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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The particular and the work of retrospection in Isaac Fadoyebo's 'A stroke of unbelieveable luck'
Author:Coates, Oliver
Periodical:African Research and Documentation (ISSN 0305-862X)
Geographic term:Nigeria
Subjects:military service
black soldiers
World War II
literary criticism
About person:Isaac Fadoyebo (1925-2012)
Abstract:Isaac Fadoyebo's Second World War memoir 'A stroke of unbelievable luck' is an unusual and compelling memoir of a West African soldier's Second World War service. Much of Fadoyebo's narrative centres on the Second World War, but the memoir as a whole has much more to offer. Fadoyebo uses his military service to structure a narrative that covers much of his life until the 1980s: his upbringing in Emure Ile (Nigeria), his military career and travels in Africa, India and Burma, his return home, the reaction of his family to the life-changing injury he sustained to his leg, his subsequent career in the civil service, and his reflections on the question of war in the modern world more generally. This article focusses on the role of travel in military service, showing how the constraints of military service and wartime shaped a distinct descriptive language. It argues that this language is characterised by attention to the particular. More specifically, it shows how the particular becomes especially important when the 'bigger picture' of movements, motivations and landscapes remains unknown to the soldiers. The power of his prose relies on Fadoyebo's ability to capture experience in a vivid sensory language that accumulates and compresses a considerable amount of detail into each sentence. His observation is particularly revealing when it comes to daily life in military service, especially when this involved encountering new cultures and peoples. Much of this is only very rarely documented elsewhere and deserves detailed exploration. In addition to this, Fadoyebo's tendency to offer digressions about war, peace and the world provides unusual evidence of an imaginary engaging with colonial and post-colonial affairs, often taking place in the West, from the perspective of Africa. There are few texts that provide a colonial war memoir, while also discussing the Cold War and atomic weapons. Bibliogr. [ASC Leiden abstract]