Samson Kambalu's father wore three-piece, London-made suits from the Sixties. He'd planned to be a doctor but settled for hospital administration and a peripatetic lifestyle with his ever expanding family in tow. He is 'the Jive Talker' of this extraordinary memoir - a man of thwarted ambition, boundless optimism and manic philosophising, he died of AIDS in 1995, bequeathing his son 'the Diptych' - an eclectic library of science, philosophy and English language classics a passion for words and a boundless imagination.
In this completely original, often subversive, book, Samson Kambalu writes of his childhood in Malawi, a country few are able to pinpoint on a map. As the family moves from feast to real poverty and deprivation, and back to plenty again, depending on their father's professional fortunes, we are introduced to life in a country in which no dissent is tolerated, where political opponents are 'disappeared' and a portrait of Life President Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda is always guaranteed to be watching. But this is also a country in which a little boy obsessed with books, girls, Nietzsche, fashion, football and Michael Jackson wins a free education at the Kamuzu Academy ('The Eton of Africa') and grows up to be one of England's most promising young conceptual artists. With dazzling prose, wicked humour and not a little bit of artistic licence, The Jive Talker opens the door to an Africa that is rarely written about.