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Divisions on a Sugarcane

Madhu Krishnan: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, 20 May 2021

The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi 
by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o.
Harvill Secker, 227 pp., £12, October 2020, 978 1 911215 99 8
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... The​ Perfect Nine takes as its source material the creation myth of the Agĩkũyũ peoples of Kenya. At the top of Kirima Kĩrĩ Nyaga – known in English as Mount Kenya – Gĩkũyũ, the first man, meets Ngai, God, who instructs him to make his home under the fig trees to the south of the mountain. When he gets there, Gĩkũyũ finds a woman waiting for him, and names her Mũmbi (Creator ...

Sing like Parrots

Adewale Maja-Pearce: Ngugi wa Thiong’o, 15 December 2016

Birth of a Dream Weaver: A Writer’s Awakening 
by Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
Harvill Secker, 256 pp., £14.99, November 2016, 978 1 84655 989 1
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... In 1962​ the young Ngugi waThiong’o had a piece of good fortune. He had left Kenya for Uganda, where he was enrolled as an undergraduate at Makerere, in Kampala. As he explains in Birth of a Dream Weaver, the third of his memoirs, the university was hosting a conference on ‘African writers of English expression’, and he was invited to join a panel on the strength of a handful of short stories published by a local press in Kenya ...


Elizabeth Lowry: Binyavanga Wainaina, 23 February 2012

One Day I Will Write about This Place 
by Binyavanga Wainaina.
Granta, 256 pp., £15.99, November 2011, 978 1 84708 021 9
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... writers such as J.M. Coetzee and V.S. Naipaul, or of the grand old man of Kenyan letters, Ngugi waThiong’o, but what he refers to as their ‘stingy prose’ is also an index of what he is writing against. Their pained grappling with questions of conscience is not his natural mode. Though far from ...

Through Their Eyes

Theo Tait: Abdulrazak Gurnah remembers Zanzibar, 7 July 2005

by Abdulrazak Gurnah.
Bloomsbury, 262 pp., £16.99, May 2005, 0 7475 7756 0
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... classics. The timeframe of Memory of Departure, for instance, echoes A Grain of Wheat (1967) by Ngugi waThiong’o, an impressive novel set in the days preceding Kenyan independence, and looking back to the Mau Mau rebellion (Gurnah wrote a lucid introduction to the Penguin Modern Classics edition). Admiring Silence ...

Our Credulous Grammarian

Adewale Maja-Pearce: Soyinka’s Dubious Friendships, 2 August 2007

You Must Set Forth at Dawn: A Memoir 
by Wole Soyinka.
Methuen, 626 pp., £18.99, May 2007, 978 0 413 77628 0
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... he took advantage of a trip to Nairobi to make contact with the wife of the imprisoned writer, Ngugi waThiong’o: Femi’s trepidation at such assignments was genuine. Equally genuine however was his relish of them! He revelled in the business of flattening letters and cash into false compartments of his ...

At the Polling Station in Kibera

Daniel Branch: The Elections in Kenya, 24 January 2008

... and hired thugs to suppress the unrest in Nairobi’s slums. The argument of figures such as Ngugi waThiong’o that Kibaki deserved a second term on the basis of opening up a democratic space for the Kenyan people now looks like a very poor joke. Kibaki, a man who has built his political career on his image as a ...

The African University

Mahmood Mamdani, 19 July 2018

... and letters. Contributors included James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and Ngugi waThiong’o, as well as a cohort of South African writers who were wrestling with apartheid, among them Nadine Gordimer, Ezekiel Mphelele, Dennis Brutus and Lewis Nkosi.From the start, Transition had commissioned ...

The Partisan

Jeremy Harding, 23 June 1994

The Search for Africa: A History in the Making 
by Basil Davidson.
Currey, 373 pp., £25, March 1994, 0 85255 719 1
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... African intellectuals today, while the work of an older generation of writers – Wole Soyinka, Ngugi waThiong’o, Chinua Achebe and the novelist and film director, Sembène Ousmane – is never without some strong descriptive trace of the dispossession Davidson has in mind. And though there are problems with this ...

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