation.


Another type of Nigerian war novel reflects a socialist realism as in Festus lyayi's The Heroes. In this novel, not only does lyayi reveal and condemn the corruption and injustices of the civil war, he presents the generals of the opposing armies as vil lains who should be wiped out. The real heroes of the war are not the generals, victorious or not, but the ordinary soldiers who received no accolades. The novel, indeed, advocates a third army to replace the cheating, cannibalistic cabals of the two armies. This third armv will shoot all the generals of both sides and restore sanity to the land.

 

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