Rui Carlos da Cunha's Reviews > The Broken Word: An Epic Poem of the British Empire in Kenya, and the Mau Mau Uprising Against It

The Broken Word by Adam Foulds
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's review
Nov 19, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: poetry, british, kenya, mau-mau, 2011
Read in November, 2010

I found The Broken Word a beautifully written narrative in verse that was compelling to believe the experiences of the protagonist during such turbulent times. However, since the tale is told from the colonial English point-of-view and torturing of Africans and other senseless violence is involved, I felt the story was one-sided, intentionally so, and therefore lacking in a multifaceted perspective of many individuals who may have been involved in Kenya during the Mau Mau uprising. That and at times locating who is speaking or who is the subject of the line of verse can be confusing, but only slightly. It truly makes me want to inquire further into what took place in Kenya in the 1950's when my parents lived there and my mother waited for a bus while a frightening Mau Mau rebel was within arm's length. It makes me want to read a novel, The In-Between World of Vikram Lall by MG Vassanji, that also deals with the same time period and subject matter. I thank the publisher's representatives at Penguin for sending me an advanced reader's copy as The Broken Word doesn't come out in the States until April 2011.

Upon re-reading the text, I realize that Foulds perhaps is making an indictment of the flailing British Empire in its death throes. That the language sounds exploitative is only because that is what took place back then, exploitation and oppression of the indigenous culture. This is perhaps one of the most beautiful books that I've read in a while, it ends perfectly, so sweetly after such horrors witnessed. I think this novella would be a good text to use for a class on historical verse writing, as Foulds creates such an amazing narrative that it needs to be read over and over until the reader is sick of what took place in Kenya in the 1950's.
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