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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kenya and Charles Dickens: Great expectations | The Economist

Some parts of Kenya can justly be called Dickensian

AFRICAN cities have no Victorian poor laws or workhouses, yet their mix of cruelty and vibrancy smacks of Charles Dickens, 200 years after his birth. By some counts, Africa has 75m orphans, many of them exploited in ways described by Dickens. A Kenyan comic, called Shujaaz, is soon to tell the tale of a modern-day Oliver Twist. To be known as Titus Twist, he is an apprentice to a coffin-maker and survives against all odds in an urban jungle akin to the vast slums of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.

How would Dickens’s Artful Dodger, the pickpocket friend of Oliver/Titus, handle the venality of Kenya’s modern politicians, the hypocrisy of its churchmen or the sanctimony of foreign charity-dispensing NGOs? If Titus stole as brazenly as Oliver did for Fagin, he might be stoned or “necklaced” with a burning tyre by a mob. “The Dodger would have a kiosk run by one of his girlfriends, be a rapper, go to church,” reckons a Shujaaz producer.

Kenya and Charles Dickens: Great expectations | The Economist

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