Leftover 2

Some excerpts edited out from a few of my Jalada pieces. They either did not fit into the piece or were simply weak and not working.

From Sketch of a Bana Nyonka in a Kamfai:

After being told we write like Europeans, Jimi Hendrix and I have beers by the swimming pool. Tantric techno calls out for the bana nyonkas. Long dusk shadows cool the air.


“You were calm. I thought you would react. What did he even mean?”

Jimi Hendrix waves his hand, waves his bottle, slowly, controls time so he can collect something. Jimi Hendrix collects light at dusk the way a lone barman collects bottles and glasses from tables after night is done and dead.

“We write more like Americans. What Europeans? What’s our problem if they can’t see what we read? What can I say? Even these guys like New Mom and Baba Segi’s Wife and Makambo were looking at me. I am not even a stage and crowd guy. The woman even called me white, ‘are you white?’ and such things and when I say it’s my mother who brought me into reading she catches that and now wants to become my friend.”


Notebook entry following morning: Some bottles had at the strip club, some at the dance bars we hoped through. Mistake was to eat the rolex. The chicken and beer in my belly. Puking the whole night, what a bad night. Migraine that pain in the corner of the right eye. Cinema Demon came and knocked on my door as I was bent over toilet bowl. I cracked open the door and talked to this best of writer friends in dismissive fashion. She can go eat breakfast by herself.

Notebook entry in the late afternoon: Cinema Demon called out my arrogance at lunch. The sweetest hours are when the hangover is wearing off. My body started to acquire lightness. Spent most of the afternoon at the bookstalls. Buying the old masters. I got back to my room and put them in my suitcase and they filled half of it. Spent rest of afternoon reading THE MAN DIED. I even tried a few pages of his SHUTTLE IN THE CRYPT but understood nothing. He writes strange.

Notebook entry in the night: It has been the night of asking for forgiveness. I had said many bad things about New Mom’s story. All through the week he hated me. Some days back I did try to greet him and he said he wanted to kick my ass. I said I’ll buy you beer. He said ok. And there we were, by the swimming pool drinking beers. We spoke frankly. And before me was revealed a man who was childlike, eloquent, perceptive of details of this confused world. And what broke through the rainforest between us was his love of DeLillo’s UNDERWORLD, so we drank one bottle more and discussed that great work.

Notebook entry very deep in the night:  We all spent the last night in the pub of the Old Man. The pub was his room. I played some chess with him. Then the Old Man didn’t want to play chess as I was too strong, revenging my loss to him of the day before. The Old Man gave away his vodka bottles to whoever came. He saw I had no interest in them. He saw I was looking at his books on the dressing table. I picked out AUSTERLITZ. I have never read Sebald, I told him. Why don’t you take the chessboard, he asked. I am giving it to you, you like this game a lot. I told him I have too many boards at home. Then take the Sebald, it’s philosophy. I took the Sebald.

From Akefest Memoir:

There’s a trick to her smile. There’s the crowd here who perceive her at the level of nice teeth, lips and book. Then there’s the world which stands outside her aura: Taiye the brand, Taiye the speck of white noise I carried in the head on my way to the airport, carried in the pressurized fuselage at thirty seven thousand feet — Yaoundé gleamed under me — something was growing — I accepted it as a bearable itch — carried it, hell, dragged it through the Park Inn hotel tunnels, the itch now grown heavy like a bag full of books.

And now I have arrived at the moment of the trick.

From Madagascan Vanilla:

Hi, my name is Chanyado Njugu George and last night I was an on-flight house boy. Dederick Cinema here talked about the zananna of aeroplanes, well, I was airborne together with two ladies. We were on one of the nineteen DC-9s that took off from Wilson Airport in the first hour of the Saturday Nairobi night. A rumour says there was a scuffle on-board one of the DC-9s, a brave boy refused to be tied up like a buffalo and be put in a sack and become a bomb, so that plane somehow drove out of Wilson Airport and got onto the long Langata Road and took off from there. It is understood the survivor was on this plane and he was a brave boy.

You sit there on the black sofa looking at me and what do you see? A man in faded trousers and a very creased shirt because I have no electricity for the iron at home and the detergents my wife uses are too strong because they are cheap. I have a body shaped by this city and it is a strong one. I pushed a whole DC-9 to the Wilson Airport runway. Let’s go back to that dark house you were in as a small girl. You saw your mother struggling to make you that glass of milkshake. Now you look back and see those kinds of small sacrifices your mother made so that you could become who you are now. But you forget she only had to do all that because I was not there to do it for you. Because I was a house boy who did not show up for work that day for a thirteen hour shift and do those tasks, like make you milkshake and let your mother rest as soon as she came home. So, I was on an aeroplane making amends.

The DC-9 is an old aeroplane taken from the photos inside the family albums of the 1970s. The ladies found the old aeroplanes in a forgotten hangar at Wilson. Now I was inside one and the fuselage looked like a ribcage. No windows in the fuselage, just random openings in the aluminium skin. I could put out a hand through one of them and touch the wingtip of another DC-9 flying nearby. This was an extinct animal brought back to life for one last journey. No seats, just the fuselage floor packed with bombs. The loud and mournful zananna of its engines, the slow crawl across the city sky.

Who was I but the on-flight house boy?

The bombs were arranged in parallel rows. Dark brown, lithe, with pointy cones. The light in the fuselage was dim. Then the pilot opened the dropping bay. We were above the starry city. Saturday night lights. Discos and garden parties and families in cars going to a movie.

It was just two ladies. One was the pilot. I didn’t know what she looked like. I saw of her only when she jumped out from the cockpit. She didn’t tie up her long hair because I saw it flying about in orbit around her head as she went down with her open parachute. That’s all I saw of her. The other was with me in the fuselage. Kicking the bombs as she walked up and down the fuselage. She was short. Top of her head reached me at my chest. She was the height of my wife and I can be more specific. If I was not wearing a shirt and my wife was embracing me she could be kissing my nipples. This lady was only telling me to lift the bombs and drop them from the edge of the bay. She was shouting at me. I had to be careful not to drop down myself. The bombs were warm, like they were bodies alive.

The city was then on fire. Blowing up here and there.

The short one jumped and I heard the pilot open her door and jump too. I saw two parachutes gliding over the city. Then I saw a third one. No mistake about that.

No one was flying the plane and I was on it. It started to fall into the city. I could now feel the heat of the fire. The city was burning. People were burning and I could smell them. I was lucky. The plane was going to crash and it was now over Nairobi dam. So I jumped, hoping the water was deep enough to catch me like a big soft pillow. When I crashed into the water it hurt but I survived. The plane crashed on the other side of the dam and all the fuel leaked as the wings had cracked like bones and the dam became the dam of petrol. I swam fast and came out of water. I don’t remember if the dam ever caught fire.


I had a short piece published in the Kwani 08 election issue. I had not expected it to get published. It was to be a much longer piece. But I stopped writing it at some point. It bored me. I asked myself “Why am I writing this?” I had sent in what appears in the 08 issue a couple of weeks before. I thought it would be trashed as I didn’t think it was good. Was surprised it came out. Below is what was leftover and unsubmitted. I stopped at this point.


Sunday, 3nd March 2013

9:45am – A housefly lives and dies within a hundred metres radius of where it is born. I have lived in Westlands Constituency all my life. All the generations of houseflies I ever saw since I was a small kid grew up with me. The Musca Domestica. Back in the mid 1980’s, the boundary for the four runs was the 3rd Parklands Avenue road, and, waiting for the hardball to be fetched from the road, I would try and put to sword with my cricket bat a naughty housefly. In standard six, on a field trip at the City Park, I saw a dead monkey with a nasty cut on its stomach, and there were hundreds of houseflies all sitting around the open wound, sucking offal juice. I am always wary of drinking the sugarcane juice at Diamond Plaza because the houseflies swarm over the sweet juicy stems. They hang around the cane crushing machine. But I drink it anyway. I am on the bridge over Waiyaki Way and it is my intention today to explore my homeground the day before elections. Because I don’t think I am really Kenyan. I am not Kisumu or Mombasa or Garissa, I know nothing about those places. I am not even Nairobi because I know nothing about Mathare or Roy Sambu. I know only my few hundred metres radius. I am a Westlandsian.

9:52am – There is the Esther Passaris billboard at the Sarit roundabout. She has put on too much lipstick, maybe because she wants to hide her smile. She looks bitter behind that smile. Her eyes see everyone looking at her and she seems to hates it. She looks like the kind of woman who would be very difficult to live with. An ugly billboard.

9:53am – On Sunday’s you don’t look for life in Westlands on its streets. The roads only have the cars. All the life is hiding inside the malls.

10:09am – And, because it is a Sunday, it’s still early. But they are trickling in. Young couples coming in for breakfast at Java. Young black men dressed casually in shorts, t-shirts and slippers or baggy cotton warmers, t-shirts and sandals or blue jeans, t-shirts and sneakers. And all the black women looking fresh like strawberries. Like Saturday night never happened. Looking calm and happy. Young brown men, the Indians, dressed in shorts and displaying their hairy legs. Legs looking like some kind of loofah. Fibrous. Young middle aged brown women coming in with their kids. The brown kids eating pancakes, licking the maple syrup off their lips, watching their mothers talking with other mothers.

World War III?

“…part of a long thing I’m in the middle of has a section that I’ve gone back and seen owes a rather uncomfortable debt to certain exchanges between Gary Harkness and Major Staley.” – DFW, in regards to the penultimate chapter in Endzone that is an ‘ancestor’ to the Eschaton section of Infinite Jest


(1) Nuclear powered PUTIN submarines enter the Gulf of Aden after a Russian Su-24 stealth fighter is brought down by an F-16 jet in Northern Latakia, four kilometres away from the Turkish border.

(2) ISIL hijacks seven EUROZONE passenger jet airliners in the skies over the Iberian Peninsula. Schipol is placed under state of emergency.

(3) Italian CoastGuard sinks thirteen immigrant boats off the coast of Libya. The Mediterranean, from Suez to Gibraltar, is quarantined. Riots break out between Syrians and the Standing Rock Indians at the refugee camps in North Dakota.

(4) PUTIN bombers assume maximum attack posture. Obama leaves the White House situation room and boards Air Force One.

(5) Vatican holds a mass vigil for Pope Francis the 266th, after he is critically injured in an assassination attempt in Nairobi. Ayatollah Khamenie breaks fast in Tehran.

(6) Borders around Kinshasa are closed after Chinese doctors confirm the airborne capabilities of an HIV mutation. France tests a 15 megaton H-bomb in the Cote D’Ivoire jungles.

(7) NATO calls emergency meeting in Brussels. Parisians are evacuated to Algiers. Marseille is believed wiped out.

(8) Chinese yuan devalues after the AU embargoes sale of Congolese uranium to Hong Kong financiers. The International Criminal Court at the Hague is fire-bombed by unknown arsonists.

(9) PUTIN begins Fractional Orbital Bombardment of East & Southern African countries allied to NATO & AMERIC. Lilongwe, Matola, Kajiado, Gaberone, Mwanza, Namanga Mori and Hermanus are hit by R-46 missles totalling 150 megatons. The Cape Province is rendered uninhabitable by fallout.

(10) Lagos government severes ISIL links to the ‘mother continent’ after carpet bombing almost the entire cross-section of Boko Haram controlled Nothern Nigeria. Considerable collateral damage reported by BBC. Obama and Hollande rendezvous at the International Space Station after enduring low-earth-orbit launch from Air Force One and Le Escadron respectively.

(11)  PUTIN offers Egypt amnesty for airliner bombing in return for control of Nile. ISIL establishes caliphate Stretching from Baghdad to Tel-Aviv to Budapest to Boulevard Barbes and the rest of the 18th Paris District. Ceasefire between PUTIN, NATO & AMERIC & ISIL agreed to.

(12) Kinshasa government pays reparations for outbreak of airborne HIV in EUROZONE. France tests 30 megaton underwater H-Bomb off the coast of Gabon.


Highway Bar

(All photos by Dr. Wambui Mwangi)

Highway Bar 1

I will open the scene with an early morning: first light half-fried into the sky, the day warming on the grill with the sound of twittering breakfast birds; in phototropism the leaves are turning, the tree is giving birth to shade; and behind the walls the whiskey casks are being rolled and then getting set upright.

Highway Bar is open for business.

But I will direct your muse away from this tangibility of post-dawn. Call this an interlude. In the colourless air there are other things. I have no exact name for them. Ghosts? Ether? Einstein’s gravitational constant? There are personalities. Like your arrogance they hover above the tree-bush. There are personalities in many empty and full bottles. Like your generosity they liquefy to become the Tusker and Waragi everyone sips.

They built the bar, they are the patrons who pushed up the profits, they are the stools who let themselves be warmed under the asses from which came farts of undigested Kampala rolex.

They are the two of them, our characters, as they walk in. First the man who holds the keys to Highway, and second the Lady of Highway. He’s Hinga, She’s Purvi.

Highway Bar 2

Here I must slow the action down because this is important. I might have to rewind. Even delete whole past scenes. Change time frames or adjust nuances of space-time. Watch:

Purvi sees him at the end of the long bar, Hinga polishing glass, Hinga taking his wipe-cloth and manoeuvring around the insides, the fabric sponging in afterwash dampness. Hinga taking his wipe-cloth and whip-lashing a cockroach investigating the bar counter, the cockroach whiskers stunned into paroxysms of near-death.

Hinga watches her enter, the open door, her silhouette cutting the daylight into a shape, the slanting rays now pouring into Highway Bar, the dark wood furniture filtering them, translating them into crepuscular tinge, her skirt cut just above the knee, bare toes on slippers, beautiful skin of her legs.

Purvi takes a table near him. She picks a book out of her handbag and carefully cracks it open at the bookmark. She adjusts her pose and begins to read. Hinga observes with great and silent care. Any inch shift she makes, he catches it.

And this is his problem.

He freezes. He cannot talk to her. He cannot offer Tusker.

Purvi takes a sometimes glance at Hinga. She also doesn’t know what to do. This man is working, he is polishing glass, he is rolling the whiskey casks, but he is silent.

However, it is a strange day and she needs to ask him why.

“Where’s everyone gone?”

Now he must answer.

“They left. To go chase. To find. To search.”

She doesn’t understand. Before she opened the door and let the rays in, she was in the streets. They were deserted. She thought they were all at Highway.

“This isn’t normal is it? You wake up and you expect to find the world. Just like you left it yesterday.”

“I don’t know how to say it.”

And they look at each other. It is getting clueless by the second.

“Bring us two beers, sit next to me on this table and tell me in long stories why the world today is not yesterday.”

Hinga does nothing. She is about to say something but stops mid-throat. Hinga still does nothing. He only stares at her. Minutes go like this. Maybe years. Then Hinga disappears under the bar counter, a chupa-ndebe noise, and he is back in view, and heaves with a slap onto the counter an empty beer crate.

Now the silence between them is truly ice-cold. It’s a deep freeze. Many more years pass by and only then does the thaw begin. Purvi wakes up from her table and goes to the bar counter. The beer crate. Empty.


“Somebody cleaned it out last night. Drank it all. Brown water gone. I only found out today morning.”

“Who is this? Where is he?”

“They say he is two persons. He is many. That’s what they say.”

Purvi makes to leave. In hurry. She reaches the door and again she is a silhouette cutting out a shape. But here she stops.

“Are you coming?”

“I can’t. Have to tell anyone else who comes in what happened.”

“I am the last. Come with me.”

Highway Bar 3

They get out of Highway. Footsteps carry them into the beating heart of downtown, our ventricular valves of backstreet Nairobi Notes, and when they look around they see the red blood cells of the Aortan footpath. The colours are extreme, so alive they have lost the greys of boredom and cold July; the yellow building has turned into Wailing Wall where those who have not worn the clothes of personality take out their Leathermans and cut off their ears because the yellow is too much and blood must flow free, over their faces, drip down to soak their black and white shirts, their black and white personas. The hunt for the one who is now Brown Water cannot be conducted in b & w.

That’s when Hinga and Purvi know they are walking the wrong footpath the wrong way – the extreme coloured people walk against them. He or she is also the twenty four empty bottles of drunk Tusker or the filling of the empty crate but Purvi and Hinga swim against the current of Aorta.

That’s when something snaps inside Purvi.

She hails the last car. It speeds but it stops. She opens the back-door and wants to get inside. She has to get inside because the traffic is moving away, running away, the gap across increasing in car lengths. The traffic must not be allowed to disappear because this is the last car.

But it’s Hinga. Does he want to remain stuck on the footpath? Because you can see him touching himself around the pockets trying to find a Leatherman that’s not there. You can hear him, he has forced into his ears a vuvuzela. Is he one of the stadium cacophonies on the street level, the common man level?

She becomes the one to tell him to shut it, drop it, anti-bafana it, ‘come with me’ or force him into the car against the will of his own black and white. She, Purvi Mahajan Ganatra, is the volatile hydrogen needed to get the inert gassed procrastination of Hinga Wa Dedan moving. Lost in indecision Hinga Wa Dedan, revolutionary P. M. Ganatra.

In Schumacher and Hamilton the car catches up with the traffic. From our standpoint, we see the tail-end of the jam disappearing into the sky beach. Up above is the blue and the gentle wash of white spray clouds breaking surf on the beach of Nairobi heavens. Even the trees in the far yonder look like wind-swept madafu palms.

On the sky beach, Hinga and Purvi take off their black and white personality clothes, they stand naked but lack time and resources of calm thought to appreciate this small moment, and in sharp quick put on their new clothes – rich aubergine blouse of skepticism, drooling blue prima-donna suede footwear, cashew shaded soft mocha pants of conniving, amongst others.

The climate of hot noon weather is breaking into sweat on the Nairobian skins. Purvinga are ready to hit the ragged-town streets in search of Brown Water.

They criss-cross over cocks and hens laid out on the footpath by stinking, bathless, high-noon mamabogas. There are banana peels to step over, or the bodies of dead insects. Awful architecture and bars who have their corner-walls chipped off; Aorta clogged with the concrete fat of dirty-looking brickwork. Flies clothing a naked piece of meat, kill-joyed street vendors clothing the entrances to shops. And they have to nudge them out of their ways to enter other half streets where they lose each other once they discover their tastes in direction are different. Purvinga no more, only one part Purvi Ganatra of Short Street adjacent National Archives, and second part Hinga Dedan squeezing into narrowed depths of Taveta Road.

Highway Bar 4

So squeezed he can’t stand the streets. They are mad. Out of every traffic light, green and red, the ghosts of discipline come out in sequence to disturb his city walk. He wants out. Out of Nairobi. He asks them to send him to the jungles where he can polish meditation like his left-behind glasses.

It’s not easy but word comes Brown Water has banana leaves and locusta submerged in Mukono, Kalangala, Buguri and Masaka. In deep Mutukula. They send Hinga into the forests.

He lies in wait for him to come down from the Elgon through to Iganga where the trap lies waiting in the bark of the Rukararwe tree. He waits with newspaper, reclining himself on the very same bark, feeding on grasshoppered rolex. For many years he remains thus, reading on the third page the boast of Brown Water “My full names are Brown Water Mutesa Esq. of the 15th Kabaka clan and I never panic coz I shed cowardice at the seventh bottle…”

He tires of the wait. From of the Rukararwe he carves out and polishes a gourd, forages for Kampalese ferns, crushes the juice out of them, guides the spillage oozing out of his clasped palms into the gourd, and drinks deep of the jungle waragi. He wants to hallucinate, to sun-dry the Kampalese ferns and turn them into improvised papyrus. To then take the thorn of Kampalese, puncture his fingertips and in blood write down for her his lost fondness of the jungle. To express the desert winds of Ondaatje blowing through him in this rich foliaged locale. The harmattan, the haboob of Sudan. ‘The ninth plague of Egypt’ that is Khamsin.

Highway Bar 5

Back in Nairobi, Purvi is given an ear-cutting yellow truck to help her man the drool blue post office boxes. Rumours suggest Brown Water will soon send the last letter. Rumours also suggest Brown Water will be the found and the finder. The many.

Everyone has stopped mailing and all the postal staff have been sent home on permanent leave. The post boxes must be kept empty, all of them, Brown Water’s last must be caught. Purvi’s daily routine is to open with key, look inside, close, and move onto the next one.

Year after year only emptiness turns up.

Then she feels a change in the ether of afternoon. One last turn of the key before she gives up in boredom. Papyrus.

She is in silent eureka.

“Little India, soft echoes of whispers, once sounds louder, richer and more bouyant with your capacious expressions, still roam the empty Kalahari of my heart. And I heard its prophecy of mirages, some chivalrous chit-chat about the shimmering glories awaiting me in the distance.

Little India, one day those soft echoes will fade away.”

This is anti-eureka. It’s the other side of eureka. No it cannot be. We cannot be.

Everything is left behind – the postal keys, the ear-cutting yellow truck. She leaves behind the papyrus.

Highway Bar 6

But where is she going? Because Hinga Wa Dedan is back in town. Yes, Tarzan boy is goose-stepping the pavements, carrying forward the hangover of his former Migingo jungles, half-stoned amidst the elements of vehicular histrionics – horn, exhaust and insincere road rage; the storied climbs of concrete downtown sequoias, Times-Towered giants; and no there is nothing here to greet him; there are instructions to leave him alone, sheathe him in the quiet pain of ostracism.

High-noon mamabogas watch from the opposite street his walk – in whispers they rumour – this coward abandoned the Ugandan forests just as Brown Water was falling into the Bark Trap. Kill-joyed street vendors clear the paths in front of him. This coward walked away from Brown Water. Even the dead insects resurrect and scurry away so that he cannot goose-step over them. Now that he is back, Brown Water is gone forever.

He walks on. Past the notice boards where they have torn down the heroic posters. He takes the highway to Highway.

Highway Bar 7

Finally, we have the grey clouds positioned athwart the Nairobi heavens with jagged cracks amidst them letting in slants of dying sun and the crepuscular of post-dusk is rolled out like a whisky cask by the ethereal ghosts behind wan nimbus.

It starts to drizzle and at the fork before Highway, Hinga and Purvi cross paths. They are going to the same place. They knew it all along.

The rain is coming out of Hinga’s eyes. Purvi slides her hand into his. Behind them is the march and distant roar of Nairobians. They look and they see the tsunami of humanity approaching. That moving mass has smelled them.

They are coming with weapons – jembes and pangas. Some have sharpened their pencils and others are going to use their pen-nibs. Yet others have improvised their cell-phones to become clubs. Laptops as shields. The second war with Brown Water is drawing nigh.

Hinga has words coming out of him in torrents but Purvi asks him to shut up and tells him it’s senseless but beautiful not to say any more. She goes arm-in-arm with him into Highway.

Inside, the two of them, the many, take out the polished glasses and set them up in order along the bar-counter and the crates are magically full and they, the many, unbottletop the Tuskers and pour the brown water and froth into the glasses and the march and roar is coming closer and closer and the bar stools are shined so fine that the stars in them glow with Einstein’s psuedo-tensors and the bar-air is perfumed with spray waragi.

They are now at the door. Bang and bellow.

Purvi opens and Hinga at the end of the bar-counter watches her cut the three millioned Nairobian gang into a shape. Perhaps they will come in for some drinks, empty the crates, and tomorrow we can start a new day.

Highway Bar is open for business.

Fragment 23


Awonoor, you have happened afterwards.

I have something to say, because your death has not yet come.

The Great Valley split, Ghana built interstellarways to Enceladus ,dark paths rocketing from Accra to Port New Wheta. You are now lyrics of the No.3 hit song, anyways, I watched the hands point to the sky on Naivasha Beach, a crab clawed my knee on Nairobi Beach, cut me there and I stained the sea.

Your voice thunders from the stereo clouds, beaches apart, they roaring, Reggie Rockstone’s lip-syncing, they sweating, they fucking in the open Africa, in the crowds, buttocks scouring the sands, I kiss you baby, lips lap the Nairobi Sea shore, they point their hands to the sky, they howling in your voice, Ghanaian, because there are smiles in their mouths not even halfway sorrowful, they national anthem, woman, Awonoor, it’s your hit song:

I believe in light and day

I believe in women and the gods

You have sons to fire the seperewas now that you are really alive, and your daughters wail because you never closed your mouth.

Fifty million from radionomy Kampala, fifty million from shuttle repair shops Eldoret. Fifty million years and the Valley split, and they are grieving for your living soul at the balafongala concert.

I take a step and sink to my knees, force a crab out of its hole, it claws my knees, a cut, blood, I stain the sea, Me Ka, Awonoor.


Tonight, my mother is cooking me tindoda nu shaak, and in the kitchen she sings thousand year old gujurati folk songs. She was there when you were there. She didn’t hear them come, she just took the lifts and went up. Somewhere down, you were becoming smaller as she rose.

Quick reviews of latest chess purchases


For Christmas, I decided to buy myself a stack of chess books with my winnings from the recent Kenya National Chess Championships. It took a few weeks for the Amazon order to arrive. A portion of the bill went towards paying the KRA duty, something I was not happy with as it made no sense to me why duty is imposed on books. Anyways, once I had them in my hands it was a holiday season well spent with things I love most.

During my 7 month lay off from local competitive chess (May-Dec 2014), I took a good look at the chess reasons for my 2014 Olympiad qualifier debacle. My play in sharp positions was wanting, my endgame skills were pretty shitty and my general approach to playing was rather mechanical. So my choice of books was aimed at targeting these areas, with a couple chosen simply for entertainment value. Having lightly browsed through them over the last couple of weeks, these are my initial impressions:

KASPAROV ON KASPAROV – PARTS II & III (1985-1993 & 1993-2005)

kasparov 2

I had Part I of this trilogy (covering the period 1975-1985). Now my collection is complete. It’s the greatest player of all time explaining the intricacies of his play. And the politics and stories surrounding the various events he took part in. And some autobiographical sketches of life away from the chess board. Kasparov lets his emotions shine through, especially when he talks about his closest rivals. The passion with which he plays comes out in his annotations. The books are meaty.

But what I find most useful is the way Kasparov annotates and analyses. He explains the small and subtle GM moves…the reasoning behind them. The variations he selects to back up the verbal commentary (and there are tons of verbal commentary to the moves) are to the point and thorough. He is not afraid to point out his own bad moves. Whatsmore, it’s incredible to see the vast range of positions he can play. Kasparov has been stereotyped as an opening “Theory Henri” and a flamboyant attacking player. But the games in this trilogy also showcase his fantastic positional understanding, feel for prophylaxis (especially tactical prophylaxis) and endgame technique.

Some random excerpts:

Kasparov - Polgar, Wijk aan Zee, 2000. Position after 21...Bd7.

Kasparov – Polgar, Wijk aan Zee, 2000. Position after 21…Be6-d7.

Here is what Kasparov says at this point:

After this simple reply I came to my senses and began cursing myself: White has no useful moves and not even a hint of compensation for the pawn. I felt an almost irresistible desire to resign, and it was only with difficulty that I forced myself into the mood for a tenacious resistance…

Incidentally, when after the round the journalists asked Kramnik: “Why did you so quickly agree to a draw with Black?”, he replied: “But I could not imagine that Kasparov would play like that with White!”. And, indeed, in such an important game with Polgar, against whom before I had a 4-0 score in ‘classical’ games, a defeat seemed almost unimaginable.

The remainder of the game is an electrifying experience to play through, and an object lesson in the art of being resourceful in a bad position (from the diagrammed position, Kasparov continued 22.c3 with the idea of setting up a Bc2, Qd3 battery with something like Rxf6 in the offing), what with the interesting variations and notes. Kasparov managed to turn the tables and win.

Kasparov peppers his accounts with tidbits from other grandmasters and chess journalists. This gives his trilogy the effect of having been written in a frenzied post-mortem atmosphere, with many voices speaking out their thoughts and a dozen hands flying across the board. It adds to the drama. Here are Evegeny Bareev’s thoughts spliced in when Kasparov discusses the end of the 1999 Sarjevo tournament:

“The participants had the feeling that Kasparov was playing at roughly 25% of his desire. When it was needed, he would develop additional momentum. Eye-witnesses reckon that his mood here was very different from that in Linares and Wijk aan Zee. There he was an angry, hungry wolf, whereas here the wolf was good-natured, as in a cartoon film. But even so the good-natured wolf devoured quite a number of sheep.”

Different events are seperated into different sections, and before going onto the games, Kasparov lets us have a behind the scenes look at his preparation style. Here is a paragraph from the section where he talks about his preparations for the World Championship match versus Anand in 1995:

In July and August, I prepared intensively for the match on the Adriatic Sea, in blessed Croatia. It was a long time since I had felt so well, in the physical, as well as the chess and the psychological sense. I swam a great deal and went canoeing. I established my own personal record: I swam three and a half kilometers in the open sea in one hour, forty minutes. Almost every day I paddled up to seven kilometres in the canoe and at the chess board I spent two hundred and fifty hours.


Genna Ssonko

At the time Botvinik was the personification of chess in the Soviet Union – river: Volga, poet:Mayakovsky, goalkeeper:Yashin, chessplayer: Botvinik. And suddenly – a kid with a name as short as a gunshot: Tal!

Over the last decade or so, many important texts written by ex-Soviet era players, dealing with chess matters off the board, have come out. Busting many myths and stereotypes about chess life behind the Iron Curtain. The best of the bunch by far is Genna Sosonko. His books are a must have for any chess lover. “World Champions I Knew” is his latest offering.

The book has no chess diagrams. No chess analysis. It is pure prose. It has analysis of human behaviour – that of World Champions Genna Sosonko knew personally.

Botvinik, Smyslov, Petrosian and especially Tal, are talked about in depth. The life they lived. What sort of family men they were. How they dealt with the politics of Soviet sports. How they dealt with the KGB. Their personal weaknesses. What they did after games. How they related with other Soviet era players. Their thoughts on Bobby Fischer.

The chapter on Tal has to be one of the greatest chapters in Chess literature. It’s extraordinary. Not only is Tal shown in a way you have never seen him before, the style in which the prose is written is also breathtaking. Being a ficiton writer, I found this to be a stunning example of how to create a vivid character. I read the chapter thrice and I am sure I will be re-reading it many more times in the coming months.

And Tal went to Vnukovo at night for Vodka reinforcement.

And sat around more than once in the cabin gatherings with the captain and officers of a boat over bottles of rum and other drinks that were rarely seen at the time.

And Tal, usually in a tipsy condition, started stubbornly shaking his head and grinding his teeth.

And Tal often found himself without his internal passport.

And Tal might not leave a hotel room for days, with day flowing smoothly into night and again into day.

And Tal, after inhaling a few times, would put a cigarette out so that he could start a new one almost immediately.

And there were always all kinds of chess groupies and semi-bohemians kicking their heels around Tal, sometimes also openly dubious characters. And he was drawn to the dregs for inexplicable reasons, too.

And an ambulance came for Tal on more than one occasion, because “only an immediate injection could save him.”



Chess is a complicated sport, which has to be studied for many years. It is hard to imagine any other sport without coaches. (Is there a single atheletics club or football club that does not have a trainer?). This manual is intended for the many club players who unfortunately recieve no support in attempting to master our complicated sport. In this way it is intended as a substitute for a trainer for those that have none (and a support for trainers), but not an equal replacement for a trainer.

I stumbled across Stage 2 of this series back in October last year. I went through it Oct-Nov and I was damn impressed. I believe it helped me become National Champion. So I decided I had to buy the three volumes of Stage 3.

I think this might be the best training series ever published for the 1500-2300 range crowd. At first sight, it looks so bland. You open the page to a chapter and there is are a few simple examples followed by test positions. You ask yourself: “Why would I waste my money on this?” But as you go through the test positions and examples step by step, you gradually realise you are learning alot. A hell lot.

You might think you know the stuff the books go on about. But you start realizing how much you actually don’t know about the basics. This series gives you a thorough grounding in all the basics you need to know.

Stage 1 is geared to get 1500 guys up to 1800. Stage 2 is for the jump from 1800 to 2100 and Stage 3 2100 to 2300. Especially for a country like Kenya that does not have access to good coaches, this series is vital. Each stage has three volumes (Build, Boost and Evolve).

I will simply list the chapters in one of the volumes in Stage 3 so that you get an idea:

1. Desperadoes

2. Static advantages

3. The comparison method

4. Rook against two minor pieces

5. Open games

6. The minority attack

7. Complicated combinations

8. Fortresses

9. Complex positions

10. The transition to the middlegame

11. The bishop pair

12. Shutting out a piece

13. Playing against pieces

14. Principles of rook endings

15. Playing for traps

16. Castling opposite sides

17. Pawn chains

18. Transition from opening to ending

19. Exchanging queens – the transition to the ending

20. Outposts for knights

21. Having a plan

22. Pirc and Modern defences

23. Complex positions 2

24. Queen endings


positional play aagardcalculation aagard

These are workbooks. And they expect you to be a workhorse to get the most out of them. I haven’t used them much so far. Special time will have to be allocated for them. But the few examples and exercises I have gone through, it appears the books are quite direct and goes straight to the point. My positional play sucks and my calculations skills are primitive. I hope these two books help me out. It’s too early for me to say whether they are any good. I have gone on recommendations of various reviews on the big chess forums. So perhaps a real review from me laters.


mihail marin

I had read ‘Secrets of Attacking Chess’ by Marin. That was a very good book. Marin has a unique style of dissecting positions. He goes deep in and deliberately gets lost in the variations. You learn a lot by following him into no-mans land.

This book focuses on endgames. He picks on 6 outstanding exponents of this phase of the game (Rubinstein, Alekhine, Petrosian, Fischer, Karpov and Korchnoi) and highlights a specific area they are the best at. It doesn’t look at theoretical sort of endgames (that would be the Dvoretsky Endgame Manual book, for example) but at the practical aspects of endgame play. Certainly for Kenyan players like me, the endgame is still a big big mystery.

Marin is not interested in trotting out a large quantity of examples. Instead, he picks a few positions and does in-depth and quality analysis. To really show the reader what’s going on and what he can learn. Rook endgames are something I especially struggle with, especially the practical nature of them. The first chapter of the book (and the one I have gone through so far) is on Rubinstein’s handling of Rook Endgames. The annotations are simply superb and besides concrete variations, Marin also verbally explains at length what is going on. One goes through it slowly, sipping in Marin’s notes. And that’s a good way of learning. Marin makes one develop endgame skills rather than just absorbing knowledge.

To finish with a random example from the Rubinstein chapter:

Rubinstein - Del Turco, Merano 1924.

Rubinstein – Del Turco, Merano 1924. White to play.

This is just a snapshot from the endgame Marin analyses for over 11 pages. Rubinstein here played the dubious 38. Rxf6?! and this is what Marin says about it:

Rubinstein’s intuition seems to have betrayed him at this moment. He might have more or less foreseen the further evolution of the game but must have overlooked Black’s possibility on the 41st move.

However, attributing Akiba’s error to this excusable error of calculation would be rather simplistic description of the situation. In fact, his decision is in complete opposition to his usual way of thinking, something we are already familiar with. Maybe this was just not his best day.

Let us try to imagine how Rubinstein would have judged this position in the other nine times out of ten.

The ending with one pair of rooks is obviously better for white but no human would be able to foresee the  ultimate consequences. It certainly offers practical chances and would be an acceptable way to play for a win if there is no better alternative available.

However, it is not difficult to establish that keeping all the rooks on the board would increase White’s advantage. The fact is that Black does not have time to block the f-pawn with the king and so one of his rook will remain passive. At the same time the white rooks will display their habitual activity, due to White’s spatial advantage.

After 38. gxf6 play might have continued:

38…Rd4+ (38…Rff7 would lose the c-pawn since after 39.Rxc5 Rxf6? 40. Rc6+ white would win a rook.) 39.Kc3 Rd6 (39…Rd5 40.Rxd5 Kxd5 is just hopeless. Black will fall into succesive zugzwangs since the rook cannot move. For instance 41.f7 Ke6 42.Kc4 Kd6 43.Rf3 Kc6 44.Rf6+ Kd7 45.Kxc5 etc.) 40.f7 Rd7 41.R1f3 followed by Kc4 and Black can hardly resist.

Great grandson’s Syokimau train ticket dated 2169 A.D



the SHAPE of nozzles

a housefly LANDING on my shoe


At the super subway trainport Syokimau fire in my pockets the downtown to Machakos late evening shuttle finally the arrival of two thousand downtown freaks I walk against them their current of movement for example this man wearing Mohanlal Naran tailored trousers black with split gap/no zip so that in this hot late December his dik can be airy but nobody can see that his pubic hair is dreadlocked and flowing down to his knees like flywhisk dyed cream.

The engines purring like hundred extinct lions mass graves excavated at laying of Beer Hunger Wine Hyena hotel & black-skinned writers only allowed foundation in former national park and the freaks talk in so many goddamned ways jango qawalis nusrat fateh onyango and my childbirth 2nd floor M.P. Shah then a two day old baby my implanted inner ear phones shoot out garbled Mozart allegro Jose Maria Pires soft and gloomy and sad twenty seventh concerto as I walk past all freaks and they were going home and I was going into the blooming cosmopolis cunt of lady Nairobi last trains moving in many underground tracks all blurry fast I can’t see interstellar matatus route Emba44 landing at JKIA and I love all the freaks I walk past she’s wearing streetwalker acacia thorn studded split open at chest blouse drool blue can’t touch her things because they are sharp.

I hate all this city has become like a crude oil in tetrapak in the SubwaY NaivaS underground 250ml and peach flavour with straw attached ready to drink fortified with vitamin C the fuel which set fire to my rape fantasies and sperms and condoms strewn on colonised Mogadishu beaches wide sandy and without seaweed christmas holidays highways from Mogadishu to Nairobi nuetron bomb tests passing by Chalbi Desert lit up with new years fireworks and Kilimani and Westlands and Kangemi III and new Umoja and Donholm with its great poet and sixteen grandchildren who never read Madman all playing in the December rain of light wet with electric because radioactive powerstation at Karen Naivasha the great suburb grown forever and ever lights now never go out, those Syokimau godowns I am leaving behind and the rare December rainfall this late afternoon almost evening and the atom bomb cauliflowered clouds in the sky I don’t see, I am underground.

The forty shilling train ticket I use as bookmark.