Kusadikika by Shaaban Robert: Book Review

I am about to pull a first on this blog: Swahili. It will be weird to review a Swahili book in English. This will not be easy so I must first gather my wits, turn back my mind to some 10 years before when I last studied Swahili, open a Google translate tab, and take a sip of wine. Right, then, let’s start. Do not despair if you can’t read Swahili, I will do an English translation below the Swahili one, so you can skip to there.

My copy of Shaaban Robert's Kusadikika that I got from Amazon.

My copy of Shaaban Robert’s Kusadikika that I got from Amazon.

Kusadikika: Kimeandikwa na Shaaban Robert

Mwanzo kitabu hiki kukisoma ilikuwa darasa la sita au la saba. Nilikipata nyumbani, labda kulikwa na mwanafunzi wa shule ya upili aliyekisoma na akakiwacha kwetu. Nakumbuka kilikuwa kizuri mno mpaka hata sijawahi kukisahau muda huu wote. Kuna vitabu vitatu vya Kiswahili ambavyo nimevipenda mno: cha kwanza ni kiki hiki Kusadikika, cha pili ni riwaya ya Siku Njema (Ken Walibora) na cha tatu ni Kisima cha Giningi (je, wakumbuka Inspekta Musa?) ambacho kimeandikwa na Muhammed Said Abdulla. Kati ya vitabu hivi vitatu, ni Kisima cha Giningi tu kilichotafsiriwa kwenye Kiingereza. Ila, vitabu hivi ni nadra sana kuvipata kwenye internet, ni kusadikika tu ndicho nilipata na nikakinunua papo hapo kutoka Amazon, kikaletwa huku kwangu Japan kwa siku nne ama tano.

Kusadikika ni nchi ambayo inapatikana hewani. Katika nchi hii, wananchi wanadhulumiwa na viongozi wao, wanyonge hawana haki na mawazo ya maendeleo yametupiliwa mbali kwa mila na desturi zisizo na manufaa. Nchi hii ya Kusadikika, kwa vile iku juu hewani, imepakana chini na Ardhi; juu yake ni Mbingu, and kando yake kuna pepo za Kaskazini, Mashariki, Kusini na Magharibi. Basi kukaja kutokea katika nchi hii mtu mmoja aliyeitwa Karama, akataka kuanzisha Uanasheria katika nchi hiyo ambayo mahakama zake hazikuwa na haki. Lakini waziri wa nchi hii, aliyekuwa mwenya haiba (charm) kubwa na uhodari mwingi hadi akaitwa Majivuno, hakufurahishwa kamwe na jambo hili. Akaamua kumfungulia mashtaka mahakamani kwani alitaka mambo yaendelea kama yalivyokuwa kwa maana yaliwafaidi sana watawala na matajiri.

Yaliyofuata yanasimuliwa kwenye riwaya hii hivi: kwa mara ya kwanza kwenye nchi hiyo, mfungwa alipatiwa nafasi ya kujitetea, awalaeze wananchi na watawala vile vile maana ya uanasheria. Alichukua siku sita ili kueleza lengo lake, na kila baada ya siku, umati uliomsikiliza ulizidi kuimarika hadi ukajaa kortini. Aliwakumbusha visa vya wajumbe waliotumwa Mbinguni, Ardhini, Kaskazini, Mashariki, Kusini na Magharibi. Wajumbe hawa walileta habari mbali mbali kutoka maeneo hayo, lakini habari walizozileta  zilikuwa za kustaajabisha sana kuhusu nchi hizi zingine. Habari hizi zilieleza vile nchi hizo zilivyoendeleza maisha ya watu wake, yakazidi kunawiri ilhali maisha ya Kusadikika bado yaligadhabisha.

Baada ya kusimulia hadithi hizi za Wajumbe wale, Karama alingoja hukumu yake. Je, hadithi hizi zilihusu nini haswa? Na Karama alifungwa au aliachiliwa? Ukitaka kujua haya yote, basi kisome kitabu hiki. Link ya Amazon ndiyo hii hapa 🙂, ama kitafute kwenye duka la vitabu lililo karibu nawe.

Kitabu hiki kiliandikwa na Shaaban Robert katika enzi za Ukoloni; na kinaeleza nchi za Afrika zilivyokuwa hazina haki, sheria au hata utu. Shaaban Robert kwa ubunifu wake wa riwaya na mashairi ya Kiswahili analinganishwa na William Shakespeare. Sijapata kuyasoma maandishi yake mengine ila kitabu hiki, kwa hivyo enyi mnaosoma hii blog mnaweza kunipa kama zawadi siku ya kuzaliwa ikiwadia 🙂 . Anwani yangu nitawapa, na siku yenyewe ni Aprili 23. Au hata siku yoyote tu, zawadi nitaipokea.

English Review

The first time I read this book, I was in class six or seven. I think someone who was using it as a setbook in secondary school leftit behind. I have never forgotten it since; such was the impact. There are 3 Swahili books that I can call my favorite: this one, Siku Njema by Ken Walibora and Kisima Cha Giningi by Muhammed Said Abdulla (remember Inspector Musa?). These books are hard to find on the internet, but I was able to find Kusadikika and ordered it from Amazon. It arrived in 3-4 days. Of these three, only Kisima cha Giningi has been translated into English (at least as far as I know)

Kusadikika is a fictitious country that exists somewhere in the sky. In this country, injustices are perpetrated against all notions of justice, law and humanity. This country is bordered below by Earth, above by Heaven, and around it are countries of the North, East, South and West. One man wants to bring justice into this country by introducing law studies, his name is Karama. Of course, the leaders who benefit most from this status quo are not happy about this, and the (prime) minister of the country, a charming and competent man called Majivuno, brings charges of treason against Karama in the very same unjust courts.

What happens next is what is explained in the following pages: for the first time in the history of Kusadikika, the accused is given a chance to defend himself.It took him about six days to do so, and each new day the crowd that listened to him grew bigger and bigger, filling the courtyard. He began his tale by telling them about some 6 messengers who had been sent ages before by Kusadikika to Earth, Heaven, North, East, South and West. These messengers had gone and come back with unbelievable tales of how other countries were learning from their mistakes and starting on the path of development, improving the lives of their citizens. However, the leaders didn’t like what they heard and life in Kusadikika continued in the same vein.

After the 6 days of defense, Karama awaits judgement. Will he be convicted or acquitted? And what exactly was going on in the other countries? To find out, get a copy of this book from Amazon or your nearest bookshop 😉

This book was written during the colonial period and it allegorizes the injustice against the law and humanity that the countries suffered under colonial rule. It is claimed that Shaaban Robert is to the Swahili language what Shakespeare was to English. I have however, not read any other book of his apart from this one. Presents are highly welcome, I will share my address. My birthday is coming up in April 🙂

P.S. Typos are highly regretted, it is almost 2 am and I just did 3 blogposts tonight!

  • woolie

    You’ve done the book justice, Savvy and I think most people who have heard of the great Shaaban Robert will nod in agreement at your closing paragraph. This guy is definitely up there with other greats. I loved his poem ” Hakuna kitu kizuri kama telefoni” and in school we did his just say no to drugs poem. Here is a verse:-

    Nisemayo si dhihaka, Tahadhari binadamu,
    Mvuta bhangi hakika alozivuta wazimu.
    Avuta akizunguka, huku zapanda stimu
    Bhangi zinapomshika huwapa mbuzi salamu

    Nothing beats Kiswahili poetry.

    Thanks.

    • savvykenya

      Wow, that you remember a poem from such a long time ago (I am assuming ;-)) is a testament to his prowess. And you are right, Swahili poems are the best, not even English rhyming can come close. I would love to read some Swahili poems right about now, or listen to KBC bring those poems that were sang? by fluent presenters. Lovely.

      • woolie

        Far longer than one cares to remember but don’t forget the teachers would really drum them in. It was not necessary with Robert because everyone loved his work. I have watched grown men and women reach for tissues when they hear a good piece of Kiswahili poetry. If you want a nice read look for Hadithi za Bibi Maahira and follow the adventures of Suud and Saida. 🙂

        • savvykenya

          Thanks for the recommendation.. there was also a collection of short stories I think, Elfu Lela U Lela, that left quite an impression on me.

  • fuzzball

    Hey Savvy, thanks for the book review. I was reading about tanzanian history, and I’d love to read something from Shaaban Robert. But I don’t speak Swahili. Do you know if there are any translations of his work? I can read german, english or french :]

    • savvykenya

      Dear fuzzball, it is such a tragedy that I cannot seem to find any translation of his works into any other language, and yet he is hailed as the greatest Swahili author! This seems like a great project to work on, I am even considering privately translating Kusadikika (don’t know how publishers feel about this). If I do hear of any translations, I will let you know. Perhaps you can learn Swahili in the meantime? It’s easy, I promise 🙂

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