BOOKS THEY READ: Prof Arthur Gakwandi

Saturday April 17 2010


Prof Arthur Gakwandi is a lecturer in the Literature Department, Makerere University and the author of Kosiya Kifefe, a novel on the A' Level English Literature syllabus.

What motivates you to read?
I found reading for pleasure very rewarding because I studied literature at A' level and university. I read to enlarge my mind, and also writers offer different perspectives of the world – a different nature of society. I am curious to know what great minds have thought about the mystery of life.

Which books did you read as a child?
As a child, there were no books in the family except the Bible and hymn books. It was until I went to school that I read books prescribed for each subject. At that time, I had no idea about reading for pleasure until I went to Ntare Secondary School. I read books like Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. I also read simplified English literature including; Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Julius Caesar, Merchant of Venice, and Twelfth Night by Shakespeare. These books were supplementary readers and they created a base for my reading culture.

Which books take a large part of your bookshelf?
I was a Commonwealth Writers Prize judge for Africa in 2008, so for about two years, I have received about 150 books submitted for consideration for the award. I love Russian classics like Leo Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and French classics including; Madam Bovary by Gustave Flaubert and English classics written by authors George Elliot and Charles Dickens. I buy books that have been recommended by friends or books that have been written by friends or when I attend a conference, I normally look out for them. These shape what I buy and read.

What sort of books do you give as presents to people?
Depending on someone’s age and intellectual standing, I normally give to my children who are in their late 20s the book Lessons from the Miracle Doctors by John Barron which is about how to live a healthy life including dieting, exercise, sleep and leisure because I want them to learn how to live a healthy life. For my teenage son, I normally give him biographies of people who have achieved so much so that he can get inspiration. Then, to graduate students, when I notice that there is a gap in their knowledge in a certain subject, I lend them books that can deepen their understanding. And for friends, books that can shape their way of viewing of what is happening on the African continent.

Which books do you never get enough of?
War and Peace by Leo Tostoy had a deep impact on my life. I like his artistic accomplishment and the observation he makes about life. Middlemarch by George Elliot, which for me is the pinnacle of fiction. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe reshaped my thinking of African literature and culture. I also love poetry by John Donne and John Keats – I love the passion with which he speaks.

What are your favourite quotes from the books you have read?
There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, lead onto fortune; omitted, all their lives are spent in shallows and misery - Julius Caesar by Shakespeare.

What books have you been reading lately?
A Pattern of Dust by Prof Timothy Wangusa and The Cultural Landscape of Uganda which give a general outlook of Uganda.

By Beatrice Lwamaka