In addition to mines, the land is
charred by bombs and other weapons used in war. Throughout the novels, we see
the land strafed with such weapons. Not only are the people vulnerable but the
animals and land itself are threatened. Nonno, the grandfather-character,
observes in Secrets that:
Ever present in our thoughts and preoccupations, the
odor of death overwhelmed us. I wish I had a way of linking the pungent smell
to the country’s slow march towards collapse. Item: the bombing of cities, like
Hargeisa, which was razed to the ground; its residents massacred, their corpses
lying unburied where they fell, the survivors reduced to refugees. Item:
Mogadiscio’s current daily civilian casualties, their bodies hacked to death
with machetes. Item: the environment. Item: Fidow and his trampled-on body.
Deaths everywhere I looked. (108)
This excerpt gives a sense of the impact of the war on
the landscape. Nonno points to the bombs and bodies lying around, which
contribute to the pungent smell and endanger those living beings lucky enough
to survive. But what motivates the inventory, the conspicuous list of “items”?
The word “Item” usually denotes a tangible object. More importantly, it tends
to be part of a collection, suggesting its dependence on the whole. Therefore,
itemizing the human and nonhuman casualties of war in the passage
dehierarchizes and places them in a set of relation. The item idea emphasizes
the inventory’s shared materiality and subsequent ruin as a result of the crisis.
It is clear that Nonno captures the dynamic interrelation in the war-ravaged
spaces. Humans directly destroy their fellow humans and the
more-than-human-world, which can also hurt humans, as in the case of Fidow who
was killed by an elephant. The network
of exchange in the above passage continues in Nonno’s subsequent remark: “What
had been once a fertile land had now turned to fine dust, an earth as lifeless
as a cut wire. Trees and forests devastated, wildlife decimated, we had a
generation of farmers dead from starvation. Many former farmers were as of now,
dependent on meager handouts from their immediate families or reliant on
Oxfam and the like” (123).
This passage sets up a contrast between what existed and the status quo