FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Monday, January 21, 2019

Kruse's Keys: Read "The Gunny Sack" to Live the Indian Experience in East Africa (Tanzania)

Most of the African fiction that I’ve read has focused on the “native” experience (outside of V.S. Naipaul), so I found the “The Gunny Sack” to be an important novel as it focuses exclusively on the experience of four generations of an Indian family in Tanzania and wider East Africa beginning in the late 1800s.  Vassanji relates this in-depth experience across the span of Tanzania’s colonization and eventual independence through the backward lens of the narrator Kala who parses through the contents of a gunny sack bequeathed to him by his great grandmother Ji Bai.

Through this we see the interaction of native populations, the Germans, and the British as a nation (in the modern sense at least) is birthed.

ENDNOTE: Normally, I take fairly copious notes on this african novels, however, (in this case for fairly boring reasons), it took me some 5 months to read this book (I am typically reading 3 books at a time) and it lost much of its impact on me.  So that's on me. I look forward to rereading this novel again in the future.

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.

See our 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.

Related Posts:
Kruse's Keys: Read "African Kaiser" To Learn an Untold Chapter of WWI History

Africa: Declaration of Delegates from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi from the 2011 East African Workshop on Cyberspace Security

Clientelist State-Society Relations Notes (Barkan, Fatton, Pitcher et al)

Notes on the rural majority in Africa (Hyden, Jayne, MacLean)


  1. Wow, I just stumbled across your blog while searching for help with Herbst's "States and Power in Africa", but your whole blog is right up my alley: I'm double majoring in Literature and Political Science, and my focus in Poli-Sci is African CP. Thanks for putting this all together, you've got some really interesting stuff!