Random Thoughts: Kintu (not really about the novel)

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  • Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is a well-executed, ambitious, perfectly written historical novel that all Africans (and everyone else, tbh) should read, if they get a chance.
  • On a hot December day of a very tumultuous year a wonderful person handed me a novel I’ve been wanting to read for more than year. People whose taste in African Literature I respect were raving about and I wanted to see for myself if it was worth the hype (spoiler alert: it was) but I couldn’t find it anywhere. The only way I could have gotten a copy was if I had flown to Uganda or Kenya to get it. So this wonderful person managed to obtain the author’s email address and asked her if she could maybe mail her a copy and she did! The wonderful person then gave me the novel as a belated 30th birthday gift (I still wonder what I did to ever deserve such wonderful people in my life). and that is why I am one of the few people in South Africa with the Kwani? version.
  • Kintu was infamously rejected by western publishers for being “too African”. The first section of the novel is set during pre-colonial Uganda, the subsequent sections are all set in post-colonial Uganda — the novel treats colonialism like it is of no consequence, something very strange for a historical Anglophone-African novel. An African publisher saw value in the manuscript, published it and it became a hit. It has now been published in the US and the UK.
  •  UK publishers, Oneworld Publications, released Kintu in the UK and a few months later (four years after Kwani? published it) it was finally available in South African book stores.
  • It has been wonderful hearing South African’s thoughts about the novel; reading reviews about the novel on South African literary publications but I have yet to read anything that mention the delay in having the novel on our stores. I mean, what does it say about African publishing when one of the most important African novels couldn’t be read by Africans outside of Uganda and Kenya until four years later via a UK publisher; a novel that boldly disregards coloniality ironically needing a publisher from a former colonial state to be widely read in Africa. I wish someone with the theoretical tools could write something on that, I would sure love to read it.
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