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The Jive Talker: Or, How to Get a British Passport

Samson Kambalu's father wore three-piece, London-made suits from the Sixties. He'd planned to be a doctor but settled for hospital administration and a peripatetic lifestyle with his ever expanding family in tow. He is 'the Jive Talker' of this extraordinary memoir - a man of thwarted ambition, boundless optimism and manic philosophising, he died of AIDS in 1995, bequeathing his son 'the Diptych' - an eclectic library of science, philosophy and English language classics ­ a passion for words and a boundless imagination.

In this completely original, often subversive, book, Samson Kambalu writes of his childhood in Malawi, a country few are able to pinpoint on a map. As the family moves from feast to real poverty and deprivation, and back to plenty again, depending on their father's professional fortunes, we are introduced to life in a country in which no dissent is tolerated, where political opponents are 'disappeared' and a portrait of Life President Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda is always guaranteed to be watching. But this is also a country in which a little boy obsessed with books, girls, Nietzsche, fashion, football and Michael Jackson wins a free education at the Kamuzu Academy ('The Eton of Africa') and grows up to be one of England's most promising young conceptual artists. With dazzling prose, wicked humour and not a little bit of artistic licence, The Jive Talker opens the door to an Africa that is rarely written about.

Important places

Amsterdam (469)
Blantyre (2)
Johannesburg (94)
Lilongwe (2)
Mulanje (2)
Zomba (1)


Blantyre (2)
Zomba (1)
Mulanje (2)
Gauteng (120)
Lilongwe (2)
Noord-Holland (507)


South Africa (959)
Malawi (34)
Netherlands (1,293)
United Kingdom (21,421)

Other geographical areas

Witwatersrand (26)
Southern Africa (1,074)
Eastern Africa (1,319)
Benelux (1,495)
Africa (5,755)