by Juliane Okot Bitek
"Milan Kundera writes novels, but are they philosophy or fiction? Kundera himself (in an interview collected in The Art of Novel) finds the comparison with philosophy ‘inappropriate’: ‘Philosophy develops its thought in an abstract realm, without characters, without situations.’ That is what a certain tradition of philosophy does. But when Richard Rorty describes philosophy as turning to narrative and the imagination, pointing us towards solidarity through ‘the imaginative ability to see strange people as fellow sufferers’, we seem close to Kundera’s work, and to much traditional thinking about what fiction will do for us."
" Ishiguro repeatedly frustrates any hopes for a usual narrative trajectory, muffles noise, and hints at things which are never explicitly revealed. It is because of this that, despite the language being simple, despite every action and event being clearly described, we end up with such a thoroughly enigmatic novel – a magical mystery tour. The narrative voice is seamlessly executed, with no authorial trace – Ishiguro never hammers things home for the reader, or even taps them lightly – and this makes it immersive and engaging. The other aspect of The Buried Giant that pushed it higher in my estimation was the relationship between Axl and Beatrice. The uncertainty and imbalance of their love moves through the book from almost nauseatingly uxorious (“Still here, princess”) to horribly upsetting (if I mention pixies at this point, those who have read the book will nod solemnly). Their dialogue is more often crosstalk than coherence, as they constantly disagree over memories, and they exhibit a combination of blithe reassurance and anxious caution that looks very like much familial love. As the book progressed, I started to think more and more of how their lack of memories were a kind of death, and as with Never Let Me Go, death and how we approach it and live with it looms large in this book."
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is one of the most fresh and important African writers that you—if you are a reader in the United States or the United Kingdom, or any other part of the Anglophone world that isn’t East Africa—have not been able to read. Her novel, Kintu, is not available on Amazon.com, or Amazon.co.uk, or any of the other arms of the imperial octopus bookseller that brings the spoils of world literature to your door. I had to get mine directly from the publishers (he says, smugly); the director of Kwani Trust, Angela Wachuka, handed me a copy when I came to visit their offices in Nairobi, and if you want a copy, I’m not sure what to tell you. I guess you could go to Kenya.
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