Mau Mau’s Lasting Myth in The In-Between World of Vikram Lall

  • Steve Almquist


This essay examines M. G. Vassanji’s The In-Between World of Vikram Lall and argues that it ought to be read as a Mau Mau novel. The anti-colonial Mau Mau insurgency remains historically elusive due to its members’ own secrecy and to the colonialist propaganda that elided the true scope of British brutality and dismissed Mau Mau as mere barbarism. However elusive this history, Mau Mau serves for many as a national creation myth in which the Mau Mau participants are freedom fighters rather than atavistic terrorists. As such, Mau Mau is often depicted as a black/white binary, but Vassanji’s novel provides a perspective from Kenya’s Asian community, whose people experience the conflict as cultural outsiders, if not collaborators in colonial oppression. As Vikram’s narrative suggests, a binary reading of Mau Mau is problematic for Asians such as the Lalls, whose progeny increasingly identify as African. The Mau Mau motif in Vassanji’s narrative becomes the constant and unresolved myth in Vikram’s life that challenges his personal sense of self and of belonging, and Mau Mau’s ubiquitous presence suggests the potency of its contested legacy.

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eISSN: 0376-8902