By Ogova Ondego
Published May 23, 2014
It isn’t easy paying tribute to a person one didn’t know personally. But I feel I knew Kenyan popular literature writer Samuel Mwangi Gicheru who passed away in Mtwapa on the Indian Ocean coast on May 4, 2014.
I write this tributeâ€”to render therefore to all their duesâ€”in honour of the writer I did not meet despite having enjoyed reading his work.
I first encountered Across the Bridge, a novel about a poor domestic servant falling in love with the daughter of his rich and powerful employer in secondary school. The book, running just 180 short pages, was a no-put-downer. And I wondered why, despite its enormous popularity, Across the Bridge (1979) was not on the official Literature in English curriculum in Kenya. Was it even on the ‘Recommended Reading’ list in school?
Later on, to pursue my love for good local fictionâ€”reading for pleasureâ€”I looked for other titles by the author who was simply known as M Gicheru and, for almost a token, purchased The Double-Cross (1983) and Two in One (1984) from second hand book dealers at the point where Ronald Ngala Street and Racecourse Road almost touch in down town Nairobi. I also bought a brand new copy of The Mixers (1991) from a bookshop at the corner of Ronald Ngala and Tom Mboya streets.
M Gicheru also wrote The Ivory Merchant (1976), Samuel Mbugua Githere: A Handful of Terere (2008) and The Ring in the Bush (2013).
Perhaps no number of wordsâ€”no matter how long the writingâ€”could adequately sum up this tribute better than the words of Saul of Tarsus (aka Apostle Paul) in Romans 13:7: “Pay everyone whatever you owe them: taxes to whom taxes are due; tolls to whom tolls are due; fear to whom fear is due; honor to whom honor is due.”
To Samuel Mwangi Gicheru (1947-2014)â€”with this brief article and four photosâ€”I pay honour.