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Ngugi wa Thiong'o, formerly known as James T. Ngugi Biography

(1938– ), formerly known as James T. Ngugi, Weep Not, Child, The River Between

Kenyan novelist, dramatist, and essayist, born in Limuru, Kenya, educated at Makerere University College and at the University of Leeds. Ngugi's experiences as a Kikuyu adolescent during Kenya's struggle for independence from white colonial domination inform his first two novels. Weep Not, Child (1964), set mainly during the Mau Mau Rebellion of the 1950s, was the first novel in English by an East African writer. The River Between (1965), his second novel, but the first to be written, deals with religious divisions in two rural communities. In both novels, social injustice, dispossession, economic and cultural disintegration, are perceived through youthful and messianic protagonists. A Grain of Wheat (1967) and Petals of Blood (1977) are Ngugi's most critically acclaimed novels in English. Secret Lives (1975) is a collection of stories. His plays include The Black Hermit, written for Uganda's Independence celebrations in 1962; The Trial of Dedan Kimathi (1976; with Micere Mugo): and This Time Tomorrow (1970) which includes ‘The Rebels’, and ‘The Wound in the Heart’. His first work in the Gikuyu language, the play Ngaahica Ndeenda (1977; translated as I Will Marry When I Want, 1982), co-authored by Ngugi wa Mirii, is a community drama addressed to peasants and workers. It was banned by the authorities as subversive and Ngugi was arrested, and spent a year in prison, an experience vividly recorded in Detained: A Writer's Prison Diary (1981). While in prison he wrote his first novel in Gikuyu, which was published in 1980, and translated as Devil on the Cross (1982). He has argued ever since that the duty of African writers is to write primarily in local languages as an urgent political, social, and cultural necessity. His second novel in Gikuyu, Matigari (1989; translated by Wangui wa Goro), focuses on a former Mau Mau fighter, the novel's eponymous protagonist, and his eventual realization that a new liberation struggle has to be initiated. It was immediately banned in Kenya. Books of essays, invariably combative, include Homecoming (1972), Writers in Politics (1981), Barrel of a Pen (1983), and Decolonizing the Mind (1986). Moving the Centre: The Struggle for Cultural Freedoms (1993) studies twentieth-century African literature and posits the need to find African modes independent of European ones. See David Cook and Michael Okenimkpe, Ngugi wa Thiong'o: An Exploration of His Writings (1983).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: New from Tartary to Frank O'connor