31 Oct 2008

Satan meets the robbers

You know the story. In a certain cave in the fictional territory of Ilmorg, there is a competition organized by Satan to choose the seven cleverest thieves and robbers, that is those who steal from the people, not in terms of a few dollars for food, but literally in terms of billions of dollars for the sheer pleasure of accumulation. What each of the thieves has to do is perform stories of his career of theft and robbery before the fictional audience. (Thiong'o 1998, p.124)

Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Penpoints, Gunpoints and Dreams, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998)

Just finished reading Ngugi Wa Thiong'o's wonderful book.

I am really not sure if I will have time to review it properly, Ngugi's is one of the stars of African literature, he celebrates Africa's cultural traditions, he has been strong defender of movements like the Kenyan Mau Mau who fought for liberation.

He looks at how art is used to maintain political order, making the novelist and the poet fighters against unjust regimes.

He is a strong critic of both neo-colonialism and dictatorial regimes, so he was exiled from Kenya for 22 years.

Do look at his work, the Penpoints is a powerful political document, certainly a call for social justice, against enclosure, he works with the spirit of Bakhtin and Marx but stresses African civilisation(s) as a source of inspiration.

His novels and plays are excellent too.

While Ngugi was in Britain for the launch and promotion of Devil on the Cross, he learned about the Moi regime’s plot to eliminate him on his return, or as coded, give a red carpet welcome on arrival at Jomo Kenyatta Airport. This forced him into exile, first in Britain (1982 –1989), and then the U.S. after (1989-2002), during which time, the Moi dictatorship hounded him trying, unsuccessfully, to get him expelled from London and from other countries he visited. In 1986, at a conference in Harare, an assassination squad outside his hotel in Harare was thwarted by the Zimbwean security. His next Gikuyu novel, Matigari, was published in 1986. Thinking that the novel’s main character was a real living person, Dictator Moi issued an arrest warrant for his arrest but on learning that the character was fictional, he had the novel “arrested;” instead. Undercover police went to all the bookshops in the country and the Publishers warehouse and took the novel away. So, between 1986 and 1996, Matigari could not be sold in Kenyan bookshops. The dictatorship also had all Ngugi’s books removed from all educational institutions.

More from his biography here

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