Kintu Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi When you read the prologue to Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s masterpiece, Kintu, you instantly recognise that you are in the hands of a master storyteller. Kintu opens with a scene of mob justice in Kampala. Kamu has just been arrested by the local authorities: they just want to question him, they tell him. When he protests and asks why he is being tied up like a thief, “a boy — it could have been a girl — shouted, ‘Eh, eh, a thief. They’ve caught a thief!’” What follows is a scene that resembles what happens when the word “vimba” is shouted in downtown Johannesburg.

Kamu is caught and killed and Makumbi spares no details in describing his gruesome death. The genius of Makumbi is that she also does the very difficult work of taking care of us as readers through this, and many other traumatic scenes, by skilfully balancing the violence with humour and compassion. Makumbi’s writing is clear and deliberate and she has the ability to make even the sl...

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