In Summary
  • I have always been curious about World War One, since its outcomes keep defining our world.
  • You can easily trace political leanings of current superpowers and the current gun culture in the remotes parts of Africa to WW1.
  • Tim gleaned all information he could about Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his wife Sophie.

Kiprop Kimutai is a Kenyan writer whose fiction has been published by Kwani? Trust, Jalada, Painted Bride Quarterly, No Tokens, Acre Books, Caine Prize and Farafina. 

He spoke to Nation.co.ke about his literary favourites. 

  

Tell me the three books that excited you the most in 2017?

I meticulously choose my books, knowing that each will excite my thoughts, feelings and perception in unique ways. In 2017, I read Petina Gappah’s Elegy for Easterly, a collection of short stories curated around political events in Zimbabwe.

I have never been to Zimbabwe but Petina took me there. I felt its angst, its joys, its frustrations, its humor.

Of course, as a foreigner I can never fully understand what it means to be Zimbabwean but I believe I came quite close. Then there was Tim Butcher’s The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War.

I have always been curious about World War One, since its outcomes keep defining our world. You can easily trace political leanings of current superpowers and the current gun culture in the remotes parts of Africa to WW1.

Tim gleaned all information he could about Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his wife Sophie. Of course it is still debated on whether Gavrilo precipitated the war, but it is a wonder how a poor person, who spent most of his life angry, ended up altering the world.

Then there was Mohale Moshego’s The Yearning. This one is a tender, comforting book that handles grief, pain and love really well.

 

Which two books do you hold so dear that they can’t possibly be lent out?

Beloved. It is the first (and I think only) book that made me cry. There is a scene in the book, where a preacher lady named Baby Suggs, gathers an African American crowd in the forest and preaches to them.

It is what she says that moves me. She tells the crowd to love their necks for they (white slavers) would rather tie a noose around it. She tells them to love their hands for they (white slavers) would rather cut them off. It is a book that I have never fully understood. The resolution kind of leaves you with many questions.

But it is perfectly done. I keep going back to the book, many, many times, just for its beauty of prose. The other one is the RiceMother by Rani Manicka.

It is a family saga that follows generations of a family living in Malaysia, placing their sideshows against Malaysia’s dramatic history, such as the

Japanese occupation of 1941. The matriarch of the family, Lakshmi, has actual tiger blood in her and has remarkable displays of heroism.

Your fauvorite childhood books? Why?

I read the oldies as a child. My father had a giant book, Literature of the Western World, by Wilkie and James Hurt.

So I read Homer, Aeschylus, Chaucer, Boccaccio, Shakespeare, Chopin, Fjelde, Strindberg, Woolf and so many others. I loved their mastery of language. But then Chimamanda came along, and I found a writer who looked like me, who wrote about my world.

 

If you were to dine with three writers dead or alive, who would they be and why?

Page 1 of 2