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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The pursuit of truth is the only antidote to our gullibility

Title: Chwezi Code
Author: Nick Twinamatsiko
Reviewer: Dennis D. Muhumuza
Available: In bookshops for Shs15,000 

The newly released The Chwezi Code, Nick Twinamatsiko’s second novel after Jesse’s Jewel, hilariously embodies the deceitfulness in our society, the enormity of which is rooted in the ignorance of the masses.

Mugu’s dream of a bright future is shattered when he’s dismissed from university for exam malpractice with a girl he’s crazy about. In confusion and tormented by guilt of wasting three years, he joins insurgents that are storming Mbarara Army Barracks to flush out Amin’s soldiers.

It’s his golden chance to curve himself a career in the military, but Mugu loves his life too much to risk it. So, he escapes in an abandoned boat and as he rows in the dark on River Rwizi, sudden thoughts of the legendary demigods, the Chwezi, preoccupy his mind, never letting go.

When he comes across a tree that seems to “have been standing for centuries”, it becomes the spot for his shrine as he begins his new life as a Chwezi priest. It’s flabbergasting how easily people are hoodwinked as they begin showering him with endless gifts in exchange for counterfeit blessings. Although one clever woman, Mable, sees through his shadiness, she plays along, manoeuvring to sleep with him to give her barren husband children.

The 206-page-turner penetrates the duplicity and depravity that has befouled contemporary society and the alarming extent to which people contaminate themselves for mammon. Its magnetism is in the inner conflict of the central figure as he struggles to believe in the dubious spirits he serves and in his uncertainty as to whether he’ll ever disentangle himself from their grip.

The novel reminds me of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous short story, Young Goodman Brown, whose protagonist takes a walk in the forest one night and is alarmed to find everyone he respected as morally upright at the devil’s party. He realises that all men are evil and loses all his faith.

Equally, The Chwezi Code shows you that society is enmeshed in wickedness almost beyond redemption. The author subtly challenges us to embrace reading and be shrewd in the pursuit of truth, for that is the only antidote to our gullibility as a people.

-- Sunday Monitor, August 8, 2010