Henry's Reviews > Wizard of the Crow

Wizard of the Crow by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
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's review
Aug 17, 2009

it was ok
Read in July, 2009

I read some Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o back in my teens, and remember not disliking "Weep Not, Child" (I don't remember my reaction more specifically, but then I'm not sure my literary opinions --especially when the reading was assigned-- were developed enough to where I really had a feeling for "I liked it" over "I read it"). "Wizard of the Crow" I put down before the story really picked up. Maybe. Certainly the story had not picked up, and I can only hope it does eventually.

Why am I reviewing this, when I say I haven't really read it? For one thing I was about 50 pages in. For another I have a strong feeling that this book will only be really enjoyed by readers well versed in African storytelling traditions (perhaps East African, specifically). It feels like it's probably a neo-traditional African epic. I thought that having read and read about a good deal of post-colonial literature, and especially post-colonial African literature, I'd be prepared, but (I think) "Wizard of the Crow" requires a knowledge of East Africa's traditional epics (I honestly could not tell you what they are or if there are any) and story-telling techniques.

Are the horrible acts of the crazy dictator laughable antics? Terrible injustices? I know that they're both of course - horrible, and darkly funny in their craziness, the sort of thing you have to laugh at because there's nothing else to be done- but I don't know it was meant to come across... And it's written with a storyteller quality that says "the telling of this story was designed; it's supposed to come across in a certain way."

Then, also, what I suppose is a long introduction _feels_ like a standard part of some literary form I don't know about. Chorus in Henry V, maybe, or Numbers, or the politico/family history that opens Beowulf.

In short, "Wizard of the Crow" is probably good --for all I know very good-- but only if you know what you're reading.

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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Andrea Webster Hmmm. I read this book and loved it, and I don't know beans about African storytelling traditions. And it sounds as if you know more about East Africa. I don't think it is a neo-traditional African epic at all. To me it seems to be a very modern fictional work. Sort of a cross between magical realism and political satire. But hey, you didn't like it. No problem, but I don't think it was because of your lack of background - just not your cup of bush tea!

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