30 July, 2021

Under Kilimanjaro’s Eyes

A post-colonial tale of a native’s return is alive with Vassanji’s sense of history, and nationalism’s complexities

jitender gupta
Under Kilimanjaro’s Eyes

It is ill-advised for a writer to use the word ‘magic’ in the title of his novel. (Note that J.K. Rowling doesn’t do it.) What happens if the spirits he calls forth from the vasty deep will not come?

This is the first of Vassanji’s books I’ve read, and I’m afraid I have to say my first impression had to do with his appalling diction. On the very first page there are three bad choices of words—“depleted Sunday afternoon”, “awoke some nerve in me” and “caught my breath”, for “caught my attention”. First impressions don’t die.

However, they may be made to fade away. The story becomes absorbing as you go on. Told by an unnamed Tanzanian publisher, it is about the return to his childhood home of a half-Gujarati, half-Swahili Canadian doctor whose marriage has fallen apart, in search of a childhood friend named Saida. The journey of rediscovery becomes increasingly complicated, as such journeys are apt to. The second of the four sections, told in Kamal Punja’s own...

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