Interventioneers: Humanitarian, Military, and Otherwise
“[W]hen I write a novel,” Aminatta Forna proposed, “it is like taking a thought for a
walk. I came to set a story in Croatia because I had become fascinated by the subject of civil war, having examined it over the course of a memoir and two novels set in Sierra Leone. I wanted to move the action beyond the African continent and into the west, where I would invite readers to reconsider some of their assumptions about wars all over Africa.” Forna’s remarks appear in a recent essay for the London Guardian (13 February 2015), “Don’t judge a book by its author,” in which the writer raises the seemingly practical—if still altogether unpracticed—question, “Where should a bookshop shelve a novel set in Croatia and written in English by a Scottish Sierra Leonian author?”1
Forna is referring specifically to her latest novel, The Hired Man (2013), set, as she notes, in Croatia, but referencing too its contrast to her earlier works: the memoir of her search for her murdered father, The Devil That Danced on the Water (2002), and her investigation into who might have been responsible for the disappearance/death of the celebrated Sierra Leonian leader; the collection of interlocking women’s stories from her—and her father’s—land, Ancestor Stones (2006); and The Memory of
Love (2011), a novel that narrates poignantly if brutally the tribulations of humanitarian aid workers in civil war-torn Sierra Leone. What, then, given both her erstwhile bibliography and her own biography, was Forna doing now by setting The Hired Man in a remote Croatian village?