非漂 [Fēi Piāo] Newsbriefs: September 2018

Interview with Alain Mabanckou : La langue française c’est la langue de la dictature.

Teju Cole on excellence in writing: I met Philip Roth a couple of times. I didn’t particularly know him, but I was invited to his funeral and I went. While I was standing by his graveside . . . an old lady came
up to me and said, 
I’m so glad you came. Just before Philip died, the last time I saw him, he wanted to discuss your essay about James Baldwin and he particularly liked that part. . . she’s telling me this while I was looking at the man’s coffin inside the grave with some handfuls of earth on it. A couple of things happened there for me. One is that I was immensely moved. Another thing that occurred to me was: whatever thing that got me to that point, I need to keep doing it to the best of my ability. 

Michael Orthofer reviews Thomas Mofolo’s Chaka, a novel based on a real-life figure, also known as Shaka Zulu, who lived from ca. 1787 to 1828: While Chaka begins as an almost psychological study into what might have made Chaka the man — and ruthless militarist — he became, in focusing on his horrible and numbing childhood, Mofolo nevertheless can’t resist providing a supernatural explanation to his success. Chaka’s powers — even medicine-enhanced — do also come from within, but Mofolo makes Isanusi and his interventions essential to Chaka’s success (if one can ultimately call it that …).

Low-cost hair extensions: When salons do not openly advertise openly the provenance of their bundles, China is the often unspoken source of most natural and synthetic hair circulating in Africa.

Tanzania clamps down on flow of data about the country, writes Abdi Latif Dahir: In a bill tabled in parliament this week, the government aims to criminalize the collection, analysis, and dissemination of any data without first obtaining authorization from the country’s chief statistician. The key amendments to the Statistics Act also prohibit researchers from publicly releasing any data “which is intended to invalidate, distort, or discredit official statistics.” Any person who does anything to the contrary could merit a fine of not less than 10 million shillings ($4,400), a jail term of three years, or both.

Ndugu Maillu points out the elephant in the room — an unwillingness to publish in indigenous languages: What is the future of literature in vernacular in Kenya when all the publishers have developed set minds that publishing in vernacular is not worth any commercial effort? Even the Jomo Kenyatta Foundation does not touch publishing in vernacular despite being a national cultural foundation. Similarly, the Kenya Literature Bureau is allergic to it although it is a government institution. Only during colonial days did Kenya Literature Bureau publish some books in vernacular. Only the Bible, supported by missionaries, has been translated and published in vernacular.

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