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Devil on the Cross

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  848 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
This remarkable and symbolic novel centers on Wariinga's tragedy and uses it to tell a story of contemporary Kenya.
Paperback, African Writers, 256 pages
Published October 23rd 1987 by Heinemann Educational Books (first published 1980)
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Community Reviews

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Mary Emily O'Hara
Jan 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
January: Novel number two for my African Lit class. This one is my favorite so far- politically enraged and theatrical, it utilizes magical realist-esque shifts in character and context, jumping in and out of reality and all over the African map. Written on toilet paper while Ngugi was in jail.

April: Ok- a few months an two research projects on Ngugi later, I can say that this book now holds a place in my personal canon of radical literature. Devil on the Cross is just incredible. Form and style
Aram Sohigian
Jan 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
have recently started reading about Africa and have to admit to being fairly ignorant about most African history and literature. Therefor, this review will be somewhat limited since I believe that the characters in this book are all based on cultural and social ideals and thoughts instead of actual “people” like many novels. This book was also written while Thiong’ o was in jail because of a play he wrote about the government. The then vice president of Kenya ordered his arrest. While imprisoned ...more
Ronald Morton
Sep 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
The master of ceremonies leaped on to the platform and called for silence. He addressed the audience and told them that this was a competition for thieves and robbers, real ones - that is, those who had reached international standards. Stories of people breaking padlocks in village huts or snatching purses from poor market women were shameful in the eyes of real experts in theft and robbery, and more so when such stories were narrated in front of international thieves and robbers. The foreigners
Jul 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
Looking back at my reflections on this, I'm reminded of this excellent blog post about women as allegorical figures. Ngũgĩ's construction of Jacinta Wariinga as an allegorical figure for all of Kenya's struggling working class ultimately rests on sexist assumptions about gender. While Ngugi is clearly pointing out that women are exploited by black and white men alike in Kenya, he turns this concept of gender oppression into a metaphor for class oppression; any struggle for equality must ultimate ...more
Jul 15, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: schooly, feministy
So far so boring. I feel bad judging it, seeing as I've read very little, but I don't think the translation works quite, it's missing its soul or something. Or maybe I just don't like the style. I don't get all the biblical or cultural or whatever-they-are where they just all of a sudden start telling a depressing story and repeating themselves or singing...Maybe I just don't get it, but it's not very engaging. And the names confuse me. Sooooo...finishing this book wil ...more
Jun 07, 2008 rated it it was ok
Two stars, that is what the author gets from me for trying so hard to complicate a story.

But Ngugi is such a brain; one of the literary legends out of East Africa. Sometimes i wish i didnt have to read his books for Lit class. Perhaps if i had read them out of school i would have been more appreciative of them. Reading them for class made me look at them in terms of what the questions would require.

I am making a weak promise to myself to re-read them.
Dec 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Overall, very interesting read. My only complaint is probably that it seemed reaaaaaaaaaaaally straightforward in its analogies, so much so that it could be predictable; at the same time, I'm not sure that this isn't just my perception as someone who 1) isn't a Gikuyu speaker, 2) is reading it after it's been translated to English, and 3) isn't watching it being acted out (as it's written in a way that very heavily lends itself to being acted out).

All that said, I still found it very enjoyable
Laura Avellaneda-Cruz
Aug 31, 2009 rated it it was ok
I hesitate between 2 and 3 stars because I loved what I learned from the book and the awareness that it renewed in me about neocolonial capitalist exploitation, and I love the strongly feminist awareness and message. However, the style of writing and the way the story was constructed read more like a treatise on leftist politics than a piece of art, and so as a novel it does not wholly succeed.

Now, it is true that I and many others would not have read a non-fiction treatise on how certain membe
Mar 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
My first book by a Kenyan author and - so far - last, as it is hard for me to imagine there to be another novel that could compare with this masterpiece. It's a bit shameless that I read this book for a class, but most books I have read were for classes, and now that classes are over my reading list has been pretty weak - save for selections from my father's collection of books published by the Harvard Business School and Spiritual Guide books by Hindu Swamis.
Back to class, we had to share 2 cop
Nov 04, 2013 rated it did not like it
This novel (or thinly-veiled, utterly unoriginal philosophical treatise) was an acute displeasure to read. If I had wanted to enjoy a dissertation on evil capitalist pigs, I would have read The Communist Manifesto. To compare it to The Communist Manifesto is actually an insult to The Communist Manifesto. At least Marx and Engels had the sense to stick to the realm of non-fiction (though I guess that's debatable.)

If you enjoyed this book, God bless you. You have a fortitude of spirit that I can o
Sofia Samatar
Apr 15, 2012 rated it liked it
The rhetoric is heavy here, but the critiques, particularly of the idea of "African Capitalism," are razor-sharp. Even if you find the politics and the one-dimensional nature of some of the characters a drag, the book is worth reading for that critique, and for the way it expresses oral stylistics in writing. When was the last time you read a book translated from an African language?
Jul 11, 2009 rated it liked it
I read this book in college, but it has stuck with me as one of the more articulate, fictional works about colonialism and Africa. It's relatively easy to follow the symbolism and to find parallels between the characters and today's political actors.
Nov 05, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
I read this for Post Colonial lit and then saw it on my bookshelf like 2 weeks later and couldn't remember if I'd read it or not. As far as I remember it was some allegorical something about communism. I said I didn't like allegory and somehow that was hegemonic. Unipolic. Draconian.
Anthea van den Bergh
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
Communist Manifesto meets Post-Independence Kenya meets Animal Farm. Incredibly difficult to read.
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This novel was written on toilet paper while the author was in prison and is the first modern novel written in Gikuyu. Ngũgĩ is often mentioned as a likely Nobel winner plus I had read about this novel in a work of postcolonial theology. So I was looking forward to it and was disappointed.

The story critiques capitalism and colonialist exploitation but it does so in a heavy handed way that reminded me of The Man Who Was Thursday or The Great Divorce--novels that get too heavy handed and preachy i
This was one of those super surprising reads that I dove into knowing nothing of the novel or its writer. Ngugi has an excellent lyrical tone and mixes folk wisdom with social/political theory expertly. The end was not how I thought it was going to go. I'd suggest this for those interested in Africa (Kenya, specifically); white imperialism; 21st century socialism/communism; feminism; and those simply looking to expand their world views.
May 19, 2017 rated it liked it
I've had Ngugi wa Thion'go on my want-to-read list for years and I'm glad I finally read one of his books. I love the pure patriotism and pain for what his beloved country was turning into that is evident in his written voice. This was an enjoyable read and I can't wait to read more of his work.
Hager Ragab
May 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
مسرحية للكاتب الكيني،تصور حال بلده وأثر الاستعمار عليها وعلي انسانها من خلال مجموعة شخوص تجمعهم احداث انسانية طافحة بالالم،كشف اسلوب المستعمر في القضاء علي روح الانسان الكيني.
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good book
Criticism of the capitalist society in Kenya
Jul 15, 2007 rated it liked it

This review be a lil sloppy cuz i'm just like piling all my thoughts about it together.....
When i first started the book, i wasn't very enthusiastic about it. There were a lot of things i didn't understand and the names and words in Gikuyu confused me. It took me a long time to get through the introduction/beginning section of the novel. However, the second half of the book was a lot more interesting and by then I became more familiar and comfortable with reading Ngũgĩ's style of writing. The bo
The novel's highlight was the way it linked patriarchy and predatory womanizing to the corruption rife within post-colonial Kenya. He beautifully parodied the "business" men of this time period by having an international thieves and robber competition and made excellent use of Biblical passages which he changed to show the relationship the new nation had to the former colonizer and other foreign companies. At times it was a bit melodramatic, but I really did enjoy watching Jacinta Wariinga becom ...more
Thomas Armstrong
Dec 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a strange book that mixed reality and fantasy (well, doesn't any good novel?), and spoke with great force about the struggle by Kenyans to free themselves from white European capitalistic oppression. I liked the ride to the strange meeting of the capitalists, and generally loved the critique that Ngugi makes about capitalism and it's greed and excesses. People in the West are often too quick to blame African warlordism for many of Africa's problems, but it is the continuation of Western ...more
Sep 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lit
Ngugi is one of the preeminent voices in East African Literature. I really haven't read very many East African novels, but I enjoyed the two of his book's I read. I remember this one better, so I decided to review it.

As with many colonial and post-colonial authors, Ngugi had a long history of fairly vocal dissent and conflict with government authority. In fact, this novel was reportedly composed on toilet paper while he was in a Kenyan prison. "Devil" is fundamentally revolutionary literature ai
Nov 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was amazing! You totally get a feel for the Kenyan voice, how Kenyans talk, sing, and live. None of the named characters are white, this a story about Kenyans by Kenyans. This isn't the easiest book to read, though it is hardly difficult, but it is a unique story-telling style; the characters converse mostly through proverbs, it's almost like a dialect, it's quite fascinating. The author's views on colonialism, capitalism, sexism, and racism go to the root of things. One of my favorite ...more
Manel Haro
Oct 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Novela de transformación que muestra como en Kenia las mujeres lo tienen muy complicado a la hora de buscar trabajo y construir un futuro si no es a cambio de sexo, como los ladrones actúan con impunidad mientras los inocentes son perseguidos, como los anónimos que lucharon por la independencia de Kenia son después olvidados, como la corrupción policial y política llega a todas partes, como aquellos que actúan en nombre de Dios actúan de manera poco humana, como los ricos cometen abusos de maner ...more
Jessica Lynne Gardner
Apr 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I appreciate books that don't scream their entire message right away. A good book should expect your undivided attention as well as your devotion to finding the trail of bread-crumbs that leads to the overall point. This did not disappoint. A book banned in many countries, there are plenty of fascinating shadows to explore within the darkness of this novel. Beautifully allegorical, religion, neo-colonialism, sexism and a rich history are left for the reader to make sense of and take sides. It is ...more
Susie Nazzaro
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Ngugi's use of a common biblical parable to set the stage for this entire book - which verges on magical realism - burned an image in my brain. I remember calling multiple people and reading the passage aloud where Ngugi twists the common parable of the master who leaves his servants with a resource (faith) and asks them to multiply it while he is gone. He then rewards those who multiplied the faith and punishes the one who does not. Ngugi's take is that of a white master leaving Africa, but put ...more
Tega Akati-udi
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Hands down, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it now has a spot on my favorite African novels ever along with half of a yellow sun and americanah. The writing of this novel is impeccable. The author cleverly uses intertextuality to his own advantage to criticize imperialism and it's woes. Wariinga's character is captivating. Her troubles and emotions are raw and you feel them just as much as she does. Her development through out the novel is amazing and makes me leap for joy at her growth into ...more
Apr 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: kenya
By far the weakest Ngugi I've read. While it still has some of the same great characterisation and pissed-off political analysis as Petals Of Blood and Wizard Of The Crow, it far too often turns into something that reads more like a play than a novel, where characters representing various factions simply recite long monologues of Post-Colonial Marxism 101 at each other. The fact that he wrote it while imprisoned for political crimes (supposedly, the chapters are of varying length because he wrot ...more
Susan Stroupe
Jul 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
This is one of my favorite books ever. Ngugi is certainly one of the master writers out of central/east Africa, and this is one of his masterworks. It captures the overall feel of post-Colonial Africa in storytelling what all those academic books seem to still strive to do. I had a much better sense of the situation in immediate post-Colonialism, and I think it's still very relevant today. The book itself is an amazing combination of narrative, song, and fable, so it might be slightly jarring to ...more
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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
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“Our people think: I , Wangari, a Kenyan by birth - how can I be a vagrant in my own country as if I were a foreigner.” 12 likes
“What Waringa tried hard to avoid was looking at the pictures of the walls and windows of the church. Many of the pictures showed Jesus in the arms of the virgin Mary or on the cross. But others depicted the devil, with two cow-like horns and a tail like a monkey's, raising one leg in a dance of evil, while his angels, armed with burning pitchforks, turned over human beings on a bonfire. The Virgin Mary, Jesus and God's angels were white, like European, but the devil and his angels were black.” 8 likes
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