Books 7: Kenya Novels

The best known Kenyan Novelist abroad is Ngugi wa Thiong'o. His novels deal with Kenyan topics in an allegorical way, using 'magical realism' to make his points. 'Wizard of the Crow' is about the corruption under Daniel arap Moi. It is over 700 pages long. Some people find the allegorical and magical illuminate history; others don't. If you like Marquez and Rushdie you may find Ngugi wa Thiong'o a good entry point into the mystery of Kenya; if not, not.

'The Constant Gardener' by the brilliant spy and thriller writer is a political novel set in Kenya. It concerns the exploitation of poor people by large western corporations, in this case pharmaceutical companies. The novel is not at the same level of grippingness as the spy thrillers of twenty or thirty years ago, and it contains some embarrasing love scenes which Le Carré always does badly. However, overall it is engrossing and informative, and very much recommended.

'The Constant Gardener' has also been made into a highly regarded movie.

Another novel set in Kenya is 'Just Another Mzungu [white person] Passing Through. It is about a young man who goes to Nairobi as an English teacher in 1996. It cannot be compared as a novel to the two other items on this page, but it is a novelisation of a situation similar to that described in Poverty and Promise, and has worthwhile insights. Jay MacInerney started his writing career with a novel 'Ransom' about his teaching experience in Japan, so who knows where Bowen may go.