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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 Ngugiwa Thiong’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 ...


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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... to make some sort of sense of things on the written page. He may admire the spare aesthetic of postcolonial writers such as J.M. Coetzee and V.S. Naipaul, or of the grand old man of Kenyan letters, Ngugiwa Thiong’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 ...

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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... His novels often suggest that they are written in conscious imitation of various postcolonial classics. The timeframe of Memory of Departure, for instance, echoes A Grain of Wheat (1967) by Ngugiwa Thiong’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 ...

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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... for me not to know.’ In fact, he was more courageous than he was willing to admit. Some years later, he took advantage of a trip to Nairobi to make contact with the wife of the imprisoned writer, Ngugiwa Thiong’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 ...

At the Polling Station in Kibera

Daniel Branch: The Elections in Kenya

24 January 2008
... base, the Kikuyu in the Rift Valley. They used profoundly anti-democratic measures to restrain protests and hired thugs to suppress the unrest in Nairobi’s slums. The argument of figures such as Ngugiwa Thiong’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 ...
19 July 2018
... as public intellectuals, whether or not they inclined to the universalist view of scholarship and letters. Contributors included James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and Ngugiwa Thiong’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 ...

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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...  as to reiterate the extraordinary force of the colonial episode. It preoccupies many young African intellectuals today, while the work of an older generation of writers – Wole Soyinka, Ngugiwa Thiong’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 ...

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