Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

"My New Home" - A Short Short Story by Glaydah Namukasa (translated from Swahili, 2013)

Information on Women in Translation Month - August, 2017

Words Without Borders - 2013- A rich source of stories

Short stories I have read so far for Women In Translation Month - August, 2017

  1. "Happy New Year" by Ajaat Cour - Translated from Punjabi
  2. "The Floating Forest" by Natsuo Kirino- Translated from Japanese
  3. " A Home Near the Sea" by Kamala Das - Translated from Malayalam
  4. "Maria" by Dacia Maraini- Translated from Italian
  5. "Zletka" by Maja Hrgovic - Translated from Croatian
  6. "Arshingar" by Jharna Raham - Translated from Bengali
  7. "Tsipke" by Salomea Perl - Translated from Yiddish
  8. "Mother" by Urmilaw Pawar - Translated from Marathi
  9. "My Creator, My Creation" by Tiina Raevaara - Translated from Finnish
  10. "Cast Offs" by Wajida Tabassum - Translated from Urdu
  11. It's All Up to You" by Slywia Chutnik - Translated from Polish
  12. "Covert Joy" by Clarice Lispector- Translated from Portuguese 
  13. "The Daughter, The Wife, and the Mother" by Arupa Kilita - Translated from Assam
  14. "Red Glow of the New Moon" by Kundanika Kapadia - translated from Gujarati
  15. "Breaking Point" by Usha Mahajan- translated from Hindu
  16. "The Gentleman Thief" by Goli Taraghi - translated from Persian
  17. "Spider Web" by Mariana Enriguez- translated from Spanish
  18. "My New Home" by Glaydah Namukasa - translated from Swahil

"My New Home" by Glaydah Namukasa, from Kampala, Uganda, was translated from Swahili by Merit Ronald Kabugo.  Swahili is an official language of Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and the Congo. There are an estimated 100,000,000 First and second language speakers of Swahili.  

"My New Home" is narrated by a young boy,  ten.  His mother recently died and now he lives with his father's parents, his father also dead.  It is very much a story of the tragic impact of alcohol and the ways poverty has driven people in Kampala to escape into drinking.  It is also a story about a young boy's courage as he slowly understands why his mother died so young and of our hope he can avoid the trap of bars, cheap liquor and cheaper life.

These haunting lines from the start of the story exhibit the beautiful poignant prose of Namukasa:

"“I started drinking alcohol the day I fell into Maama’s womb. Maama died of alcohol. She started drinking young and died young. She drank too much alcohol until she could no longer drink; and then the alcohol in her body started drinking her up until she dried up dead.”

I have memorized the phrases often enough. I will recite them word by word to my grandfather, Mukulu, this evening on our way to Tongo’s bar. Fleshy lies! Mukulu will say. I would know; Mukulu always tells me that everything Jjaja Mukyala says when she is angry is nothing but lies. Nonsense!

Jjaja Mukyala’s hatred for me was born the minute she opened the door of her mud-and-wattle-house to let me and Aunty Lito inside. When Aunty Lito introduced herself as Maama’s former friend and explained that I was the child of Jjaja Mukyala’s only son, the late Damulira, Jjaja Mukyala told Aunty Lito not to talk ill of her dead son, and then she hurried to the bedroom and returned with a bowl of water. She darted around the house, dipping a small bundle of bisenke grass into the bowl and spraying spurts of water in the corners and on the walls. She said she was safeguarding her house with holy water because I wasn’t her grandchild but a curse.
Ever since then, Jjaja Mukyala’s anger toward me has been relentless. I was seven years then. Now I am ten and I know that she thinks I'm a pest."

The saving grace for the boy is his grandfather who loves him and tries to shield him from the abuse of the grandmother.  The grandfather spends every night in a bar, his grandson goes with him.  He sees how the barmaids are treated by the patrons, pretty much prostitutes.  The boy slowly and sadly comes to understand why his grandmother says he was conceived on a bar table.

"My New Home" is a very well done, deeply moving story.  I am very glad I read this story and hope to read more work by Glaydah Namukasa.

Mel u

namukasa-glaydahGlaydah Namukasa is a Ugandan midwife and writer, and is currently
chairperson of the Uganda Women Writers’ Association, Femrite. Her short
stories are published in anthologies in Uganda, South Africa, the UK, the
US and Sweden. She is the author of one novel, The Deadly Ambition. Her
young adult novella Voice of a Dream, was awarded the Macmillan Writers
Prize for Africa in 2006. She is the recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation
Bellagio Center fellowship and in 2008 was awarded the title of Honorary
Fellow by the International Writers Program at the University of Iowa. She
is currently completing her second novel.

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