Book: Is it Possible? Author: H R Ole Kulet Publisher:Longhorn Publishers First Publication year: 1971 (this print 2019)
Is it Possible? H R Ole Kulet
Book: Is It Possible?
Author: H R Ole Kutet
Publisher: Longhorn Publishers
Publication year: 1971 (Mine is the 2019 reprint)
“Is it Possible” is Ole Kulet’s debut novel. The story is set in the late 1940s and 1950s, in Kenya. The colonial government makes it compulsory for children to go to school. Lerionka, a young Maasai boy, is interested, but his father definitely is not. He doesn’t not see how anyone can be educated and still remain a Maasai warrior, or, in his words – It is not possible to hold a spear in one hand and books in the other, at the same time. So strong is his aversion to the idea of school that he is willing to send Lerionka away to Arusha to escape the Kenyan government’s enforcement of school attendance. This story illuminates the conflict between culture and modern life.
At one point, Lerionka, wonders what an educated boy he has met will do with his education. The way of life portrayed in the book left me with questions that have never crossed my mind before; Is school necessary? Is it necessary for success? What is success, in reality, and can one be happy traditionally, or has modern life made it impossible to be “successful” without formal education? It might have been possible, but alas, the sale of Maasai land and urban encroachment is interfering with the possibility of or happiness with a traditional life.
The book tells us a whole lot about Maasai culture and tradition. The Maasai impress me always, in their dignity, and also in the way they have maintained their customs. Reading this book, a number of things about my interactions with the Maasai began to make sense. Whenever I’m in car with a Maasai friend or neighbour and another Maasai (stranger) asks for a lift, I have often wondered how the two of them can talk non-stop. I finally understood why, in this book.
“Even when two people meet who do not know each other, it is customary for each of them to tell all that he knows about where he has come from. In turn, the other person does the same, giving news of the places he has come from. This is important because one always knows what is happening in the place one is going to visit. This way of exchanging news serves instead of newspapers and the radio.”
I recognised the Maasai way of seeming to simply accept the things they cannot do anything about; they don’t fight the reality of things.
“These things happen to men and you are a man.”
I am struck by how encumbered we are with aids and material good, leading Westernized lives. The Maasai, on the other hand, seem unencumbered. When Lerionka needs to travel, even for several months, he leaves as he is, with just a calabash of milk, a spear and a sword. He has no other attachments; he can leave, quite confident that he will find people who can help him along the way. What a way to live. And what an education on Maasai ways and realities. Ole Kulet went on to write 8 more books, all of which I understand show various aspects of Maasai culture. This is the only one I’ve read so far, and what a gem – it is a good record of culture that can be read and learned from by many future generations. I hope that more Kenyan writers will be similarly inspired.
About H R Ole Kulet
Henry Ole Kulet was raised in Narok, Kenya. He wrote 9 books, 3 of which won the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature, for Blossoms of the Savannah in 2009, Vanishing Herds in 2013 and The Elephant Dance in 2017. His other books are Become a Man, The Hunter, Maisha ya Hatari, Daughter of Maa, Moran No More and Bandits of Kibi.
Blossoms of the Savannah was a compulsory literature study book for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams.
I am a dark chocolate lover, red wine lover, but most of all, book lover who lives in Nairobi and is currently looking for love in Kenyan books.
Many, many years ago, as a student, my impression was that all Kenyan books were set in the colonial period, were to do with the fight for independence or handled the political situation in the country shortly after independence. I didn't think there were books that wrote current Kenyan lives that I could identify with. I am now seeking them out.