P Ochieng Ochieng’s Pastor-Malaya documents an unravelling relationship between the unlikeliest of couples, a pastor and prostitute, in ways that put faith at the centre of both their attraction to each other and, ultimately, inspires bad blood between them, threatening their relationship. Pastor-Malaya has been longlisted for The Short Story is Dead, Long Live the Short Story!(2018)
What was the germination of your story?
I would turn on the TV and just about every channel had a preacher dressed in designer clothes and gold rings, screaming at a worked-up audience, a congregation that seemed ready to gouge out their very own eyes if the preacher desired it of them. What had become of the modesty associated with religous leaders? What had become of the solemness attributed to worship? I remembered the reverence with which my parents held our parish priest and the humble dignity with which he conducted himself. I am certain, my mum would have done almost anything the pastor would have asked of her, yet the unassuming priests never abused their position, then. Fast forward to the current evangelical churches where priests aware of the power and influence they wield over their congregations make ridiculous demands upon them, even abusing them. That got me writing the story.
In what way would you say your writing is political?
It interrogates how people relate to power.
What is your opinion on religion, especially regarding how it is talked about in Africa?
It is used to explain away our shortcomings; our inadequacies. Phrases like ʾIn shāʾa llāh pepper our literature.
What lesson are you hoping readers will take from your story?
The lesson is that, like all other human activities, religion too requires auditing. Pastor [one of the story’s main characters] is only human.
Religion is used to explain away our shortcomings; our inadequacies.P Ochieng Ochieng
What advice would you give begining writers?
Read and write.