There’s a prostitute in every literary mind – Daily Nation – At least in Prof Macharia’s seminar, I heard a few names I’d come across before — the Kenyan Ngugi wa Thiong’o, the Nigerians Chinua Achebe, Christopher Okigbo, and Amos Tutuola, and the Caribbean writers V.S. Naipaul, Samuel Selvon, and Vic Reid as artists who have used the modernist tradition to undermine colonial aesthetics. I also listened to Prof Peter Kalliney of the University of Kentucky talk about how during the Cold War, the CIA would use NGOs like the Paris-based Congress for Cultural Freedom to sponsor African writing. Such literary and publishing luminaries as Wole Soyinka, Es’kia Mphahlele, and Rajat Neogy received money from the CIA without knowing the unholy sources of the funding. Even the much-vaunted 1962 Makerere conference of “African writers of the English Expression,” which drew writers like our Ngugi, Grace Ogot, and Rebeka Njau, was covertly sponsored by the CIA. Once in a while, the unwitting CIA beneficiaries would bring out a leftist publication such as the Mbari Society’s publication of Alex la Guma’s A Walk in the Night (1962). But the American spy agency tended to favour the much less politically inflected modernist art for art’s sake, which Achebe once described as “deodorised dog-shit”. When he won the Nobel Prize in 1986, Soyinka’s Nigerian detractors claimed that he had received money from the CIA. But it turned out that almost all the writers they praised vis-à-vis Soyinka had been subsidised by the CIA in some way.