Meja and Maina arrive in the city confident their high school diplomas will lead to employment and a better life. However, they are unable to find jobs and end up living in the streets, among other unemployed and homeless youth. Brutally separated, they meet later behind prison bars.This novel displays Mwangi's talent for writing lively stories depicting societal problems in Kenya.
Meja Mwangi began his writing career in the 1970s, a decade after his more well-known compatriots such as Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Grace Ogot had been publishing their works. When he burst onto the scene with the award-winning Kill Me Quick in 1973, Mwangi was hailed in various quarters as a rising star in the East African literary constellation who was helping to disprove Taban lo Liyong's oft-cited claim that East Africa was a literary desert (Taban 1965, Nazareth 1976). Since then, Meja Mwangi has gone on to establish himself as one of the most prolific of Kenyan writers, publishing eleven novels in seventeen years in addition to short stories, children's books and working with a variety of projects in film. Mwangi's works have received awards in Kenya and abroad, they have been translated into six languages, and there are film versions of two of his novels.
For many Kenyan writers, the armed resistance to British colonialism in Kenya, which came to be known as the Mau Mau revolt and reached its height in the 1950s, was a far-reaching experience. [Meja Mwangi' Mau Mau novel] Weapon of Hunger is perhaps [his] best book yet. The picture he paints of the relentless quest for modern Africa is grim. What is most depressing, is that there seem to be no solutions. Western philanthropists, such as Jack Rivers, are portrayed in a favourable light as sincere people. All their energies, however, are expended on trying to understand Africa's problems and once they understand them they realise that the problems are beyond them. As for the Africans themselves, they could have provided solutions, but since they are lined up in warring factions, that is impossible. While the two sides fight on to the finish, will million of ordinary people continue to starve to dead? That is the questions which Meja Mwangi asks himself and which he asks the readers of Weapon. (Excerpt from: Lynn Mansure, Weekly Review)
Days run out for me, Life goes from bad to worse, Very soon, very much soon, Time will lead me to the end, Very well. So be it. But one thing I beg of you. If the sun must set for me, If all must come to an end, If you must be rid of me, The way you have done with all my friends, If you must kill me, Do so fast. KILL ME QUICK
A gritty, raw look at life in the streets of Nairobi.And this was early 70's! A bright student in a village in Kenya, going to the big city for work after graduating top of the class, but not finding a job. Pride keeps him from returning to the village and his life erodes away in the brutal world of urban destitution.
Actually, Kill Me Quick is one of the nicknames for chang'aa, potent Kenyan moonshine.
Mwangi is an excellent writer. However, I warn potential reader's that Kill Me Quick is not a feel-good book
I did finish reading this, but I didn't read until the end - unfortunately Goodreads doesn't have a "stopped reading" category, and I don't plan on putting it back in the "want to read" as I don't. I tried, and I was bored. Maybe it's the 70s social realism, maybe it's just me: I'm sure it's an authentic tale of growing up poor in a poor country and living on the street, but I have no feeling with any of the characters, it just feels like a "oh look how poor the poor poor people are, and how sad their lives". Didn't see a reason to finish it.
He held up his crooked hand, scars, and all, for all to see. It was no longer a thing of shame or a symbol of weakness.
At a time in my life when I could have really used a pick-me-up, I read this. I really wished for a better ending/positive turn for any of these characters that really elicited my empathy but alas! :'(
Let me just state that this is a book which broke my heart. Its protagonists, two wonderful men, Meja and Maina who are trying to fight against all odds in this uncertain world. It shos how they went through the whole cycle, trying to get a legal job, knocking on doors of companies and at one point, Maina lost his shoe after being thrown out of such a space by the security officer. Well, that’s when the story begins. It brings to light very serious issues. One of the most disturbing one is when they were on the streets and they “stole” something in a paper bag. When Meja threw it to Maina and ordered him to run. In the typical Kenyan reaction, the crowd started running for him baying for his blood. Unsure what the content was, they chased until they caught up with the thief and beat him up. It was only later when they discovered that he had two rotten mangoes, and it begs the question of how many people have died due to such simple stealing, wanting to put food in their stomachs. Another interesting bit for me was when Maina would steal milk from one avenue and resell it in a different estate. I figured out that that was a brilliant means to earn an income, and it worked well, despite him being caught at a later stage. It was application of the knowledge and being an amazing schemer that won my heart. Could I point out that the fire that razed the slums where they lived remains a mystery to me. It is something that has always disturbed me- how fires swipe a whole slum and a few years later, skyscrapers stand on the land. This has been quite a common trend, especially believed that some politicians are behind getting this land.
Ironically, the title of the book is Kill Me Quick. However, whatever the two do, death seems to be very distant. It does not appeal to them and when it eventually comes, it meets a very frustrated Maina, who was trying to secure the land that was given by his father.
Another interesting aspect is how the two citizens preferred being in prison so that they could have food. A friend of mine recently went to the local police station to report on a stolen phone and met an eighteen year old begging to be arrested, as he had not eaten for a whole week. He preferred being behind bars as he is assured of a hot meal. It kills me to see how we have sunk to this….A while ago, we were our brother’s keeper. Now we do not even have a brother.
What stood out for me, and for many Kenyans who will read this book, is how often we are hit by situations of despair, who we are tempted to give up, how we are often given the unfair share of life…. but we look at it from the resilience we share. The two protagonists have literally tried everything, including mining in a quarry yet Maina was disabled from a mob justice beating. For me, what stands out is how they look for a niche, take advantage of it and hack life through it. This, for me, represented me. I have always looked at those bits where I see an area of weakness, hit it hard and made a killing. I remember their reunion and how excited they were when they met each other, and it reminded me of how amazing I feel every time I meet someone familiar especially in an unfamiliar territory- for me, its however not prison, it is a country outside Kenya. The book ends in death. For me, it was not forthcoming. I didn’t see people who have put everything
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
My main reason for reading this was to learn something about Kenyan culture, although this was mostly about the dark, criminal side, the impoverished side, of the culture. I enjoyed it, mostly, though there were a lot of missing words and other little apparent errors, though I wasn't certain if this was just because of speech patterns in Kenya or not. The plot wasn't so much a plot as it was just following two men through their rough lives in Kenya, trying to make a living from their limited education and discovering that it was very hard to avoid a life of crime when you can't get a job. There aren't the social safety nets that we are used to in the US. It was disturbing to read, knowing that people can struggle with life like this, trying to get somewhere. This lead me to read more about the many crowded slums in Nairobi. We live in a crazy world.
I have read this several times over the years; it is a novel that lasts a long time after you finish. This is not a happy story, even though there is lots of humorous anecdotes. The story follows two young men from villages that finish school and go to the city for jobs. Unfortunately, jobs are scarce and they manage to eke out an existence by whatever means necessary. They gradually move on from dumpster diving to petty theft and other schemes.
This has a fairly typical post-colonial literature structure-- country boys going to the modern city to look for work and it ending badly, but still, Mwangi's prose is direct and heartfelt.
Well-written & captivating. As i read through the book I wondered how people decide to take certain roads. Is it mindset driven? Is it chance? or is it nature-driven? ....???? The characters were definetly pressed on every side with situations they encountered but I did wonder if things would have been different had they made different choices. But now the question is, what would have been the catalyst for them to make better choices? One could say support system and family, but this would be a fallacy for one of them had a positive influence but still he went down the wrong path.... Such stories just make me wonder about people and choices.... Otherwise, great suspenseful read.
I love how the Author wrote.Though published in the 70’s it is very relatable.Failed expectations are daunting.Poverty at its best. Maina and Meja find life in the city difficult.It is not just about getting a job.Education and no skills means no job.And, with the wrong company you are definitely likely to give up on your dreams. My favorite line was “He had grown from a boy to a man, from a man to a thief, and from a thief to a suicide looking for forgiveness and love.” I loved how he incorporated Swahili in some lines.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
The book depicted a true account of life in the city. However most of the members of the book club wished that it had a window for celebration or happy ending because across the book life gets harder and more frustrating. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable read
The story shows how two young good hearted men, Maina and Meja, struggle in the reality of life. The men who avoided all the bad things in life, without any other choices, got into gangs, and into the never ending circle of their destiny. The part which depicts Meja's sole suffering of going home and encountering his young sister, as well as the dramatic scene of tackling an enormous stone with his limp leg and twisted hand was extremely touching. One thing that made me feel like missing was a little description of Susan's life, what it is like and what she thinks about everyday. I think it'd be interesting if the life in Shanty House could be depicted from her point of view, too - the life of a woman in gangs.
Kill Me Quick follows two dust bin mates through a tragic story replete with unheroing turmoil. The story quickly unfolds through a series of unfortunate events landing our street brethren through dual plot twists. This is a sad story. One that bodly captures the effects of capitalism in Kenya. A story about the culmination of a life devoid of sustenance but overflowing with dreams of more. Mwagi does well in laying out each boys experience in reconciling dreams steeped in desperation yet sinewed by hope. Not much in the way of a happy ending, folks. It's like that sometimes but one hell of a good book!
A simple yet beautifully written novel. Mwangi has lived and experienced the tough life of Kenyan people since independence. He knows the streets, the lives and the people. This novel describes two boys who's family sacrificed to educate them and they tried to find work in the city but failed due to lack of opportunity. This is a message to the Kenyan government. The government of Kenyatta and the government of Ruto today in 2023. Mwangi like Ngugi have Kikuyu roots yet write for all Kenyans. However their message resonates across the capitalist world.