18 April 2010
I wonder if the lack of serious critical appreciation of the fiction of David Maillu stems not so much from his being popular (there still being a kind of prejudice on the part of mainstream literary critics against commercially successful fiction) or from his philosophy and politics (not exactly the timid kinds), but from his mixing of languages in his writing. In 1998, J. Roger Kurtz and Robert M. Kurtz set out to install Maillu in the canon of African literature (literature, not just popular literature) in an article entitled "Language and Ideology in Postcolonial Kenyan Literature: The Case of David Maillu's Macaronic Fiction." Their efforts appear to have gained some ground for Maillu fans (see the amusing take in Creative Ventures on Maillu's political crusade). Maillu himself seems to thrive on alienating high-end critics. Reports Evan Maina Mwangi in Africa Writes Back to Self: Metafiction, Gender, Sexuality (2009): "David Maillu playfully named one of his texts Unfit for Human Consumption (1973), and another of his works advertised in its title that it is about the Kommon Man (1975), complete with a misspelling, to align itself against the university-educated elites." Just as everything personal is political, everything linguistic is also political - and vice-versa.