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The Honking is Mulumba’s defining novel

Recently, Ivan Matthias Mulumba, a surveyor by profession, launched his two works: The Honking and Rumblings of a Tree at the Uganda museum.

The budding author began writing scripts for these works eight years ago.

“I began writing in 2009, my first year at university.  And during the writing process, my personal computers were stolen two times yet I had no backup. I had to re-write everything,” Mulumba told book lovers who attended the launch.

“I learnt my lesson of backing up my work the hard way.”

Scripts for The Honking were also lost and perhaps because of that, the author got a writer’s block that lasted from 2012 to 2015.

Set in Makerere University and its surroundings like Nankulabye and Wandegeya, among others, The Honking captivates the Ugandan reader since it is about places they relate with. It is a novel that best describes the life at and around Makerere University.

The book starts by capturing the reader’s attention with the gruesome murder of a student in a hostel as her friends watch.

The verbal exchange between a taxi conductor and an unidentified female passenger over transport fares also sets the scene and what to expect from the novel. And indeed, Mulumba meticulously weaves the lives of characters to tell a moving story a Ugandan, or Makerere alumnus, can easily relate with.

The main characters, Kaggwa and Sylvia, are involved in an extramarital relationship and the lecturer’s wife usually sneaks out to meet the student.

Despite her husband having enough money and a bungalow, Sylvia finds comfort in Kaggwa’s chest even though he lives in a shack with corrugated iron sheets in the ghetto of Katwe.

For anyone who has been at university, alcohol and fornication are part of the script, and Mulumba adds them to The Honking.

He, however, doesn’t use the vile language usually employed by Lumumba hostellers when the students rebel but this time for the right reason; protesting the deaths of their fellow students.

Mulumba’s novel is not like James Joyce’s Ulysses or Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood. It’s a book any Ugandan reader can easily comprehend since it uses simplified vocabulary.

Nonetheless, his short sentences tend to limit his descriptive skills and the characters are not allowed to “grow more skin” before they are sent out to battle with the assignments he gives them.

For now, The Honking might not be able to sit among Uganda’s greatest books, but it stands not far from the works of the likes of Barbra Kimenye.

The Honking is Mulumba’s first novel, and can be purchased at Shs 30,000 from all major bookshops across the country. His other poem collection, The Rumblings of a Tree, costs Shs 20,000.


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