Godfrey Mwene Kalimugogo hardly knows how to use a computer but that is the least of his worries.
With pen and paper, the 69-year-old author has penned 13 books and he is working on his 14th.
“If I was using a computer, I would have to look for the delete key; so, to me a computer is not a big deal, besides I do not like it,” Kalimugogo says.
“I know many writers who are not computer literate but are good authors like Grammy Green.”
Most of Kalimugogo’s writing is inspired by personal experiences and society. He exposes issues like corruption and domestic violence in some of his novels like A Gang of Traitors and A Murky River. So enchanting are his books that in 2004, A Visitor Without a Mission won the Book of the Year award, while A Murky River won the NABOTU annual literary award in 2009.
The old man who hails from Kyocezo village in Kabale district discovered his calling as a writer while a student at Nyakasura School in Fort Portal. Here, he was exposed to literature from the school’s well-stocked library, later becoming its chief librarian. At Nyakasura, Kalimugogo read more books than at university and this inspired him to study English and Literature, then known as Classical Literature in 1968.
The writer recalls his days at university as the golden age of Literature at Makerere University. This is when prominent writers like John Ruganda, Prof Timothy Wangusa, Rose Mbowa and Laban Erapu were at their height. Their literature class also had a magazine, Pen-Point, to which they contributed stories.
“This magazine helped us a lot because it exposed our works in different countries, since it was internationally recognized. The name later changed to Mawazo meaning thoughts and by then, most of the good writers had left,” Kalimugogo recalls.
At the time, poetry was the big thing, but Kalimugogo chose to be a novelist. When he graduated in 1968, he started compiling a novel and in 1972, his first book, Dare to Die was published. It highlights the killings in the 1970s because then, “people killed others to survive”.
And in 1974, while on a holiday in Kinshasa, he wrote two more books, Trials and Tribulations in Sandu’s Home and Pilgrimage to Nowhere.
Kalimugogo is not your ordinary grandfather who spends his time in the company of grandchildren. He is vibrant, outspoken and has a deep knowledge of writers, especially those in Africa. He loves reading and writing in his free time. The Bible, specifically the King James version, is his favourite because its language is similar to Shakespeare’s. He also enjoys comedy and reads such authors as Aldous Huxley, Tom Shappe and P.G Wodehouse.
Does he get feedback about his books?
“The few readers who get back to me are all full of praises,” he says.
“But I am also aware that authors in Uganda lack market for their books - Ugandans do not have the culture of reading.”
To the aspiring writers, Kalimugogo has some advice: “Know what to write about and forget about the money because it is not there.”
Victor Byabamazima, a writer as well, describes his colleague as a man with an overflowing sense of humility, sincerity and intellectual commitment.
“He is a very reliable person and loves searching for the truth so there is reason to trust his writing.”
Kalimugogo's main works
• Dare to Die. East African Literature Bureau, 1972.
• The Pulse of the Woods. East African Literature Bureau, 1974.
• The Department. East African Literature Bureau, 1976.
• Trials and Tribulations in Sandu’s Home. East African Literature Bureau, 1976.
• The Prodigal Chairman. Uzima Press, 1979.
• Pilgrimage to Nowhere. 1981.
• Sandu, the Prince. Kenya Literature Bureau, 1982.
• A Visitor Without a Mission. Victor B. Services, 2003.
• Bury Me in a Simple Grave. Baroque Publishers,
• A Murky River. Baroque Publishers, November 2009.