Two reviews of Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Wizard of the Crow appeared this weekend, and both were notable for engaging with the novel on its own terms. In the Washington Post, Aminatta Forna acknowledges didactic lapses in the novel, but she also points out that Ngugi’s work is read aloud in public spaces in Kenya, in the Gikuyu language. (Consistent with Ngugi’s stance for most of his career, the book was written in Gikuyu first; he then translated it into English.)
In the New York Times, Jeff Turrentine gently questions Ngugi’s claim that he wanted “to sum up Africa of the 20th century in the context of 2,000 years of world history.”
Given that Africa — where some 900 million people live in more than 50 different nations, each with its own history and culture — can hardly be treated as monolithic, one assumes Ngugi means to detect and tug at the common loose thread that has led to the unraveling of so many African states since they began claiming their independence after World War II.
And indeed it appears that’s what Ngugi is doing in the book.