Review: Betwixt Mountain and Wilderness


Book review: Alex Taremwa Title: Betwixt Mountain and Wilderness Author: Timothy Wangusa Publishing Date: June 2015 Publisher: Nsemia Inc. Publishers, Oakville, Ontario, Canada Outlet: Aristoc Bookshop, Kampala Price: Shs20,000/=

Betwixt Mountain and Wilderness is the second novel of seasoned scholar and author Timothy Wangusa’s Mwambu trilogy.

It is therefore a sequel to the acclaimed Upon this Mountain set in pre-independence Uganda.

Launched on August 22 2015 at the closure of the 2nd East African Literary and Cultural Studies Conference, Betwixt Mountain and Wilderness is a story of an intensely sensitive, impressionable and introspective school leaver, who goes on a rather fascinat- ing journey of discovery.

Upon this Mountain takes the story of the protagonist, Mwambu, from breast-sucking to about age 20, the end of his high school.

This highly captivating and addictive piece of literary genius traces the troubled fortunes of the same protagonist from age 21 until when he is 32, on the very eve of Uganda’s acquisition of her independence.

It has been 25 years of Upon this Mountain, 25 years of intense suspense and 25 years of painstaking work on the author’s side who said in an interview with The Transparent Magazine that Betwixt Mountain and Wilderness is the best literary piece he will ever produce.

Prof Timothy Wangusa (Author) and the Transparent's Managing Editor Alex Taremwa recently. (Credit: Ivan Naijuka)

Prof Timothy Wangusa (Author) and The Transparent’s Managing Editor Alex Taremwa recently. (Credit: Ivan Naijuka)

For over 10 years, Wangusa has invested his best intuition and ingenuity into producing what will undoubtedly be a must- have item on every reader’s book shelf.

“Once upon a sunset, abrupt news leapt from hilltop to hilltop as fast as a black dog is famed to run,” it opens.

One is instantly intrigued into asking: What was the abrupt news? Where and why was that? To whom did it happen and who was there to report it?

I was inspired immediately, from the cover design to the prologue, I was already addicted that I was through the 204-page book in 24 hours.

My best passage in the book which I bet you will equally find fascinating comes soon between pages 15 and 17, in the second chapter as the Elgonton District committee members argue in utter ignorance about what a degree is.

This comes at a time when Mwambu is preparing to join Makerere on a village bursary scheme. It reads:

“What is Mwambu going to get from Makerere? I want to know if it is something good or just rubbish. Is it a decoration, a kyepe, a medal such as some of us got from the King African Rifles – KAR, popularly known as KEYA for distinguished service on the field of battle in the Second World War? Tell me, Mr. Chairman, what is this thing they call Diguli?”

Formerly Professor of Literature at Makerere University, Wangusa, PhD, is Presidential Advisor on Literary Affairs currently a Visiting Professor at Uganda Christian University and Vice Chairman of LuMasaaba Language Academy.

He is also co-writing the first LuMasaaba Dictionary. He posits that poetry is the “mother tongue of mankind”, while he perceives literature as a “verbal rendering of the human soul or community condition.”


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