Publishing: highs and lows

The publishing industry in Malawi got a grinding start in February with the production of President Bingu Wa Mutharika’s African Dream: From Poverty to Prosperity which is pregnant with Mutharika’s nationalist view that Africa will only be developed by Africans, not foreigners.

The book was unveiled at the African Union Heads of State Summit in Ethiopia and relaunched at the New State House in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe.

African Dream may not be on the shelf in various bookshops and libraries, but it heralded more writings including Lennie Kamwendo’s Sexual and reproductive Health: What You Have Always Wanted to Know; Okomaatani Aipira’s A Life of Service to the Nation, Desmond Dudwa Phiri’s History of Malawi Volume 2 and Aubrey Kalitera’s Cement Slab Grave.

Kalitera made news for making common mistakes that only make readers ask: “Why Kalitera , why?” And the author is no stranger to whys. His previous books range from  Why Father Why? to Why Son Why? But in the latest release —based on the murder of Linda Gassa, the Zimbabwean girl whose body was found under a concrete slab at a private cottage in Mangochi—one hardly understand why the seasoned author allowed erroneous spellings, punctuation, characterisation and plot to overshadow his effort.

In the end, Kalitera only earns credit for publishing in an environment where the enterprise seems destined for extinction and exposing the bad side of self-publishing. He may consider rewriting the book he confesses writing in five days.

Away from the turbulent read, there were serious writings from Katakwe columnist Lawrence Kadzitche and Shadreck Chikoti who attended the 2011 Caine Prize Workshop in Cameroon in March.

Chikoti’s Child of a Hyena and Kadzitche’s Twinkle Twinkle Little Pastor got the Caine Prize’s coveted Pan-African anthology, Looking for the Mountain.

“This was a great honour after I failed to publish my novel. Apart from writing more short stories, I hope to publish a Chichewa book and another in English next year,” said Kadzitche.

In 2008, Malawi Writers Union former president Stanley Onjezani Kenani became the first Malawian to appear in the coveted compilation when his For Honour was nominated for the prize dubbed African Booker.

For Honour has become a title for Onjezani’s first short story compilation published by Random House Struik of South Africa  in August. This was complemented by the inclusion of his poems Silence and Somebody Decided to Build Lilongwe in No Serenity Here, a mandarin anthology also featuring  Nigerian author Wole Soyinka.

Credit also goes to Michael Phoya for Finding Reality. The CD of the first audio book in the land was launched at the shutdown Goethe Institut in Lilongwe in February. It was acclaimed as a unique way of presenting literature in a country constantly crying about dying reading culture.

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