VIRROY Yoann Dossier de presse Article : Ngugi wa Thiong’o From Wikipedia Ngugi wa Thiong’o signs copies of his new book ‘Wizard of the Crow’. In London at the Congress Centre in central London. A first book in 20 years following 22 years of exile due to his highly political work (including the bestselling novel Petals of Blood). Ngugi wa Thiong’o (born January 5, 1938) is a Kenyan author, formerly working in English and now working in Gikuyu. His work includes novels, plays, short stories, essays and scholarship, criticism and children’s literature.
He is the founder and editor of the Gikuyu-language journal, Mutiiri. Ngugi went into self-imposed exile following his release from a Kenyan prison in 1977; living in the United States, he taught at Yale University for some years, and since has also taught at New York University, where he was Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Languages, with a dual professorship in Comparative Literature and Performance Studies, and the University of California, Irvine. Ngugi was born in Kamiriithu, near Limuru in Kiambu district, of Kikuyu descent, and baptised James Ngugi.
His family was caught up in the Mau Mau rebellion; he lost his stepbrother, and his mother was tortured. While attending mission school,
His second novel, The River Between (1965), has as its background the Mau Mau rebellion, and described an unhappy romance between Christians and non-Christians. His novel A Grain of Wheat (1967) marked his embrace of Fanonist Marxism. He subsequently renounced English, Christianity, and the name James Ngugi as colonialist; he changed his name to Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and began to write in his native Gikuyu and Swahili. The uncensored political message of his 1977 play Ngaahika Ndeenda (I Will Marry When I Want) provoked then Vice President Daniel arap Moi to order his arrest.
While detained in the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, he wrote the first modern novel in Gikuyu, Caitaani mutharaba-Ini (Devil on the Cross), on prison-issued toilet paper. After his release, he was not reinstated to his job as professor at Nairobi University, and his family was harassed. He left Kenya on June 5, 1982, to live in self-imposed exile in London. His later works include Detained, his prison diary (1981), Decolonizing the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature (1986), an essay arguing for African writers’ expression in their native languages, rather than European languages, in order to renounce ingering colonial ties and to build an authentic African literature, and Matigari (1987), one of his most famous works, a satire based on a Gikuyu folktale. In 1992 he became a professor of Comparative Literature and Performance Studies at New York University, where he held the Erich Maria Remarque Chair. He is currently a Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature as well as the Director of the Center for Writing and Translation at the University of California, Irvine.
On August 8, 2004, Ngugi ended his exile to return to Kenya as part of a month-long tour of East Africa. On August 11, robbers broke into his apartment: they stole money and a computer, brutalised the professor, and raped his wife.  Since then, Ngugi has returned to America, and in the summer 2006 the American publishing firm Random House published his first new novel in nearly two decades, « Wizard of the Crow, » translated to English from Gikuyu by the author. On November 10, 2006, while in San Francisco at Hotel Vitale at the Embarcadero, Prof.
Thiong’o was harassed and ordered to leave the hotel by an employee. The event led to a public outcry which angered the Kenyan community in the San Francisco Bay area , and prompted an apology by the hotel. From Times Online March 15, 2002 A new dispossession Helen Hayward THE RIVER BETWEEN. By Ngugi wa Thiong’o. 144pp. Penguin. Paperback, Pounds 7. 99. 0 14 118703 4. A GRAIN OF WHEAT. By Ngugi wa Thiong’o. 243pp. Penguin. Paperback, Pounds 7. 99. 0 14 118699 2. PETALS OF BLOOD. By Ngugi wa Thiong’o. 410pp. Penguin.
Paperback, Pounds 9. 99. 014 118702 6. In this trio of roughly chronological novels, Ngugi wa Thiong’o portrays the disruption of Kikuyu society as a result of the invasive pressure of colonialism; he depicts the struggle against colonial rule that culminated in Kenya’s acquisition of independence in 1963, and traces the betrayal, by a corrupt postcolonial state, of the hopes which had been invested in self-government. The River Between, which was first published in 1965, is set at the time of the arrival of European missionaries.
It recreates the reverences and order of Kikuyu society under threat from an alien, disruptive presence, and shows the importance of ritual in unifying the community. The novel is imbued with a Lawrentian sense of the spiritual dimension of experience. Syncretism is represented both as a tool of resistance and as leading to unresolvable conflicts. The hero seeks to learn the secrets of the white men while remaining true to his people; the conclusion of the story suggests that his attempts to reconcile the two cultures were unsustainable.
Betrayal and division are central themes of all three books; betrayals caused the internal differences that weakened African society and facilitated its conquest. But neutrality is impossible; not to resist is to collaborate with the process of enslavement: « You serve the people who struggle; or you serve those who rob the people. » Ngugi writes of the importance of choices, and of taking political action: not to act is to consign yourself to an insubstantial twilight existence. Betrayals also proliferate in A Grain of Wheat (1967), set at the time of independence but looking back to earlier struggles.
The main characters are tied together by a web of betrayals, both political and personal. The novel painstakingly reconstructs the complex factors that lie behind events, and shows the present to be saturated in the influence of the past. Ngugi’s novels seek to show the course of history through an interweaving of public and private events, exploring the interaction between individual motives and the wider forces of historical change. His sense of the workings of history is grounded in « the efforts of the people and their struggle in the past », and underpinned by economic analysis.
The dispossession of rural peoples from their land is seen as playing an important part in the colonization of the region, forcing the population into a cash economy. If there is any source of optimism here, it may be found in the belief that collective struggle survives the individual, that actions are « a link in the chain in the long struggle of African people through different times at different places ». In Petals of Blood (1977), the ultimate betrayal occurs – of all those who have suffered for independence: a « massacre of hopes and dreams and beauty ».
The political satire here grows bitter and forced; the parasitic wealthy Kenyans, who have rushed to replace the departed colonizers, are seen as perpetuating « the reign of the few over many, and the era of drinking blood and feasting on human flesh ». The new elite disguises « robbery and exploitation » with a spurious nationalism and pride in African culture, while currying favour with foreign investors. Prostitution is a feature of this society and a metaphor for its condition: « in a world of grab and take, in a world built on a structure of inequality and injustice . . . we are all prostituted. The novel tells the story of a new dispossession. The village of Ilmorog exists in a state of pastoral innocence, impoverished and neglected, but with its own customs and poetic rituals. A period of drought forces the villagers to seek outside help, but their actions misfire; they bring back only « spiritual drought » from the city. When development comes, it forces them from their lands and destroys the community; they are displaced into shanty towns and waged labour, while outsiders enrich themselves at their expense. Like the striking schoolboys he portrays, Ngugi fights for « the right to define ourselves . . a new image of self ». These three novels are important documents in the history of post- colonial writing, distinguished by the urgency of their political engagement and the subtlety of their historical grasp. Summary: Article 1: The article show us a commited author with his problems and the reasons of his commitment. He is a Kenyan author who’s working in English and in Gikuyu. He was concerned by Mau Mau rebellion, received a Christian education. All of this influenced him and his work. Because of his idea he was arrested in his native country in 1977 and after his release, went to London in 1982.
He became professor and when he tried to return in Kenya, he was harassed, so he returned in America. Article 2: The article is a summary and an analyse of the themes of Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s three books. These are “The river between”, “A grain of wheat” and “Petals of blood”. They talked about the influence of the colonialism on the Kikuyu society and it consequences. Each novel has a great theme, for “The river between” it’s the division of the people in front of white men, for “A grain of wheat” it’s mainly the betrayal and the “Petals of blood” is about the corruption of the government and the elite.
Characters: Waiyaki is the head character of the book. He was born in the valley and know the white culture. He wants to bring the education to his people, and it’s for him a way to unify his community, integrate it in the society, and a way to defend their against white men. Unlessly his hopes didn’t completely realise because everybody hasn’t the same ideas than him. Chege is the Waiyaki’s father and because of he’s old he was respected in the tribe. He teached to Waiyaki the secrets of the hills and said him that he should realise a prophecy for the tribe.
Chege died before the end of the book and his memory haunted Waiyaki. Mugo is a legend of the valley, he was a seer and an ancestor of Waiyaki. He announced a prophecy according to it one of is offspring will save the people of the valley. Muthoni is the sister of Kinuthia and the daughter of Joshua. She decided to be circumcised against the ideas of his father who repudiate her. She died because of an infection. Nyambura is the sister of Muthoni and the Joshua’s daughter. She loved Waiyaki but is shared between her feelings and her father obedience. Finally she rebells against her father and follow Waiyaki.
With her sister, they are the symbol of the victims of the division. Joshua is Nyambura’s and Muthoni’s father. He is the priest of one part of the community and preached with violence the conversion and condemned all the customs and traditions of the tribe. For him discussion is impossible and the solution is to became Christian. He is one of the Waiyaki opposant. Kabonyi is the Waiyaki’s opposant within the tribe, he is jealous of his prestige and influence. He wants to be the most famous personality, it’s an ambitious man who profites of the situation for him. Kinuthia is Waiyaki’s and Kamau’s friend.
It’s a secondary character, he informed the other about the feelings of other and organised gathering between Waiyaki and parents about education of their child. Kamau is an opposant of Waiyaiki, but not directly, it’s more hidden, he is jealous, he loves Nyambura like Waiyaiki and she refused him. He spies and plots against Waiyaki and it serves Kabonyi who is more ambitious. It’s the deceitful of the shadow. Kiama is a council who take the decision for the tribe, during the book they are on the side of Waiyaki and after against him, they are manipulated but conservative too.
The crowd represents the judgement of the population, she is manipulated but she has the most part of power, she decides about the accusation on Waiyaki, and before had chosen to support him. Theme: For me, the main theme of “The river between” is the division, there is just one theme, but several subthemes. I will explain me with example of the text. First there is a division between Christians and no Christians, with two levels, one is with the division of the community, a part of the population has been converted whereas the other kept their customs and traditions, we can see it with the opposition between the Kiama and Joshua.
The relation between Waiyaki and Nyambura, with their problems to be together because of their parents or community illustrated the second level, it’s more individual, with feelings, emotions and personal problems because of the division. Second there is a division whose results from the white men arrival, where we can see a reference to the colonialism Second there is a division whose results from the white men arrival, where we can see a reference to the colonialism. The division is with the education, economic, religion and selection by White.
It’s more general and the most historical of the subtheme because we can see a reference to the Mau Mau rebellion that the author seen in his childhood. Third reason of the division with the conservatism or the obstinacy of each party. In one side there is the conservatism of the tribe with Kiama, who will preserve customs and traditions, and in one sense who fears of the possible evolution, and in the other side Joshua and Christians who disown their past and condemn their old tradition for a new faith.
Last is the division and the betrayal who results of it, betrayal to take advantage of the situation, for power, and recognition. It’s the case wit Kabonyi who search the recognition even if it’s to the detriment of the tribe with his hate of Waiyaki, or Kamau who revels the secret of Waiyaki. In fact Waiyaki is an unifying element, but he can’t do anything because of the two part of the division are finally against him.