The Most Cherished @ #CBF2016

Posted: 2016/07/30 in Blogging
Tags: ,

This year, my dearest treasure is an anthology of stories, poems, essays, and the making of poems.

Its story is one that I am both ashamed and thrilled to tell. Before I chose it for this post, I searched thoroughly for a replacement. But there was none.

Sometime in February 2011, I felt low. Too low. The lowest I have ever felt. So I thought I could buy some pills.

In the morning, I went around town buying them from different shops till I had 280 of them. Then I bought 500ml of water and made my way to Ngong Hills, into the forests and bushes there. I wanted to just lie down and forget the world for good.

But before I could do that, I, somehow, remembered my books and a fierce sense of jealousy gripped me. I said, “Who’s going to have those books?” I couldn’t remember one person who liked books enough to care for them.

So I returned to the house, packed all my books in a plastic bag and took them to the Kenya National Library. From the library, as I was passing the city mortuary on Ngong Road, I thought, “Why should my body rot in the bush when I can donate it?”

That resolved me and I started for the University of Nairobi. I went to the Chiromo Campus mortuary, which is attached to the medical lab, to inquire how the bodies for medical practice were obtained. The attendant said it is a very long procedure involving relatives and lawyers, and that I should visit the legal department in Main Campus for more information.

I thought, “No relatives!”

Needless to say, I didn’t go to the lawyers. But I was still determined to go to Ngong Hills, and so I went downtown for a bus. It was just past 5pm. Given the immortal jam on Ngong Road, I would get to my destination well after 9pm. The better.

But just outside the Kenya Archives, when I could see one of the NMOA buses, which go to Ngong, right ahead of me, my eyes wandered to a book peddler by the road. He had spread his merchandise on the ground.

And there I saw the book. The book.

The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Seventh Edition of Volume 2.


I’m ashamed to say I picked it up and weighed it in my hands, felt it, smelled it, almost kissed it. It felt so real, so fine, so infinitely priceless.

I saw T.S. Eliot in it. Stephen King had quoted a verse from The Wastelands in The Dark Tower III. It was a great verse.

Mary Shelly was also there, with almost everyone else from Anne Laetitia Barbauld, William Blake, all the way to the likes of Doris Lessing, Anita Desai, Nadine Gordimer, etc. A century of treasure.

How could I just leave it there, huh?

I’m more ashamed to say I bought it. That night, I didn’t kill myself with the pills. I killed myself with stories and poems of invaluable value. They helped me forget certain very bad things.

Later on, I started missing the books I had taken to the Library and began buying them one by one. I have most of them now.

Thank you for reading and for participating in the Cherished Blogfest #CBF2016

  1. That is a great book and a lovely post. I once had a great collection of books, but then I had space issues, so I started giving it away to people who need it. I still have few Jeffrey Deaver novels in my collection. Want some?

  2. Amazing post !

  3. wgr56 says:

    This is really excellent, very moving. This is a precious line: “That night, I didn’t kill myself with the pills. I killed myself with stories and poems of invaluable value. They helped me forget certain very bad things.” Very cherished indeed, thank you!

  4. bikerchick57 says:

    Peter, thanks for sharing a pivotal point in your life. I’m so glad that books and reading won over the darker thoughts in your mind and that you are here today to share this incredible story. Wonderful post!

  5. Peter. I’m so so sorry you felt you had to buy pills. I can’t say I understand what you went through at the time, but I can tell you I’m glad you didn’t take them. Hugs, my friend.

    I’m also grateful to your books, and The book. This might be best argument for books there is.

    Thankyou for sharing this, I feel privileged to have read it.

    • Peter Nena says:

      Hi Damyanti. Thank you, my dear friend. Between 2010 and 2011, I had the worst days of my life. And because I’m given to analysing life too much (I can’t help it), to asking deep questions about this society and our relations to one another and the consequences of our interactions, I felt lost and hopeless. I didn’t see a single reason why I should continue to endure a nightmare. But now I’m glad I lived.

  6. Dan Antion says:

    I am so happy that your love for your books pulled you back from the edge Peter. Parts of your journey remind me of one of your stories, perhaps now I understand how you were able to make those simple scenes seem so scary. I hope the dark times are truly behind you and I hope you are able to complete the recreation of your library. I know it wasn’t meant to be funny, but I had to laugh a little when you said “no relatives” – I have relatives like that.

    thanks so much for sharing this!

    • Peter Nena says:

      Thank you Dan. I didn’t want them knowing what I had in mind or even that I planned to donate my body afterwards. It was a harshest time for me but I’m all right now. If that book hadn’t saved me, I would never met you guys. I hate to contemplate that.

  7. dweezer19 says:

    What a perfect moment of opportunity Peter. Niw I add it to my own cherished objects. Fir what would the world be without you in it? Perhaps one of your donated books has saved another weary soul along this twisted path we call life…much love, my friend. You are cherished by Creation.

  8. John Hric says:

    You story gives a whole new meaning to the words ‘a good book.’ Thanks for telling your story.

  9. Shailaja V says:

    Oh Peter! This post means so much to me in so many ways. First, I am a student of Literature and I absolutely love the Norton Anthology you mentioned here. It was my go-to book for almost 7 years as I studied advanced language and literature.

    Second, I lived in Nairobi for 5 years! What a small world. I fell in love with the place and a part of me has wanted to go back for a long time. I started studying the greats when there and took them with me wherever I went.

    Third, I am a depression/bipolar survivor who attempted suicide twice and this feeling you speak of overwhelmed me so much during that time. I am so glad that books and your love for the great writers brought you back from an irreversible decision.

    So glad!

    Thank you for this post. I shall bookmark it and read again on the days I feel low.

    • Peter Nena says:

      Hi Shailaja. Thank you so much for connecting. I’m glad you’ve been to Nairobi and that you liked it. The book is unequalled for any student of literature. The old writers, even the ancient writers, they had a mastery of language that we seem to have lost along the way. I love them, if only for the language!
      Thank you again.

  10. Julia Lund says:

    Reblogged this on Julia Lund and commented:

    A heart-touching post that reminds me how powerful stories are, how important it is to pass them on.

    • Peter Nena says:

      Thank you Julia. Stories are invaluable. Sometimes we don’t know what we pick them, but whatever it is that we pick, they stick with us, modifying us, guiding us along. I never underrate the power of a story. Thank you!

  11. Julia Lund says:

    I am so glad you found that book, Peter. Or maybe, it found you?

  12. “I killed myself with stories and poems”

    • Peter Nena says:

      Hi Diana. Long time! How are you?
      It was indeed the moment of resurrection. From a depressed, death-seeking spirit to alive one relishing the immortal words of the best writers in history. Thank you!

  13. Peter this post went right through me. In my mid-30’s I went into severe depression. There were reasons, yes, but also I think there is depression in my alcoholic family. Anyway, I had almost no energy, and sat for hours on end. Not like me at all. Finally I decided I was going to kill myself. I had just had enough. So, I began to set about how I was going to do it. I didn’t want to hurt my family, so needed to get crafty, and also quietly began tying up loose ends. So here I had been sitting, motionless, for hours each day, and suddenly I had activity. The day went on, and somewhere toward the end of it my best buddy Toes was laying on my chest looking into my eyes. I realized that I’d walked through the darkness to the other side. Somehow in the activity of picking a path had caused a shift, and I am not sure why. These things need to be discussed more in our society and I am glad you shared a story that I am also sorry you had to endure. Co-host here, but you know that…. Kate

    • Peter Nena says:

      Hi Kate. I’m so sorry you had the same ordeal. I’m glad you lived through it. Depression is dangerous. The sinking in the heart, the hopelessness, the dead spirit. It is the worst thing. It kills the soul before the actual death sets in. Thank you Kate.

  14. My husband has had two suicides in his family. And I have fought depression in my life several times. As Kate says, this has to be discussed out in the open. Your story sent an electric shock through me. I am going to share it in hopes that it will help someone else. You never know.

  15. Debbie D. says:

    What a terrible low point you must have experienced to collect all those pills! Thank goodness you happened upon this wonderful book and saved your own life. Definitely an item to be cherished.

  16. Paul says:

    Your book saved you! Wow. As a bibliophile myself, I was really impressed by this. I’m glad things worked out as they did. Thanks for sharing this experience, Peter.

  17. Kalpanaa says:

    My goodness – what a fabulous story. I’m so glad that the book found you and exerted its spell over you.

  18. I can empathize…more than once, books have saved me.

  19. joannesisco says:

    This book did nothing short of save your life. It’s value is beyond any measure!

  20. Shilpa Garg says:

    I was holding my breath as I read this post. I am so glad that the written words and stories changed the course of your life. Thanks for sharing your story!

  21. agmoye says:

    Sometimes the simplest things can change the direction a life is headed and give new direction to someone that has lost direction. That is one of the great thing about books, they can spark an idea or a new life.

  22. miladyronel says:

    “That night, I didn’t kill myself with the pills. I killed myself with stories and poems of invaluable value. They helped me forget certain very bad things.” A very moving story. Books help us to forget our tragic reality for a while, they can even soothe us. I’m glad you found solace in the written word. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Peter, what a powerful post! Truly divine intervention! The book saved you, those wonderful pages that transport us. I’m so glad! Healing comes in many forms and you are a survivor. I wish my own brother had been- but you are! I’m so glad I read this story. Thank you for sharing it. Blessings and joy dear Peter- and much success!

    • Peter Nena says:

      Cybele, I’m so happy to hear from you! Did you move successfully? I have moved once and it was truly strenuous. So all the best in the endeavour, my dear. I’m so sorry about your brother. We never know where the healing is going to come from, but it comes. Thank you, Cybele. And lots of love from here!

  24. Wonderful post for the cherished blog fest. What better item to make you embrace life: the beauty and eloquence of words, from the great authors. Wise decision, so glad you were saved and that book saved you.

  25. Reblogged this on K Y R O S M A G I C A and commented:

    I meant to join in The Cherished Blogfest this year but what with job hunting, book editing, etc, I haven’t been able to find the time. Then I came across this wonderful post from Peter Nena. A must see Reblog. What more fitting item can you cherish – the book that saves you from death. This is to give thought to all those on the brink of contemplating suicide. I pray you find that special moment that saves you and your family and friends from tragedy, irreversable loss, and pain. Words are indeed life. Where would we be without them?

  26. willowdot21 says:

    I do hope you are feeling much better now, it is amazing how that book saved you. May you be filled with joy peace and light!

  27. simonfalk28 says:

    Peter, this is a truly remarkable story. I’m glad you bought that book and are still with us. I studied volume 1 of the Norton Anthology at uni many moons ago. Volume 2 sounds just as good. Thanks for sharing. The landscape of our lives would vary a little, but I empathise with you. Many years ago poetry, friends and a mother’s love brought me back from the brick. We are grateful that you still read and still write.

  28. M. L. Kappa says:

    Very strong and emotional post, Peter. I always knew books were life-saver. Marina

  29. swamiyesudas says:

    Thank You for sharing this, my Dear Peter! I admire Your Courage indeed. Makes an Excellent Example.

    Am also Very glad You bought that Book. And the Idea of ‘Killing oneself with a Book by reading it’ is simply Marvellous! More People should do that.

    Incidentally, I too have given away my collection of books at least 3 times in my life, and I regret all of them! Can’t even buy them back!

    Wish You ALL the Best in Life. Hearty Regards. 🙂

  30. swamiyesudas says:

    Reblogged this on lovehappinessandpeace and commented:

    An Astonishing Sharing from a Friend in Our Blogging world!

    His Idea of Killing oneself with a Book is to be Emulated.

    Thank You, Peter, for sharing all this with Us. I admire Your Courage indeed. Makes an Excellent Example.

    Am also Very glad You bought that Book. And the Idea of ‘Killing oneself with a Book by reading it’ is simply Marvellous! More People should do that.

    Incidentally, I too have given away my collection of books at least 3 times in my life, and I regret all of them! Can’t even buy them back! 🙂

  31. pjlazos says:

    I think books and writing have saved my life on more than one occasion. At least one U.S. President had his life literally saved (Teddy Roosevelt) when book stopped a bullet. The alienation and isolation we all feel free time to time is exacerbated by world events and the chaos we all seem to be going through these days. I wish you peace and a non-reactive, joy-filled existence and may the right book always be there at the right time. 😘

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