“In the Shadow of War” is told from the perspective of a young boy, Omovo, who takes a short trip from the sleepy innocent boredom of his sunny village into the dark shadowy forest, where he experiences the terrors of war. In this story, as in much of Ben Okri’s fiction, the world of reality and fantasy merge seamlessly.
The story begins one hot afternoon in an unnamed Nigerian village. Omovo, a boy of about eleven, waits for his father to go to work. Only the radio, with its announcements of war and an impending eclipse of the Moon, intrudes on their peace. Before the father leaves, he warns Omovo to be careful because during an eclipse, the world turns dark and evil things can happen. He gives the boy his ten kobo allowance and tells him to turn off the radio. Children, he insists, should not listen to tales of war. After his father gets on the bus, Omovo turns the radio back on. He has been watching a mysterious woman veiled in black who passes his house every afternoon. He decides to wait for the woman, whom the village children believe to be a ghost, to appear.
Through the window, he watches three soldiers drinking outside at a nearby bar. When he sees that they are playing with, and giving money to, neighborhood children, he goes out to see them. The soldiers pay attention to him as well and offer him money to report on the whereabouts of the mysterious black-veiled woman. However, unlike the other children, Omovo refuses the...
(The entire section is 554 words.)