BY THE BOOK: Karang’ae Chege

Karang’ae Chege's first published work was a Kiswahili poem titled Kibuyu Changu. PHOTO| COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Internet has affected my reading because there is a lot of stuff to interact with.
  • I usually lock myself and read, just like I do when I am writing.
  • My family has learned to respect my privacy.

Karang’ae Chege's first published work was a Kiswahili poem titled Kibuyu Changu. His play, Vita vya Panzi, which won the Okoth Kobonyo play writers’ competition in the late 1990s, was staged in various theatres in Nairobi.

He also wrote for KBC Radio theatre and did voice-overs for a number of years.  

He has authored The Battle for Nyika, The Girl who Became a Monster, Lost in the Forest, Mtaka cha Mvunguni, A Night With Apes, Safari ya Mabwe andGaidi Lii. He is currently writing a sequel to Gaidi Lii.


What are the three most memorable books you have read so far, and what makes them so?

The first book is Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. I read it when I was in Standard 5. It portrays a man by that name, who got shipwrecked and ended up living in an uninhabited island with a cat and a dog. I admired his freedom and determination.


The second one is The Cockroach Dance by Meja Mwangi. It vividly captures life in Kirinyaga Road and Ngara in the seventies, in the most plausible and hilarious manner.


Then there is The Basic Principles of the Science of Mind, a book that satiates my metaphysical seeking. The author, Dr Frederick Bailed, plainly takes the reader through 12 lessons that expound on a rather complex subject of spirit, mind and body. He also explains how to do Spiritual Mind Treatment, an important tool in The Science of Mind.


How many books on average do you read in a year, and do you have a favourite spot where you read them from?

I read 50 books on average. Internet has affected my reading because there is a lot of stuff to interact with. I usually lock myself and read, just like I do when I am writing. My family has learned to respect my privacy.

One of the author's books titled Gaidi Lii. PHOTO| COURTESY

Which is your favourite genre of books? Any reason?

Although I am a creative writer, my most favourite genre is spirituality, new age and quantum physics.

These books simply raise my consciousness. When it comes to writing, I usually write children's fiction, and prefer reading novels.

I connect well with children. I love giving back to the universe by entertaining and teaching young people.


What is the size of your book collection as of now? Where do you get them from and what motivates you to?

I have a thousand physical books and an equal number of e-books. I inherited some physical books from my late father, Peter Chege, a long serving teacher and headmaster.

He fancied reading, bought many books and taught us how to take care of them. Some were stolen, but I keep most of them. I buy books from bookshops and online.


Which are your two most treasured books and why? Would you lend them out?

I treasure The Quantum Matrixby Adrian Cooper. It has authentic and scientific answers to many questions in life, ranging from God to the afterlife. I also treasure Our Ultimate Reality by Adrian Cooper. It explains in plain language the workings of the illusion called life and the purpose of humanity. I do not fear sharing or losing them since I can always get them electronically.


If you were to become a character from any of your books, who would you be and why?

I would be Majuto in my storybooks, Safari ya Mabwe and Gaidi Lii. Majuto is a star. I like children who shine in their calling.


If you had the opportunity to meet three authors, dead or alive, who would they be and why?

Meja Mwangi would be the first. I recognise him for his prolific and very fertile imagination. I would also like to chat with Prof Ngugi wa Thiong'o about writing in mother tongue. I would also wish to meet Mohammed S. Mohammed and chat about writing wonderful Kiswahili fiction.

What is that one book you read that was out of your comfort zone?

Wuthering Heightsby Emily Brontë was out of my comfort zone owing to the sad events dominating the pages.

One of the author's books titled Lost in the Forest. PHOTO| COURTESY

If you were to recommend three books to a 10-year-old, which ones would they be and why?

I would recommend my storybooks, The Battle for Nyika, The Girl who Became a Monster and A Night With Apes. They are captivating adventure stories. Moreover, I have tackled progressive themes on conservation, courage and team work.


Have you ever had a bad commentary about your writing? What did it say and how did you deal with it?

Yes, getting a bad commentary is normal for all writers. My storybook, The Battle for Nyika was rejected by a certain well-known publisher. He said that the story was dreary and lethargic such that they could not put it in any of their children series.

I took the book to Phoenix Publishers and the editors there were awestruck by the story. When it was published, it was immediately approved by KICD as a class reader.


What are your thoughts on the reading culture of Kenyans in the face of popular culture?

Kenyans still read books, despite the many distractions from devices. I read somewhere that scientists have discovered that people who love books are also compassionate, intelligent and outgoing. If you visit book clubs in Nairobi and social media sites, you would realize many book lovers.


E-books versus hard copies, what is your preference and why?

Both. The hard copy still has that wonderful smell. E-books are a portable library. I also write e-books and create platforms where people can directly buy from me. Later, all these are made available as hard copies.


What was your last read and how did you find it?

The Utopian Fiascoby Wainaina Kamau and Mombasa Raha My Foot by Haroun Risa. Both books vividly capture the current social landscape and suggest an optimistic future.


If you weren’t an author, what would you be?

I would be a reggae star. Music is an art similar to writing. Reggae is for those who advance a resistive culture and everyone who demands fairness and demolition of Babylon system. My reggae would definitely bring down the walls of Jericho. It is safe when I write stories.


What piece of advice would you wish all aspiring authors to keep in mind?

To all aspiring authors, please remember that you wield the most powerful weapon with which to slay ignorance and injustice under the sun. You should, therefore, apply this weapon skilfully.