Books

Wrestling with the Devil

Ngugi wa Thiong'o

Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s powerful prison memoir begins half an hour before his release on 12 December 1978. A year earlier, he recalls, armed police arrived at his home and took him to Kenya’s Kamiti Maximum Security Prison. There, Ngugi lives in a block alongside other political prisoners, but he refuses to give in to the humiliation. He decides to write a novel in secret, on toilet paper – it is a book that will become his classic, Devil on the Cross.

Wrestling with the Devil is Ngugi’s unforgettable account of the drama and challenges of living under twenty-four-hour surveillance. He captures not only the pain caused by his isolation from his family, but also the spirit of defiance and the imaginative endeavours that allowed him to survive.

Birth of a Dream Weaver

Ngugi wa Thiong'o

‘Exquisite in its honesty and truth and resilience, and a necessary chronicle from one of the greatest writers of our time’ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Selected as a Book of the Year 2016 in the Guardian

When Ngugi wa Thiong’o arrives at the prestigious Makerere University, it embodies all the potential and excitement of the early 1960s. Campus is a haven of opportunity for the brightest African students, a meeting place for thinkers and writers from all over the world, and its alumni are filling Africa’s emerging political and cultural positions.

Despite the challenges he faces as a young black man in a British colony, it is here that Ngugi begins to find his voice as a playwright, journalist and novelist, writing his first, pivotal works just as the countries of East Africa enter the final stages of their independence struggles.

In the House of the Interpreter

Ngugi wa Thiong'o

During the early fifties, Kenya was a country in turmoil. While Ngugi enjoys scouting trips, chess tournaments and reading about Biggles at the prestigious Alliance School near Nairobi, things are changing at home. He arrives back for his first visit since starting school to find his house razed to the ground and the entire village moved up the road closer to a guard checkpoint. Later, his brother, Good Wallace, who fights for the rebels, is captured by the British and taken to a concentration camp. Finally, Ngugi himself comes into conflict with the forces of colonialism when he is victimised by a police officer on a bus journey and thrown in prison for six days. This fascinating memoir charts the development of a significant voice in international literature, as well as standing as a record of the struggles of a nation to free itself.

Dreams in a Time of War

Ngugi wa Thiong'o

Ngugi wa Thiong'o was born the fifth child of his father's third wife, in a family that includes twenty-four children born to four different mothers. He spent his 1930s childhood as the apple of his mother's eye, before attending school to slake what is considered a bizarre thirst for learning.

As he grows up, the wider political and social changes occurring in Kenya begin to impinge on the boy's life in both inspiring and frightening ways. Through the story of his grandparents and parents, and his brothers' involvement in the violent Mau Mau uprising, Ngugi deftly etches a tumultuous era, capturing the landscape, the people and their culture, and the social and political vicissitudes of life under colonialism and war.

Wizard of the Crow

Ngugi wa Thiong'o

Set in the fictional Free Republic of Aburiria, Wizard of the Crow dramatises with searing humour and piercing observation a battle for control of the souls of the Aburirian people. Fashioning the stories of the powerful and the ordinary into a dazzling mosaic, Ngugi wa Thiog'o reveals humanity in all its surprising intricacy.

Informed by richly enigmatic traditional African storytelling, Wizard of the Crow is a masterpiece and a major achievement in Ngugi wa Thiong'o's extraordinary and brave career.

A Grain of Wheat

Ngugi wa Thiong'o (and others)

A masterly story of myth, rebellion, love, friendship and betrayal from one of Africa's great writers, Ngugi wa Thiong'o's A Grain of Wheat includes an introduction by Abdulrazak Gurnah, author of By the Sea, in Penguin Modern Classics.

It is 1963 and Kenya is on the verge of Uhuru - Independence Day. The mighty british government has been toppled, and in the lull between the fighting and the new world, colonized and colonizer alike reflect on what they have gained and lost. In the village of Thabai, the men and women who live there have been transformed irrevocably by the uprising. Kihika, legendary rebel leader, was fatally betrayed to the whiteman. Gikonyo's marriage to the beautiful Mumbi was destroyed when he was imprisoned, while her life has been shattered in other ways. And Mugo, brave survivor of the camps and now a village hero, harbours a terrible secret. As events unfold, compromises are forced, friendships are betrayed and loves are tested.

Kenyan novelist and playwright Ngugi wa Thiong'o is the author of Weep Not Child (1964), The River Between (1965), and Petals of Blood (1977). Ngugi was chair of the Department of Literature at the University of Nairobi from 1972 to 1977. He left Kenya in 1982 and taught at various universities in the United States before he became professor of comparative literature and performance studies at New York University in 1992.

If you enjoyed A Grain of Wheat, you might like Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'With Ngugi history is a living tissue ... this book adds cubits to his already considerable stature'
Guardian

Biography

Ngugi wa Thiong’o is one of the leading writers and scholars at work in the world today. His books include the novels Petals of Blood, for which he was imprisoned by the Kenyan government in 1977, A Grain of Wheat and Wizard of the Crow; the memoirs, Dreams in a Time of War, In the House of the Interpreter and Birth of a Dream Weaver; and the essays, Decolonizing the Mind, Something Torn and New and Globalectics. Recipient of many honours, among them ten honorary doctorates, he is currently Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine.