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Kenya in 2016 > March Author: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

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message 1: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Our March author is Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

From his wikipedia page, a short bio:

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o (Gikuyu pronunciation: [ᵑɡoɣe wa ðiɔŋɔ]; born 5 January 1938)[1] is a Kenyan writer, formerly working in English and now working in Gikuyu. His work includes novels, plays, short stories, and essays, ranging from literary and social criticism to children's literature. He is the founder and editor of the Gikuyu-language journal Mũtĩiri.

In 1977, Ngũgĩ embarked upon a novel form of theatre in his native Kenya that sought to liberate the theatrical process from what he held to be "the general bourgeois education system", by encouraging spontaneity and audience participation in the performances.[2] His project sought to "demystify" the theatrical process, and to avoid the "process of alienation [that] produces a gallery of active stars and an undifferentiated mass of grateful admirers" which, according to Ngũgĩ, encourages passivity in "ordinary people".[2] Although Ngaahika Ndeenda was a commercial success, it was shut down by the authoritarian Kenyan regime six weeks after its opening.[2]

Ngũgĩ was subsequently imprisoned for over a year. Adopted as an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, the artist was released from prison, and fled Kenya. In the United States, he taught at Yale University for some years, and has since also taught at New York University, with a dual professorship in Comparative Literature and Performance Studies, and at the University of California, Irvine. Ngũgĩ has frequently been regarded as a likely candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature.[3][4][5] His son is the author Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ.[6]

be sure to read his biography at his author website as well.

he also has a facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/NgugiwaThion...

here he is discussing language:
https://youtu.be/vGoBJphmcd0


message 2: by Zanna (new)

Zanna (zannastar) | 191 comments Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is one of my favourite authors. I would put him in my top five with Octavia E. Butler, Ursula K. Le Guin, Angela Carter and bell hooks, for enjoyment & admiration. His book Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature, along with The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative by Thomas King and Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde has affected the way I think about life and literature more than any other work.

I am planning to read The River Between and Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir in March.


message 3: by Zanna (new)

Zanna (zannastar) | 191 comments Further to my previous post - I've done a bit of research and noticed that Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o's first novel Weep Not, Child has a character named Njoroge, the name of a character in The In-Between World of Vikram Lall by M.G. Vassanji, and I'm suspicious. Did Vassanji intend his book as a reply to the classic? I'm reading Weep Not Child as a matter of priority!


message 4: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Interesting observation! I read that book way back in college and if I recall correctly, it's short. I think I will also revisit it this month!


message 5: by Tinea, Nonfiction Logistician (new)

Tinea (pist) | 370 comments Mod
If anyone has trouble finding a copy of any of his books, private message me & I can probably help out. :)


message 6: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 543 comments Well, I guess this is another opportunity for me to read Wizard of the Crow. This book has lingered on my shelf unread for too long!


message 7: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Same here, Beverly!


message 9: by Soscha (new)

Soscha | 4 comments Beverly wrote: "Well, I guess this is another opportunity for me to read Wizard of the Crow. This book has lingered on my shelf unread for too long!"

I have it on the TBR shelf for this year. It's a door stopper though--784 pages!


message 10: by Jenny (new)

Jenny | 17 comments Same here. I had every intention of reading Wizard of the Crow right away when I bought it a few years ago... Now, I really will.


message 11: by Nina (new)

Nina Chachu | 205 comments Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "I am planning to read Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature."
Not a very long book, and quite interesting. I read it last year.


message 12: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 543 comments Soscha wrote: "Beverly wrote: "Well, I guess this is another opportunity for me to read Wizard of the Crow. This book has lingered on my shelf unread for too long!"

I have it on the TBR shelf for th..."


LOL - It seems just about every book I am putting onto my immediate read book is a door stopper this year.


message 13: by Zanna (new)

Zanna (zannastar) | 191 comments Wizard of the Crow is big but I found it quite a quick read anyway = )


message 14: by Carolien (new)

Carolien (carolien_s) | 408 comments Wizard of the Crow is what my library can provide so it will have to be the one for this month.


message 15: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Oh gosh! I want to read Wizard but I won't be able to get to it until the end of the month! Oh dear.


message 16: by Carolien (new)

Carolien (carolien_s) | 408 comments I'm not in a hurry. I have other things to read in the meantime and a ton of work.


message 17: by Tinea, Nonfiction Logistician (last edited Mar 03, 2016 11:49AM) (new)

Tinea (pist) | 370 comments Mod
I'm still deciding... torn between Wizard of the Crow (though everyone's enthusiasm here might be the push I need), or a memoir, or one of his more obscure books of essays. I don't have a copy of the play that got him arrested, I Will Marry When I Want (which he discusses in Decolonising the Mind!), but I thought that would be an interesting read as well if I can track it down.

Ngugi's also one of my favorite authors. I LOVED Petals of Blood and A Grain of Wheat; they both pack so much literary beauty and anti-colonial critical history into their stories. Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature is essential reading for any student of African literature. I read Weep Not, Child in college, like a few of you-- I think it would be a great read for anyone who wants to tackle one of the nonfiction books on the Mau Mau rebellion & its respression by the British (like Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya).


message 18: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I couldn't find my copy of Weep Not, Child so i just got a library copy. I do know where my copy of Wizard of the Crow is. So...i think my plan is to see where my head is once i accomplish a completely unrelated reading project this month. But i'm looking forward to seeing what everyone reads and their thoughts in the meantime!


message 19: by Zanna (new)

Zanna (zannastar) | 191 comments I'm struggling to find the time to go pick up the books I've ordered - I might end up running behind, but hopefully the discussion running into next month won't be too annoying! I'm working on my review of Vikram Lall and I'm impatient to read Weep Not, Child before I finish it. I also want to re-read A Grain of Wheat.

Here's my review of Wizard of the Crow
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 20: by Zanna (new)

Zanna (zannastar) | 191 comments I've started reading Weep Not, Child and I do think that The In-Between World of Vikram Lall is in dialogue with this book. At the beginning, there are some brief descriptions of the Indian shops and racism towards them. The writing is not external in the way that Vassanji's novel is, so it presents the attitudes towards the Indians as a form of ignorant prejudice that the reader will see through at once. The child Njoroge recalls being offered a sweet by an Indian boy, taking it, and then being rebuked by his mother who demands 'have you had nothing to eat for a whole year so you would take food from anyone, even a dirty little Indian?' In the boy's sight, Njoroge throws the sweet away, and then feels guilty and wants to go back and explain to the boy.

I can interpret these references to Indian people in Kenya as an open invitation for a voice from that community to complete the gap in the story, and Vassanji's novel as the taking up of that invitation. Parallel to the episode of the sweet, in Vikram Lall, the child Vikram offers a sweet, which this time has a name, to the child Njoroge, already a playmate of himself and his sister. Njoroge refuses, saying that the sweets make him ill, but then accepts, and this particular sweet becomes his favourite treat. Thus, the first rejection is analysed as a learned prejudice, and the subsequent closeness of the boys is a what-might-have-been if the racist adult had not been present to prevent the connection in Weep Not, Child.

The problem with Vassanji's novel for me is that exterior voice that tells the reader what to think, producing a sentimental atmosphere that tends to leave at rest ahistorical simplifications of prejudice, while Ngugi wa Thiong'o's interior narration, by its spareness, invites us to consider a historical perspective (Vikram Lall is a first person narrative, Weep Not, Child is third person, but while Vikram is looking back on his childhood memories, the author voice in Weep Not, Child I think, strives for presence - though it sometimes shifts perspective, it is bound in the moment of action like a balloon in the wind - it is not a second-hand product).

Both novels relate horrific violent acts carried out by the Mau Mau and by police. However, Weep Not, Child sketches a complex historical background for the Mau Mau and reveals the systemic violence of the police and colonial structure in connection. The Mau Mau comes from the generation of men who were forced to fight for Britain in WWII - Boro, Njoroge's brother, is intent on revenge for the death of his half-brother, Mwangi, in that war. In Vikram Lall there is little historical framework to place the violence; we can understand that the Mau Mau fight for independence, but Vassanji's emphasis on graphic violence and grief for victims goes no further than inviting the conclusion that their tactics are unconscionable. Police brutality is shown but sometimes the police are identified as black while there is no space to even question why black people might become police or otherwise complicit with the colonial power. The adult Vikram portraying the ignorance of child Vikram does not offer any critique of that ignorance.

In the above paragraph I imply that Vikram Lall does not mention the war or Kikuyu history that forms the essential background of Weep Not, Child, but this is not true, actually Vassanji does present parts of these narratives through the story of Mwangi, Njoroge's grandfather. The story is peripheral to the main action, and Mwangi remains an enigmatic figure to Vikram. In Weep Not, Child, Mwangi is the name of Njoroge's brother who is killed in the war. This treatment may be a way of hinting at what Vikram cannot make sense of from his standpoint. Mwangi's story in Vikram Lall is a potted version of the background of Weep Not, Child, a containment that, I think, neutralises it, renders it individual, tribal, marginal, forgettable. But perhaps I am making a very biased reading...

Ngugi wa Thiong'o's Njoroge becomes increasingly devoted to Christianity, presumably under the influence of his education. To him, Jomo Kenyatta is Moses. As a child, Vikram Lall uses the Ramayana to contextualise the political and personal scene, making the Mau Mau into the demon Ravana. His friend Njoroge played Ravana when they play-acted the story as kids, and this parallel along with other aspects implicates Njoroge in the violence of the Mau Mau and the murder of Vikram & Njoroge's white mutual friends. In Weep Not, Child, Njoroge is an emotional victim of Mau Mau terror, while all the real violence against him and his family comes from the state. Vassanji might be revising the innocence of Ngugi's Njoroge.


message 21: by Zanna (new)


message 22: by Karen (new)

Karen (bookertalk) I can recommend Petals of Blood - a strong emotive novel that lingered with me for years


message 23: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Pardon the interruption, but I saw this while browsing things on my phone. Hopefully the link will post okay: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-ent...


message 24: by Zanna (new)

Zanna (zannastar) | 191 comments Wow, thanks for posting that Marieke! Another one for the list


message 25: by Renice (new)

Renice | 1 comments I forgot I belonged here. March is almost out. I read The River Between sometimes back. Can anyone recommend one of the books that I can finish in the remaining time. Thanks


message 26: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Renice wrote: "I forgot I belonged here. March is almost out. I read The River Between sometimes back. Can anyone recommend one of the books that I can finish in the remaining time. Thanks"

oh! THIS is the one i read back in college. Not Weep Not, Child. Thanks for jogging my memory, Renice!

Weep Not is also short and I plan to read it before hte month is out. I am not going to get to Wizard of the Crow this time.


message 27: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Karen wrote: "I can recommend Petals of Blood - a strong emotive novel that lingered with me for years"

I agree. I had a similar experience with that novel.


message 28: by Jenny (new)

Jenny | 17 comments Thanks for pointing this out, Marieke!


Marieke wrote: "Pardon the interruption, but I saw this while browsing things on my phone. Hopefully the link will post okay: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-ent......"


message 29: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Jenny wrote: "Thanks for pointing this out, Marieke!


Marieke wrote: "Pardon the interruption, but I saw this while browsing things on my phone. Hopefully the link will post okay: http://www.independent.co.uk/a..."


My pleasure! and now that i'm on an actual computer, i'll link to the book: Secure the Base: Making Africa Visible in the Globe


message 30: by Raul (new)

Raul Bimenyimana | 6 comments Finally got Wizard of the Crow and I can't wait to read it!


message 31: by Zanna (new)

Zanna (zannastar) | 191 comments Reading Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir - it's very similar to Weep Not, Child. Evidently Ngũgĩ was drawing on his own memories to write the early novel. It's good to read them close together!


message 32: by Tinea, Nonfiction Logistician (last edited Mar 23, 2016 08:01AM) (new)

Tinea (pist) | 370 comments Mod
The latest issue of Jalada, a quarterly anthology from an African writers' collective, is a short story by Ngugi translated into 22 African languages. Ngugi's original Kikuyu and his own translation into English are included, plus audio recordings in several languages.


message 33: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
That is perfect timing, Tinea! I will have a look :)


message 34: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I just finished Weep Not, Child. It's one of those books I wish I was reading as part of a class.


message 35: by Tinea, Nonfiction Logistician (new)

Tinea (pist) | 370 comments Mod
I finished Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir. Not my favorite Ngugi book, but a nice way to learn about Kenyan Kikuyu culture through a child's eye as well as an introduction to the colonial violence and Mau Mau/community resistance in Kenya.


message 36: by Zanna (new)

Zanna (zannastar) | 191 comments I finished Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir and reviewed ithttps://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

I will also read The River Between soon, meant to read it this month but many things happened


message 37: by Leo (new)

Leo Passaportis (leopassaportis) | 19 comments I realise that I am a very late arrival to this thread on the great Ngugi but I must add that Wizard was the first book of his that I read back in 09. I hadn't read any contemporary African literature for ages and I was bowled over by a wonderfully satirical novel. It was definitely a welcome laugh whilst enduring the politics of Mugabe, although funnily enough I forgot the book at a friend's place in Namibia after finishing it there.
I read Harvest of Thorns last year which was also an excellent read on the post-independence disillusionment of a chap called Mugo who is venerated by his village depite the fact that he only wants to be left alone. There are layers of irony which the author paints with relish, sparing neither the over-expectant naivety of the populace nor the sly corruption and double standards of the new ruling class. No wonder he got himself in hot water after its publication.


message 38: by Zanna (new)

Zanna (zannastar) | 191 comments Harvest of Thorns sounds funny! I'm enjoying extra Ngugi, I don't want to stop just because it's not Marcg any more haha


message 39: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Zanna wrote: "Harvest of Thorns sounds funny! I'm enjoying extra Ngugi, I don't want to stop just because it's not Marcg any more haha"

You don't have to stop just because it's April! Which reminds me....i did not set up the April thread yet. OOOPS.


message 40: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Leo wrote: "I realise that I am a very late arrival to this thread on the great Ngugi but I must add that Wizard was the first book of his that I read back in 09. I hadn't read any contemporary African literat..."

No such thing as a late arrival. Keep the discussion going! This has been such a great thread. I wish i was able to contribute more.


message 41: by Jean (new)

Jean I did get to read Weep Not, Child and I am working my way toward Wizard of the Crow.


message 42: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Jean wrote: "I did get to read Weep Not, Child and I am working my way toward Wizard of the Crow."

What did you think of it? i decided i need to read it again. i struggled a bit with it.


message 43: by Jean (new)

Jean My book clearly states that it is written for the English learner so maybe I rated it unfairly. It hit on some very important themes but didn't come together, for me, as a piece that I could delve into.


message 44: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I think that is what was bothering me, Jean. I want to read again and focus more on the themes. But I might be thinking too ambitiously...but it is a short book!


message 45: by Leo (new)

Leo Passaportis (leopassaportis) | 19 comments My apologies, Harvest of Thorns<\i> was by another African author. It was a Grain of Wheat<\i> that I was thinking about. Same thoughts.


message 46: by Margaret (new)

Margaret Crampton (cramptonmargaret) | 48 comments I am delighted to have discovered this group and am reading Dreams in a time of war I am delighted that this fits with the March read.


message 47: by Margaret (new)

Margaret Crampton (cramptonmargaret) | 48 comments Even if it's April!!


message 48: by Liralen (new)

Liralen | 180 comments Mod
I have, rather belatedly, checked Weep Not, Child out from the lib -- just need to get through the things with looming library deadlines first!


message 49: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Liralen wrote: "I have, rather belatedly, checked Weep Not, Child out from the lib -- just need to get through the things with looming library deadlines first!"

i know this feeling!


message 50: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Margaret wrote: "Even if it's April!!"

HA! and welcome :D

we keep the threads open pretty much forever...the "schedule" is kind of like a suggestion. You are free to read at your own pace and contribute to discussions whenever it suits you!


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