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October 31, 2010 / Dan Whipple

Terrorists of Aberdare

Ng'ang'a Mbugua reads his novel

Last week we went to a book launch at the Goethe Institute in Nairobi. The institute is a German government sponsored organization promoting Kenyan arts and culture. The author of the book, Terrorists of the Aberdare, was Ng’ang’a Mbugua, a writer and editor who works with Kathy at the Daily Nation.

The author of several works of nonfiction, Ng’ang’a decided to self-publish this book, a story of elephants, striving and love in Kenya, most often described as “tragicomic.” The book was a somewhat surprising winner—since it was self-published—of the 2010 Wahome Mutahi Prize for Literature, Kenya’s top literary award.

When I’ve done these kinds of things in the U.S., the audience mostly wants to talk about the process of writing. The first question you get is invariably, “How long did it take you to write this book?” (The answer is: “My whole life.”) But writers mostly prefer to talk about the contents of their books.

This Kenyan gathering was refreshingly long on discussion of the emotional, political and ecological issues raised in the novel. No one asked him how long it took to write, perhaps because it is only 100 pages long.

One questioner complained that he didn’t think a hundred pages was long enough, that he was used to plowing through three hundred. This reminded Kathy of Mark Twain’s quote, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

You can buy a copy of Terrorists of the Aberdare here. It costs 330 Ksh (or about $4.10) plus shipping.



Leave a Comment
  1. Dan / Oct 31 2010 4:34 pm

    Have you read the book? Did it deserve the award?

    • Dan Whipple / Nov 1 2010 4:44 am

      Kathy read it and liked it very much. I’m in the midst of a massive tome on African colonial history, but plan to read Terrorists next. I haven’t read any of the books against which it was pitted for the award.

    • cathy / Jul 20 2012 5:24 am

      yes yes it was a wonderful book

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