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Dear Mwangi, Mochama’s Nairobi; Ngiht Guide Is Not A Worthless Novella

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I have finished reading an online version of Evans Mwangi’s criticism of Toni Mochama’s latest novel Nairobi; Night Guide; I have been left confused and wordless. Mwangi’s writings about Mochama’s book have made me to remember Karl Marx’s words about Jeremy Bentham, where Marx described Bentham as insipid and pedantic leather tongued oracle of bourgeoisie intelligence.

I remember these words in relation to Mwangi’s critical position towards young writers and Kenyan scholars like Toni Mochama.If I was Karl Marx today professor Evans Mwangi would have been my Jeremy Bentham given his harsh tempo in which he wrote a critic about Mochama’s book on last weekend.

First let me tell Professor Mwangi that I have also read the book, and other books of Mochama.If have also been reading professor’s Mwangi scholarship on Ngugi wa Thiong’o since 2013, I have also been reading other writings Mwangi including Sonko wa Masonko.I have found all of Mochama’s books lively and entertaining. I have equally found Professor’s Mwangi’s writings very informative, logical and scholarly, especially his literary journalism on Ngugi wa Thiong’o and the children writers of Ngugi wa Thiong’o.But if I am asked to choose my best writer out of the two, I will obviously go for Toni Mochama, but not Evans Mwangi. Reason; Mochama is humorously sensational and fashionable in approach.

Back to the book, Nairobi; Night Guide, it is not as worthless as Mwangi concluded. It is not a book for dunderheads or un-intelligible readers as Professor Evans Mwangi wryly and sardonically puts it. This book is a 134 chaptered and 142 paged novella, written in simple English, with some pockets of humorous Neologisms based on the culture of the Kenyan middle class of the urban set ups. The book has strengths of very short chapters to counter the threat of fatigue among the modern readers given that they are used to short passages on the social media; facebook and twitter. The book discusses funny and light themes of urban sex, boozing, being broke, bar-hopping and memories of highly school days.

I am sorry professor Evans Mwangi is used to literatures of sorrow, socialism, peripherals and centrality, afro-pessimism, afro-opitimism, ubuntu, spatiality, textology, onamatology and post-colonialism or such like hard lessons. But I want to inform professor Mwangi that such lessons as well as revolutionary themes in form of Mau Mau , indigenous language literature and theories of globalectics are readily available in Ngugi’s books . Mochama is focused on different themes that are cosmetic and very modern and fit for consumption by the present generation .His writings has a properly packed niche of readers. This is so given the artistic and literary reality that not every work of art and every writer must be didactical. Mochama is not But Ngugi is very didactical. So-what? It is thus the show-what right of us the consumers of literature otherwise known as readers to choose between the two, just but to use some allegory of Taban lo Liyong.

This is not the first time Toni Mochama and his class of writers like Binyavanga Wainaina are getting a lambast from the professors of literature in Kenya. The literary community in Kenya has not forgotten how Egara Kabaji dismissed this young writers like Mochama and others that write in the literary journal of Kwani? Of being nothing literary, other than the bolekeja of literature. Professor Mwangi is also now on record to have declared Mochama a dunderhead with little knowledge of English language, that Mochama’s readers are probably not intelligible.No,these two professors are wrong , and only deriving their arguments from intellectual subtlety, a vice which Karl Marx described as utopia.

In this connection therefore, I want to differ with these over-strict criticisms of Mwangi, which almost over-spilled from literature to the personality of the author, by arguing that, literature in Kenya can thrive without professors but professors cannot thrive without literature. The rationale for the same is that writing of literature and crating of oracy has an analogy in the Kenyan jua-kali sector; the illiterate jua-kali tinsmiths design and produce diverse products on daily basis, from the cooking stove, to spoons, posho-millers to motor-vehicle bodies. Personally, throughout my forty years on earth and of staying in Kenya; I have never heard of the professor of engineering from Kenya designing a Kenyan homespun spoon. They only praise and blame those that do the actual. These vice is slowly creeping into the literary space of Kenya. Where one is tempted to censure a work of art by basing on the extend of authors formal education.A fallacy. I repeat, a fallacy; only to be deciphered from an empirical position that Books of David Maillu has made some people in Kenya to earn Doctorate certificates. Maillu is not a graduate but an artist, so let us respect artists by censuring them honestly as we leave them to enjoy their public dignity.

(By Alexander Khamala Opicho; Lodwar, Kenya)

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Articles by Alexander Opicho