The Book of Secrets

M.G. Vassanji

The Book of Secrets

In this multi-generational historical novel, retired history teacher Pius Fernandes comes across the 1913 diary of British colonial officer Alfred Corbin, who was in charge of a community of South Asians in Kenya. Pius delves into the document, and learns more about the complicated lives of the people in that era. In the process, he is forced to re-evaluate his own sense of identity and his place in the world

The Book of Secrets won the inaugural Giller Prize in 1994.


They called it the book of our secrets, kitabu cha siri zetu. Of its writer they said: He steals our souls and locks them away; it is a magic bottle, this book, full of captured spirits; see how he keeps his eyes skinned, this mzungu, observing everything we do; look how meticulously this magician with the hat writes in it, attending to it more regularly than he does to nature, with more passion than he expends on a woman. He takes it with him into forest and on mountain, in war and in peace, hunting a lion or sitting in judgement, and when he sleeps he places one eye upon it, shuts the other. Yes, we should steal this book, if we could, take back our souls, our secrets from him. But the punishment for stealing such a book is harsh - ai! - we have seen it.

From The Book of Secrets by M.G. Vassanji ©1994. Published by Emblem Editions.