Snakepit by Moses Isegawa
Literature & Fiction | Contemporary
Knopf; First Edition edition (March 16, 2004)
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Bat Katanga is a Ugandan just returned to his homeland after two years in Britain. While he completed a postgraduate degree at Cambridge, he watched from afar as “flag independence [gave] way to economic independence” in Uganda, his chances to make a fortune there increasing with each “reform” imposed by Idi Amin. Now, when Bat lands a job as Bureaucrat Two in the Ministry of Power and Communications, he feels himself entering the top echelons of government, his sense of honor and honesty firmly intact: “Everything seemed to have been building to this moment, his triumphant entry into the bastions of power.” But when he is threatened into taking a bribe from a Saudi prince, he unwittingly begins a journey—both psychological and physical—into the darkest and most dangerous precincts of the madness that was Amin’s Uganda.
As Bat’s life begins to unravel, we see the men and women whose lives intersect his: General Bazooka, his superior at the ministry—“a creature of people’s fears and prejudices”—a man slowly losing Amin’s approval, and with it any sense of safety or sanity; Victoria, who bears both Bat’s child and a deadly grudge against him; Bat’s family and friends, coping with the advantages and disadvantages of connection to someone in high places; Bat’s wife, Babit, who pays the ultimate price for his mistakes; Robert Ashes, the mercenary Englishman who insinuates himself into Amin’s trust—and who will be the only one left standing after Amin’s downfall.
Snakepit is an extraordinarily revealing, deeply humanizing exploration of the experience of virulent corruption. It is a fiercely compelling novel.