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The East African : Feb 18th 2017
IV MAGAZINE BOOKS FAMOUS WRITERS Anthology of stories by Caine Prize authors The EastAfrican FEBRUARY 18ò24,2017 CANDID DISCUSSION: Farah candidly discusses the topic of samesex relationships, which are taboo in this region, and gives us an insider understanding of the lives of displaced people A DEATH IN THE FAMILY Lidudumalingani Mqombothi’s short story, Memories We Lost, won the Caine Prize last year. Pic: File Chris Wanjala of the University of Nairobi’s Department of Literature recently compiled a collection of short stories under the title The Memories We Lost. The collection was published by Moran Publishers in Nairobi. The title of the anthology is from the title of the main short story, Memories We Lost, by Lidudumalingani Mqombothi. Lidudumalingani’s story won the Caine Prize last year. Another story in the anthology is the famous How Much Land Does a Man Need? by Leo Tolstoy. and stories by Noviolet Bulawayo, Okwiri Oduor and others. The preface to the anthology is written by Wanjala. However, it has nothing scholarly to offer apart from a time-worn praise of African folklore. Wanjala does not say why he chose the famous stories and how he has supported the development of African literature by anthologising Tolstoy and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. If he had wanted to contribute to the growth and development of African literature, he would have put out a call for submission of short stories by writers from Africa the way Mukoma wa Ngugi did for the Literary Magazine at the University of New Orleans, or the way Makokha Wanjohi of Kenyatta University recently announced a call for short stories on the theme of atrocities in East Africa. Wanjala instead chose to recycle Tolstoy and Marquez. In his selection of stories in Stand Points on Literature, Wanjala anthologised famous published stories by the literary and political titans of that time — Tom Mboya, Ezekia Mphalele, Okot P’Bitek and others. Clearly, Wanjala preferred anthologising Marquez, Bulawayo, Tolstoy, Lidudumalingani, Okwiri and others because these are already famous names that can be converted into money with ease. Wanjala ignored stories in vernacular like Osaei Okuso Laitaanyanyukie Enkutuk Ang’o’lmaasai, translated as The Beautiful Bead Necklace of My Mother Tongue, by Lorna Sempele, or Laila Lalami’s stories that focus on gender, religion, migration, terrorism and social exclusion. However, given that the stories in the anthology are famous, the book will make a good read for those readers who cannot read the same stories online. - Alexander Opicho Kari Mutu, Special Correspondent F rom the devastation wrought by Islamic extremism comes the story of a family shaken by a tragic loss. Hiding in Plain Sight by Nuruddin Farah centres around Bella, a Somali woman living in Italy. The liberal-minded Bella has a successful career, travels the world and has lovers in different countries. But the beloved of her life is her older half- brother, Aar, whom she has idolised since childhood. Bella’s life changes drastically when Aar dies during a terrorist attack while working for the United Nations in Mogadishu. He leaves behind two children in Kenya, and right away Bella travels to Nairobi to take up her role as aunt and protector of her niece and nephew. Valerie, Aar’s ex-wife, comes to see her chil- dren ostensibly to comfort them, but ultimately intending to reclaim them. Although the book begins on a violent note, the story is really about love, loss and family connections. Bella’s grief is tangible, but I did wonder how such a carefree woman would so easily fall into the restricting responsibilities of parenthood. There is something disjointed about the emotional journey of the children. Salif is more affected by the turn of events than his younger sister, Dahaba. Yet both children seem to move on quite rapidly from the devastating loss of a Nurrudin Farah is the author of Hiding In Plain Sight. Pictures: File loving father to the sudden return of an absentee mother. The early chapters that describe the violence and terror are really gripping, but the rest of the family drama never quite reaches the same level of excitement even though there is plenty of opportunity. A lot of time is spent describing mundane activities such meal preparation. Nevertheless, Farah candidly discusses the topic of same-sex relationships, which are taboo in this region, and gives us an insider understanding of the lives of displaced people. In contrast to radical Islam, this is an ordi- nary Muslim family that is lax in their practice of their faith. We see the tension faced by modern women still bound by family and social norms, and listen to issues around female circumcision discussed casually around a dinner table. Born and raised in Italian-occupied Soma- liland, Farah emigrated in the early 1960s due to political conflict, and now lives in the US and South Africa. Yet much of Farah’s writing is influenced by his homeland. The demise of Aar recalls the death of his own sister, who was killed in Afghanistan where she worked for the United Nations. Farah, 72, has won multiple book awards over the years, including the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. He has also been nominated several times for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
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