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A searing new Australian literary talent with a novel combining McCarthy's The Road with Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

When the rebels come to Obinna's village, they do more than wreak terror for one night. Lining the children up in the middle of the village, they measure them against the height of an AK-47. Those who are shorter than the gun are left behind. Those who are taller are taken. Obinna and his older brother Akot find themselves the rebel army's newest recruits.

But while Akot almost willingly surrenders to the training, Obinna resists, determined not to be warped by the revolution's slogans and violence. In the face of his vicious captain's determination to break him, Obinna finds help in a soldier called Priest, and in the power of his own dreams.

Beneath the Darkening Sky describes a life unimaginably different from our own, but one that is the experience of tens of thousands of child soldiers. Uncompromising, vivid and raw, it is an astonishing portrait of a mind trying to make sense of a senseless world.

Majok Tulba himself was shorter than the AK-47, and came to Australia from South Sudan as a refugee in 2001. This is the story of what might have happened to him had he been an inch taller.

'Tulba presents a compelling account of how little humanity has changed since that time; in fact how we may have become worse, resulting in a brilliant novel that will not be easily forgotten.' The Weekend Australian

'Seen through the striking simplicity of a child's eyes, and told through a voice gripping and strong, Majok Tulba's powerful novel resonates long after the last page.' Alice Pung

'It does what great literature can, which is to make something beautiful out of terror and truth. Beneath the Darkening Sky is a meticulous and noble examination of violence and evil, and of how the most innocent people anywhere can be broken and, possibly remade.' Anna Funder

Reviews

'With lyrical language and emotional urgency, Tulba has succeeded in creating a haunting marvel of a story that says as much about familial dreams and burdens as it does about the protracted history of Sudanese conflict. It is reminiscent of Nam Le's The Boat and Markus Zusak's The Book Thief - an important piece of work but also a wonderful page-turner.' Jennifer Peterson-Ward, Bookseller & Publisher

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'A blackly eloquent tale . . . . a war novel of an originality and fidelity that has scarcely been matched in Australia.' Peter Pierce, The Age

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'A remarkable novel . . . an important book.' Stephen Romei, Weekend Australian

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'A powerful story written with tenderness and tremendous empathy for its main character . . . Uncompromising.' Herald Sun

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'That this is an important novel almost goes without saying. That it is the first Australian novel of its kind is exhilarating . . . A brilliant novel that will not be easily forgotten.' Chris Flynn, The Weekend Australian

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'You must read Beneath the Darkening Sky – a gripping, moving depiction of the horrific plight of child soldiers in Africa.' Bianca Jagger, Founder and Chair, Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation

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'If childhood should be about innocence, and if Australia stands for the right to grow up free of fear, then Majok Tulba's first novel should be mandatory reading . . . A compelling novel, finely crafted, with humour and deep psychological insight.' Linda Mottram, 702 ABC, Sydney

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'Has the unflinching simplicity of Primo Levi, set in a world of heat and not cold. If Levi wrote If This Is a Man, then Majok has written a story that could very well be alternately titled If This Is a Boy . . . There are novels that bore into a reader's psyche long after the last page . . . Beneath the Darkening Sky is a devastating book, but after reading it, it is not a book that leaves a reader feeling devastated. It is a book about growing up that leaves us clearer about what to feel regarding the pain of others, with an understanding about how human beings can regenerate, slowly.' Alice Pung, readings.com.au

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'Not an easy read but is an enthralling one . . . A gripping tale of innocence in war.' Brittany Vonow, Courier Mail

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'Outstanding . . . Tulba has created a complex and convincing character, relating the tale superbly.' Ross Southernwood, Sun-Herald

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'A powerful and confronting read. . . Raw and uncompromising . . . Written by a young man with a yearning for the world to know this story. It is beautifully written and a definite must read.' Jon Page, bitethebook.com

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'The raw intensity of [t]his debut novel cuts like a straight razor.' Paul Robinson, The Australian Way (Qantas magazine)

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'A compelling debut . . . This novel is set in a world that many of us could never hope to understand, but Tulba goes some way to addressing that . . . An articulate new voice in Australian fiction.' Angela Andrewes, The Big Issue

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'Outstanding . . . In Obinna, Tulba has created a complex and convincing character, relating the tale superbly, enhanced by poetic passages.' Sunday Examiner, (Launceston)

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'An important work. I couldn't put it down.' Lisa Hill, ANZlitlovers.com

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'Required reading for every open-eyed 21st-century Australian.' 'Top 10 Books of 2012', The Big Issue

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback

    9781926428420

    July 2, 2012

    Hamish Hamilton

    256 pages

    RRP $29.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9781742534770

    July 2, 2012

    Penguin eBooks

    270 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle AU
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo

Awards and Recognition

  • FAW Award
    2013
    Highly commended
    Christina Stead Award
  • SMH Young Novelist
    2013
    Joint winner
    General
  • Dylan Thomas Prize (UK)
    2013
    Shortlisted
    Fiction
  • NSW Premier's Literary Awards
    2013
    Shortlisted
    Community Relations

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