The Jail Bugs – Wahome Mutahi

Title: The Jail Bugs
Author: Wahome Mutahi
Genre: Social and Political Satire
Pages: 194

The Publisher:

For Albert Kweyu, a tragic encounter with a child one Sunday morning leads to a jail sentence without the option of a fine. In this prison diary, Kweyu tells the sordid story of life behind bars. He lays bare the rampant corruption, moral depravity and beastiality that prison conditions breed. It is indeed an indictment of a penal system that subjects human beings to living conditions and treatment that one would not wish on even the lowliest of creatures.

Written in the humorous style that has established Wahome Mutahi as Kenya’s leading satirist; The Jail Bugs disturbs while at the same time gripping the reader from beginning to end.

My Take:

This book was BY FAR the best comedy I’ve ever read. Personally, I’d never heard of Wahome Mutahi before this book which by Kenyan standards, might mean I really suck when it comes to general knowledge. But hey, that’s what Google is for right?

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From what I could find, The Jail Bugs is a classic example of Wahome Mutahi’s work. His books, short stories and newspaper columns all put a humorous spin on the daily problems of your average Kenyan. Political struggles like corrupt government officers, police bribes, greedy politicians and a criminal justice system hanging on a wire. He also gets into social issues like marital problems and the clash of urban and cultural norms between generations – parents being parents, and kids being kids.
The book was published in 1992, but the topics he gets into makes it timeless in Kenya. Everything he wrote about is still a big part of life around here, and it’ll probably continue be. The reality is, at least one of these problems is experienced by any one person at some point, so being Kenyan shouldn’t stop you from checking out his work.

The book focuses the main character Albert Kweyu, newly christened Prisoner No. P/F/1270, who narrates a personal account of his 2 weeks in jail. The crime, is something you should really read for yourself. Trust me.
And the part where he gets thrown into the mental asylum section of the prison. Funny is an understatement.

The book is really interesting in all sorts of ways, like how every chapter is a specific date, instead of a name or a number. The first chapter is Friday, November 26. And the last chapter is Sunday, December 12, Setting the story in the period of about 2 weeks. If it wasn’t for the months, the story feels like it could be going on right as you read it; like it could be any two weeks at any time of the year. Its pretty cool that such a small difference in chapter titles could make a book that much more immersive.
Like I said, great comedy and probably one of the best books I’ve read so far. I’ll definitely be reading at least one more time before I kick the bucket.

My Rating: 4/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.9/5


The scale:
0/5 – No good. Didn’t even finish it.
1/5 – I got through it, barely.
2/5 – Okay. Nothing more, nothing less.
3/5 – Great read! But I doubt I’ll go it again.
4/5 – Definitely a favourite! You’ll love it.
5/5 – This book is ON POINT. Go get it. Right now.

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