Luguya (Payment in Kind, 1985) offers a three-part novel about one man’s extensive views on Christianity.
When readers first meet Christian Mjomba, he’s seated in his 27th-floor office in the city of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He has a pleasant view of the harbor and a degree from Stanford University on the wall, and seems to be doing fairly well. However, his dream of publishing a best-selling work remains unfulfilled. He does have a background in writing, though; as readers soon learn, he’d once been a member of a seminary brotherhood. During that time, he composed an extensive thesis on various aspects of the Christian faith, which strayed from official church teachings. Mjomba’s intention was, in part, to “show unequivocally that the Prime Mover loved everyone irrespective of religious affiliation.” The book begins with an in-depth exploration of the protagonist’s views; there’s more action in later chapters, but the emphasis throughout is on ideas. They include Mjomba’s annoyance with those who use “the phrase ‘the bible says,’ ” and his meditation on the human body, which he says is “designed to be both a temple of God and a vessel of His grace.” The book covers an extensive amount of theologically intriguing material; it’s critical of many different parties, including the Apostle Peter, the devil, and people who revel in “mostly ill-gotten wealth.” The dense text frequently reads more like a sermon (or rather, a large collection of sermons) than a novel. Readers looking for new interpretations of Christian thought will find them here, though those hoping for more thorough integration with plot may be disappointed. Its details of life in Tanzania, such as the notion that “Even though most spoke English very well, Tanzanians just loved to speak Swahili,” are memorable. That said, the text as a whole is concerned with issues that go well beyond any single nation.
An insightful, if overgrown, array of spiritual material.