February 8 1948 – June 8 2014
Are writers born, or they are made?
Aubrey Kalitera, who died on Monday afternoon, was an author with 15 novels including Nchiyani Mwana Wanga, a novel being studied in the country’s secondary schools, and took time to discover himself as a writer.
In 1968, there was a writing competition initiated by Malawi News.
Deep in Maselema, T/A Mlumbe, Zomba, where he was born on February 8 1948 and grew up, Kalitera saw the competition as well.
“Somehow I just felt as if I could write. I did not know why and I cannot explain it,” he told Chill in an interview at his house inManyowe, Blantyre in 2011.
Kalitera explained that he submitted a short story but he did not win. He felt rejected and he was frustrated.
Yet it was from that rejection and frustration where his writing was born.
“The failure brought a serious internal struggle urging me to write more and more. I could feel a pinch of frustration when my stories could not be published.
“Sometimes I could contemplate quitting. But I could not because ideas could not stop troubling me,” he continued his story.
And through the internal struggle, he learnt a powerful lesson of writing that has come to define him as the great writer that he was.
He learnt that to become a writer one needs to start writing and keep on writing. And he did that.
His first chance came in 1972 while doing fish bussiness in Mangochi when he had a chance to meet a friend who helped him publish his first novel, A Taste of Bussiness and a second, A Prisoners Letter, in Nairobi, Kenya.
However, Kalitera’s real opportunity came in 1977 when Mike Kamwendo, then editor of Malawi News, introduced a literary page.
For almost a year, the page carried no other short stories apart from Kalitera’s.
However that chance was short-lived as the page started attracting a number of writers, forcing Kalitera to look elsewhere for his writing.
“I launched my own magazine Sweet Mag in 1978 as an outlet of my short stories,” he said, adding that the move did not work commercially.
Because of that, Kalitera switched to novels.
Between 1984 and 1988, Kalitera published almost 10 novels which usually were a variation of detective and romantic fiction themes.
They include: Why, Mother, Why? (1983), Fate (1984), To Felix, With Love (1984), 1984), To Ndirande With Love (1988), Mother Why Mother (1983), Daughter Why Daughter (1983).
In 1988, he adapted one of his novels, To Ndirande With Love, into a feature film.
However, he was not into the movie as he was into publishing novels.
Yet publishing novels too became commercially unrewarding.
“I had a big market,” he said: “but I think I did not have the best ideas on how to successfully commercialise my publishing enterprise.”
This forced him to quit writing and venture into full-time printing and publishing bussiness.
“I established a company in 1991 called Power Pen Books Publishers and Printers,” he said.
Unfortunately, that too died a natural death.
Since then, Kalitera had been at home concentrating on other bussinesses.
But he was into serious studying as well.
He got so much into studying the works of James Hardly Chase and Earl Stanley.
“Their writings have in one way or the other not just helped me to come back to writing. I have also been challenged by their style of writing. Nowadays, I have mastered to write and finish a whole novel in five days,” he said.
He explained that since March 2011, he had managed to work on a number of manuscripts that, if published, would translate into 15 novels.
“The first of which is thriller novel to be releases two week from today,” he said, adding that he would be realising the novels on a weekly basis.
However, despite his apparent troubled journey into writing, publishing and film making, Kalitera harboured radical views about writing, publishing and the so-called dwindling reading culture in the country.
“The reason Malawians are not reading Malawian books is not necessarily because Malawian books are expensive,” he said, “but because we are writing books that are not interesting, as such, not sellable.”
Kalitera believed that a good book, no matter the cost, can always be bought by the people.