From Norway with bitter truths

Good people, former Norwergian  Ambassador Asborn Eidhammer’s book must convict Malawian scribes previledged with skills and abundant insights into our country.

As Malawian journalists, creative writers and politicians were  snoring on their laurels or pretending to be too busy to write books, the envoy from Norway came, spent eight years and penned Malawi: A Place Apart which unravels lost decades the country has wormed through since independence in 1964.

That book mirrors the diplomat’s passion to write despite his crammed diary, family obligations and periodic diplomatic cables he had to dispatch to Oslo.

It is amazing how the man, now remembered for his passion for the development of the creative sector, found time to write the well-researched, meaty paperback.

Here is a man who was not satisfied with keeping his knowledge to himself  and deplomatic letters.

Interestingly, he shares them in this quotable book that subtly reminds us we are a sleepy nation doing little to surpass minimums and tell our story.

It did not have to take a diplomat to write a critical book on burning issues that Malawians often take for granted.

Elsewhere, journalists, historians and creative writers are the go-to people when it comes to writing books about cricial topics and newsworthy personalities.

Writing biographies and books of national importance is a job any writer ought to do even for no pay.

Malawian journalists must refuse to be merely authors of the so-called first draft of history their media houses publish daily and start penning books that will make them eminent voices on important topics that they cover relentlessly.

Alas! The Malawian scribe seems too shy to fill the yawning gap  in immortalising prominent issues, events and personalities.

For years, we, journalists, found it fashionable to bash prominent politicians for not writing their inside stories before they drop dead.

We have been crying for an autobiography from fallen president Kamuzu Banda, demolisher of dictatorship Chakufwa Chihana, our own Mandela Machipisa Munthali and Lower Shire Valley political grandmaster Gwanda Chakuamba as if they will rise from the dead just to grant our wish.

The graves of the greats gone for good are momental signposts to stories not fully unravelled by writers who whine the loudest.

Fortunately, Gwanda left a autobiography, published posthumously by Babeya Publishers, which contain a tell-all foreword by former president Bakili Muluzi.

Writing about the story of a political crony he knew for over 50 years, Muluzi amplifies the outcry for politicians and writers to churn out books.

“One would have wished all key  public figures–not only politicians–had such detailed account,”  Muluzi writes, explaining: “The pace set by Gwanda is rare but a profound one. I would want to personally urge those that are gifted in the art and trade of autobiographies and memoirs to come forward and clear off the bunch of stories that are not yet compiled for our public figures.”

To the retired president, the sooner the culture of producing and reading biographies is entrenched, the better.

Muluzi’s wake-up call for sleeping literary giants is hyperbolic.

To him, Chakuamba’s Malignant Loyalty appears to be “the first memoir presented by a Malawian author [notwithstanding that poet Jack Mapanje released And Chameleons Are Hungry At Night  in 2012] and the fourth  politician since 1964”.

What a dismal record!

Now is the time to start putting writing skills to full use. Minimums do not pay.  Those who can write and write well must stand up to whet neglected appetites of those who can read and hunger to read the right stuff.n

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