Book Review: “Sozaboy” by Ken Saro-Wiwa


“Sozaboy” by Ken Saro-Wiwa (1994)

Genre: Literature, African, War

Page Length: 200 pages (paperback edition)


Sozaboy describes the fortunes of a young naive recruit in the Nigerian Civil War: from the first proud days of recruitment to the disillusionment, confusion and horror that follows. The author’s use of ‘rotten English’ – a mixture of Nigerian pidgin English, broken English and idiomatic English – makes this a unique and powerful novel. (description from Goodreads)


Another read from my Human Rights literature class, except not a very enjoyable one. Our main protagonist is Mene, a young and naïve man who wants to enlist in the army to protect his woman (Agnes), stand up for his hometown, Dukana, along with many other reasons. Mene is tempted by the glory of war, but doesn’t really understand how it functions, and how brutal it really is.

In Sozaboy, we aren’t given a lot of background information as readers so it’s confusing to how some characters get to be the way they are. We also don’t get too much explanation of locations and war sides, the word “enemy” seems to be used interchangeably. Perhaps this is on purpose? And the main character chooses to omit things that he doesn’t understand or think is significant which also adds to the confusion.

I had a hard time reading this. One of the reasons was the use of “rotten English”/vernacular that used in the book (even though their is a glossary in the back). I have read many books with a vernacular/dialect, but none were as difficult as this! It was definitely a challenge.  I also didn’t connect with the book very well because the text prevents the reader from placing themselves in the story.

Final Verdict:

Three out of five stars. It’s not the worst book I’ve read for this class, but I didn’t feel much of a connection or sympathy towards Mene joining the war effort because there were so many warning signs ahead of time (even though I do understand it was part of his naiveté). The omittance of information and “rotten English” made it hard for me to read the novel.



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