Short Story #17. A Good Soldier (Maaza Mengiste)

Deal Me In Reading Challenge: I drew the seven of diamonds.

Story: A Good Soldier, by Maaza Mengiste  (from The Granta Book of the African Short Story)

Comments: In a sense, this is another coming-of-age story – but how different from Joyce’s story is this one!  Here we are dealing with a father and son who have fled from Ethiopia to Los Angeles.  The father had been tortured in Ethiopia, and under torture had given the names of some comrades who with him inspired the people to revolution.  The father had done this through singing, through turning love songs into political songs.   After his torture, the father was returned, severely scarred, to his family home – and his wife, the mother of the boy, was taken instead.  She never returned.  Three months later the father and Ben, the son, got out of Ethiopia.  But the father knows that some day the enemy will catch up with them – and so he tries to prepare Ben to resist torture.  They “play” at Ben being a Good Solider, one who does not give in under torture, one who cannot be broken.

This is a chilling, heart-breaking, and gripping story.  Violence, torture, revolution, love… not an easy read, but one which will stay with me for a long time.

Maaza Mengiste was born in Ethiopia; she now lives in the USA.