Abu Amirah’s The Swahilification of Mutembei requires a second and third reading

By Sydney Mugerwa

Abu Amirah’s Swahilification of Mutembei branches from the common structure I have come to expect in the shortlisted Writivism 2016 short stories I have read and reviewed so far. The Swahilification of Mutembei is a leisurely read, unrushed in its plot progression and pacing in a classic example of form follows function. It took me a while to piece this together as I peeled away the layers beneath this unassuming read.

Choosing to take the scenic route, Abu Amirah paints an idyllic setting; a discourse between two men over a game of draft. From the friendly dialogue between Mutembei and Nasoro, Abu lazily manages to craft a story stretching from the past, the present and the future. Only later do we understand the plot, hinted at in the title.

Abu’s writing style reminds me Arab cultural etiquette from which Swahili people heavily borrow. Reading requires patience as the story unfolds from a myriad of tangential arcs until finally arriving to the heart of the story. I found this to be an interesting take to story telling. The style is cultural, personal and laidback much as the theme carries a serious tone – unfulfilled expectations.

Abu Amirah is spot-on in capturing the setting of his story. The delivery requires some getting used to, and on a second and a third reading, one begins to appreciate his style. That said, I felt a couple of words and phrases sprinkled here and there weakened the general flow of the story, jarring me back to reality. But overall, I believe Abu achieved what he set out to do. But don’t take my word for it. Make your own judgment. Read his short story here >>>http://munyori.org/fiction/the-swahilification-of-mutembei-by-abu-amirah-kenya/<<&lt;

Editor’s Notes

The Swahilification of Mutembei is shortlisted for the 2016 Short Story Prize. 

This review was originally published at She Made Me Do It, as part of the #Writivism2016 Festival Book Features. Sydney Mugerwa is one of the select official book bloggers. He will review a number of Writivism stories alongside books that will be launched, featured and available for sale at the festival. Look out for the badge below on your favourite book blogs. And come to the festival to buy the books and get them signed.

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