Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, currently Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Director of the International Center for Writing and Translation at the University of California, Irvine, was born in Kenya in 1938 into a large peasant family. He was educated at Kamandura, Manguu and Kinyogori primary schools; Alliance High School, all in Kenya; Makerere University College (then a campus of London University), Kampala, Uganda; and the University of Leeds, Britain. He is a recipient of eight Honorary Doctorates: PhD (Hon) Albright; PhD (Hon) Roskilde; PhD (Hon) University of Leeds; PhD (Hon) Walter Sisulu University; PhD (Hon) Dillard; PhD (Hon) California State University, Dominquez Hills; PhD (Hon) University of Auckland; PhD (Hon) New York University; Fellow MLA; Honorary Member, American Academy of Arts and Letters. Ngũgĩ, formerly Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Languages and Professor of Comparative Literature and Performance Studies, New York University, is a novelist, essayist, playwright, journalist, editor, academic and social activist from Kenya.

The Kenya of his birth and youth was a British settler colony (1895-1963). As an adolescent, he lived through the Mau Mau War of Independence (1952-1962), the central historical episode in the making of modern Kenya and a major theme in his early works. His works include: Weep not Child (London, 1964), The River Between (London, 1965), A Grain of Wheat (London, 1967), Secret Lives (London, 1969), Petals of Blood, (London, 1977).

The year 1977 forced dramatic turns in Ngugi’s life and career. Petals of Blood painted a harsh and unsparing picture of life in neo-colonial Kenya. That same year Ngugi’s controversial play, Ngaahika Ndeenda (IWill Marry When I Want), written with Ngugi wa Mirii, was performed at Kamirithu Educational and Cultural Center, Limuru, in an open air theatre. Sharply critical of the inequalities and injustices of Kenyan society, Ngugi was arrested and imprisoned without charge at kamiti Maxium Security Prison. An account of those experiences can be found in his memoir, Detained: A Writer’s Prison Diary. After Amnesty International named him a Prisoner of Conscience, an international campaign secured his release a year later, December 1978. He resumed his writings and his activities in the theater and in so doing, continued to be an uncomfortable voice for the Moi dictatorship. While 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. This forced him into exile, first in Britain (1982 – 1989) and then the U. S. (1989 – 2002). He remained in exile for the duration of the Moi dictatorship. When he and his wife, Njeeri returned to Kenya in 2004 after twenty-two years in exile, they were attacked by four hired gunmen and narrowly escaped with their lives.

His novels have been translated into more than thirty languages. He has given distinguished lectures including the 2006 McMillan-Stewart Lectures at Harvard, the 2003 Steve Biko Memorial Lecture in South Africa, the 1999 Ashby lecture at Cambridge University, the 1996 Clarendon Lectures in English at Oxford, the 1984 Robb Lectures at Auckland University, the Fourth Steve Biko Memorial Lecture 2003, the 2006 McMillan-Steward Lectures at Harvard University, and 2010 Wellek Library Lecture at UCI. He is the recipient of many honors including the 2001 Nonino International Prize for Literature. Ngũgĩ has also written the Njamba Nene series for children and now edits the Gĩkũyũ language journal, Mũtiiri.

Selected Publications List

Weep not Child (London, 1964),
The River Between (London, 1965)
A Grain of Wheat (London, 1967)
Secret Lives (London, 1969)
Petals of Blood, (London, 1977).
Caitaani Mũtharabainĩ (Nairobi, 1980) - (English trans: Devil on the Cross (London), 1982)
Detained: A Writers Prison Diary, (London, 1982)
Matigari Ma Njirũũngi (Nairobi, 1986)- English trans: Matigari, (London, 1989);
Homecoming (London, 1969);
Decolonising the Mind (London, 1986)
Moving the Centre (London, 1993)
Writers in Politics
(London, 1997)
Penpoints, Gunpoints and Dreams, (Oxford, 1998)
The Black Hermit (London, 1969)
This Time Tomorrow (Nairobi, 1972)
The Trial of Dedan Kimathi, (with Micere Mugo) (London, 1976)
Ngaahika Ndeenda, (with Ngũgĩ wa Mĩriĩ) (Nairobi, 1980)
(English trans: I Will Marry When I Want, (London, 1982)
Murogi wa Kagogo (Nairobi, 2004)
English trans: Wizard of the Crow (New York, 2006)
Something Torn and New (New York, 2009)
Dreams in a Time of War (New York, 2010)