A Grain of Wheat
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A Grain of Wheat

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  1,449 ratings  ·  73 reviews
Ngugi takes the reader back to the days preceding Kenya's independence. Mugo, a farmer and hero in the eyes of the villagers, is asked to deliver a speech during the Uhuru celebrations, to be held in memory of his friend Kihika. He refuses to make a speech and turns out to be a traitor.
Paperback, 247 pages
Published January 1st 1994 by Heinemann Educational Books (first published 1966)
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A Grain of Wheat centres a political narrative about the struggle for independence and liberation in Kenya; about rebellion against British imperialism, and on this level it is searing, laying bare the injustice from the point of view of a richly varied cast of rural Kenyan people. Ngugi draws on Conrad to nuance the idealistic, but cold and inhuman character of the white DO, Thompson. He gives space to the character of each of the people in the village, revealing their motives in all their ambi...more
Uhuru is a Swahili word that means freedom. It is a rallying cry for freedom fighters and the name given to the day when Kenya became an independent country in 1963. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o takes a magnifying glass to the feelings, motives and consciences of people caught up in the events leading up to Uhuru. Viewed from a distance of years and oceans, the lead-up to independence and ultimate triumph over the colonialists is unequivocally a time of celebration for Kenyans. Thiong'o dashes this picture...more
Thais Serrette
i found this book a little difficult to grasp and understand. The book continuously and unexpectedly went into flashback and it left me a bit confused, even though i do see this as one of the author's techniques and styles, I personally found it difficult to understand. I however have so much for Kenya and their struggle for independence and the trials and tribulations they went through, whether it be betrayal by their own people or by the British. It clearly depicted and painted a picture as to...more
Harry Rutherford
A Grain of Wheat is a novel about the inhabitants of a village in Kenya in 1963 in the last few days before the celebrations for Uhuru — that is, Kenyan independence. It was originally published in 1967, so the material was completely current at the time, although after finishing it that I read in the introduction that

Ngũgĩ revised A Grain of Wheat in 1987, to make the ‘world outlook’ of his peasants more in line with his ideas of the historical triumph of the oppressed.

and that

Ngũgĩ has said o...more
كلما أبحرت أكثر في الأدب الأفريقي، كلما تأكدت أكثر من أنه يخبئ النفائس بين حروفه، وكلما ازددت حبا لقراءة المزيد منه

وهذه رواية تستحق القراءة، أبدع فيها أنغوجي بطريقة سرده للأحداث، فأمتعنا بمراوحته بين الماضي والحاضر، وبين مشاهد يتركها هنيهة ليعود ويركز الضوء عليها ثانية، مصورا إياها بعدسة سينيمائي مبدع، في مشاهد تخلو من الترتيب الزمني التقليدي أو السرد العادي...متصاعدا بالسرد ليرتب قطع الأحجية فتتضح الصورة أكثر فأكثر مع كل مشهد...متغلغلا لعمق الشخوص وخبايا نفوسهم فيكشف عما خفي منهم

أنغوجي الذي عاد
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
A story of Kenyan independence and the toll the preceding struggle took on people.

Well, this is embarrassing--I don't know what to rate this. Based on the first couple pages I'd pegged it as a slog, and not expecting to enjoy it but feeling I should read it anyway for my world fiction challenge, read nearly half the book in a crowded place with divided attention. Turns out this is a complex story with a lot of names (many of them similar), a lot of jumping back and forth between past and present...more
Ngugi is one of my favorite authors. This novel is a stunning portrayal of British colonialism in Kenya in the lead up to Independence. What is most powerful is the narration that focuses on several characters through flashbacks about their relation to the British and to the Mau Mau resistance fighters. I especially love the way Ngugi portrays how many of these characters internalize colonialism and shows the damaging consequences of this not only on a personal level, but also on a communal one....more
This is an absolutely brilliant piece of literature describing life in a Kenyan village in the aftermath of the war with Britain in the 1960s, where each villager has their own secret about their actions during the violence, slowly tearing everyone apart. Despite the grim premise, I really enjoyed reading this and got a insight into the life of people in a very different world.

Will make you want to go to Kenya..
It took me a while to digest this book after I finished reading it because like many others have mentioned it contains many interwoven stories and the novel uses a lot of flashback.
Also, I was just not quite sure what the grain of wheat, whose produce could not be predicted at the time of planting, was exactly. I finally decided that it was the State of the Emergency.

With that the novel portrays the different effects that the State of Emergency in Kenya from 1952-1959, had on different people...more
Didacticism and related flaws aside, A Grain of Wheat is a perfect example of a character-driven novel. Mugo, Gikonyo, and the rest of the African characters are all fantastically drawn out, and I'm far more interested in their interplay then their relationship with the crudely drawn colonialist Thompson. And when I see how those very human, very flawed characters try to make do in tough times-- trying to maintain their livelihoods, betraying each other politically and sexually-- I find A Grain...more
I used to assign this book to high school students. The Mau Mau rebellion and the emergency are exciting to history students, I think. When you think of all the similar stories of a colonial policy of concentration camps during a rebellion, the US in Vietnam and the Philippines, the Germans in South West Africa, the French in Algeria, the British in Malaysia and so on, this book is as relevant as anything to world history. Also it might be the single best piece of art about those experiences (po...more
I took it upon myself to read a bit about Ngugi wa Thiong’o and learned that he was a follower of Fanonist Marxism, if that wasn’t already clear from the motifs found in A Grain of Wheat, and that he drew from his personal experiences in Kenya. For example, he had a brother who joined the Mau Mau and another brother who had been killed. Thiong’o’s A Grain of Wheat depicts the events in 1963 that led up to Uhuru, Kenya’s independence day, within the townships of the Kikuyu people. The novel focu...more
I read the Penguin Classics version of this book. This is the second book I have read by Ngugi and I found it difficult to get through. One, I read it in bits and second he uses a lot of interwoven narratives and flashbacks throughout the book. The story captures the brutality of the "Emergency" and British rule in colonial Kenya. Even though I am familiar with the history, the horror of what happened then is truly unfathomable. It leaves indelible scars on the survivors. One of the main charact...more
Dec 17, 2013 Tinea rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: not your 1st Ngugi book! ngugi's amazing but start somewhere easier!
Don't have time yet to write this up, and besides, I'm currently stewing in that post-getting-wolloped thoughtfulness of a complex book I haven't fully dissected. I might start over and review after my second round on this one. We're talking treason, forgiveness, courage/weakness, and about ten other really deep themes he rips open and lets fall all over the place. Damn, Ngugi, packin it in.
"A Grain of Wheat" is a compelling account of the turbulence that inflamed Kenya in the 1950s and its impact on people's lives. The novel takes us to the middle when the Mau Mau rebellion erupts in colonial Kenya. The story itself is compelling, detailing both African and European characters' perspectives on Kenyans' struggle for independence from Britain. Just for the story alone, the book is an intriguing page-turner that completely satisfies. But beyond that, it has a powerful and inspiration...more
Pleased that I read a classic that's been on my to-read list for far too long, though I have read other works by Ngugi (including Matigari, I Will Marry When I Want, and some of the iconic essays). The story of A Grain of Wheat is engrossing, there is a wide array of characters, both European and Kenyan, and the themes of war and its effects, motivation, honesty, changes in people and relationships, and more, are unsettling and stirring. This is a work that leads to deep reflection. We come to I...more
Claire C-g
Ngugi signed my copy of this book. He is very charming, I was very starstruck.
Robert Beveridge
James Ngugi, A Grain of Wheat (Heinemann, 1967)

Another entry (the thirty-seventh, to be precise) in Heinemann's always above average African Writers Series. Ngugi gives us the story of Kenya on the verge of independence (the action takes place in the days before, and the day after, Uhuru). While the book's main focus purports to be on one of his principal town's inhabitants, Gikonyo, it soon becomes evident that the story is about the town itself. And this is where Ngugi falls short.

The structur...more
Apr 08, 2009 Janey rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: read-2009
I found this book difficult to get into/get used to at first, but after clearing the hurdle of remembering the abundance of unfamiliar sounding character names (at least 35 separate characters who have some degree of significance to the plot! I suggest, if you have similar such trouble upon cracking open this egg, reading in front of a computer and keeping a Word document open to alphabetically list names-of plus corresponding descriptions-of characters, so that you can refer to it as needed), I...more
This is much more of an indictment of colonialism than Paradise, which is understandable in the context. The route to independence for Kenya was a violent and divisive one, while Tanzania had a mostly peaceful transition.
The book is set post-independence, but concerns memories of actions during the 'unrest'. All the characters did things, or failed to do something they could have done, which they examine in the run-up to the independence celebrations. Very few of these actions and the motives fo...more
Jan 07, 2011 Meg rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those interested in African literature but disappointed by Things Fall Apart
I went into this novel comparing it to Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, which in spite of its many rave reviews I found to be relatively underwhelming. In my opinion, A Grain of Wheat was much better, but also very different.

The structure and style of A Grain of Wheat is certainly more complex and underscores Ngũgĩ's experience and education with western literature. Additionally, he includes a white colonial perspective on Kenya's independence, and while this view isn't as clearly developed as...more
I really enjoyed reading this, definitely more than I was expecting to. I deals with colonialism and independence in Kenya and follows multiple perspectives focalised around Uhuru- the day of celebrating Independence. The writing is probably what makes this book stand out so much for me, and the narrative itself is really clever, especially as sometimes the type of narrative will change in quite subtle ways. While only taking place across a few days, it deals with about 15 years of Kenyan histor...more
Mika Auramo
James Ngugin Nisun jyvä-romaanissa (suom. Seppo Loponen, a Grain of Wheat) tapahtumat sijoittuvat 1950-luvun lopun Keniaan. Aiheena ovat englantilaisten siirtomaaherrojen harjoittama terrori ja sen seurannaisvaikutukset, esim. keskitysleirit ja vapaustaistelun tukahduttaminen.

Pääosin tapahtumapaikkana on vankileirejä lukuun ottamat syrjäinen Rung’ein kaupunki ja sen lähistö. Rakenne on oivallisen mielenkiintoinen, sillä ihmisten sankarina pitämä Mugo paljastetaan petturiksi, ja marttyyrikapinall...more
A masterpiece. The characters are sharply drawn and the plot is indisputably powerful. I am very moved by the depth of characterization (helped along by the seamless omniscient point of view; this gently reminds readers of the inner struggles, innate morality, and complexity of even the characters (and/or actions) we are initially eager to hate.

Perhaps I'm oversimplifying something that I don't understand fully, but I would say that the thrust of Ngugi's argument is that the political situation...more
Nicholas During
Grain of Wheat is a great example of political/historical fiction. At times Ngugi states his political theories of the end of colonialism in Kenya more than creates in depth characters, but wide range of heroes villains lovers rival white black successes and failures give this book the wide perspective that helps to understand a complicated issue. By focusing on a small village rather than the metropolis of Nairobi or the heroics of Jomo Kenyatta Ngugi shows how the struggle of decolonization- c...more
A Grain of Wheat centers on Kenya's Uhuru, its attainment of independence and self-government, a time of celebration and pride. But Thiong'o uses it as a backdrop for a dark drama that is anything but celebratory. It is bleak and difficultly written. The first time I tried to read it I couldn't become immersed in it the way one should, but it is worth the effort.

The village of Thabai is to host a ceremony for Uhuru and the elders decide that since a famous local hero Kihika was killed in the str...more
This book is fantastic on so many levels. It's set on the eve of Kenya's independence and manages to humanize a complicated and bloody history in a way that lots of books set around war don't. It tracks a few different people and their experiences--yes, experiences which are all colored by racial tensions and colonialist rule and revolution, but somehow the author manages to keep the story true to each individual experience rather than resorting to broad generalizations about oppression and war....more
Mikko Saari
It's the advent of independence in Kenya. The main character in this book is Mugo, a silent, humble man, who has attained some reputation as a hero, after surviving concentration camps. He, however, carries a heavy secret that will eventually set him free on the uhuru day, the day of independence and freedom. This was an interesting book, but if you're not looking for a historical story, I suggest you start with Wizard of the Crow, which is both more interesting and more relevant today.
Ray Smith
Very confusing at the beginning--seems almost all the characters had names that started with K, M, or W!--but it got pretty good quickly. Interesting slice of something I know nothing about: Kenyan colonialism then independence.
Jul 25, 2014 Julia added it
A little difficult to get into but an awesome story by the end. The author tells the story without judgement - an interesting take on cultural values and relativism.
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Kenyan teacher, novelist, essayist, and playwright, whose works function as an important link between the pioneers of African writing and the younger generation of postcolonial writers. After imprisonment in 1978, Ngũgĩ abandoned using English as the primary language of his work in favor of Gikuyu, his native tongue. The transition from colonialism to postcoloniality and the crisis of modernity ha...more
More about Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o...
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“Our fathers fought bravely. But do you know the biggest weapon unleashed by the enemy against them? It was not the Maxim gun. It was division among them. Why? Because a people united in faith are stronger than the bomb” 2 likes
“In any case how many took the oath and are now licking the toes of the whiteman?No, you take an oath to confirm a choice already made. The decision to lay or not lay your life for the people lies in the heart. The oath is the water sprinkled on a man's head at baptism” 1 likes
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