The Perfect nine by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

The Perfect Nine by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

Kenyan fiction

Original title – Kenda Muiyuru

Translator – The writer himself

Source – personal copy

Now I reach the writer that on the man booker list that was the biggest name on the list Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’ is one of the best known and most respected African writers of his generation. He is often mentioned as a future Nobel winner in the last few years he has been high in the betting each year.  He was one of the first writers to break through and also one of the first writers to question the colonial times and what happened. I reviewed his 1967 novel a grain of wheat a number of years ago that was his best-known book he wrote in English initially before in later years he has written in his native language Gikuyu which he wrote in originally and then translated into English. Which I feel was a great idea as he has kept what must be the rhythm the book had in its original language as this is a novel in verse that has a nod towards greek classics.

Peace! May all glory be to thee, Giver Supreme, peace! May all glory be to the, giver supreme.

In some parts of africa, they call it Mulungu, but it is the same Giver.

The Zulu call himUnkulunkulu, nut he is the same giver.

Others call it Nyassi, Jok, Oldumare, Chukwu, or Ngai, but each id the same giver.

The Hebrews call upon Yahweh or Jehovah, and he is the same giver.

Mohammedans call him Allah, and he is the same Giver

The second chapter connects the story of the giver to both Islam and christian traditions

The story is the story of his own tribe a writing down of the oral history of the story of the Perfect nine the nine daughters of Gikuyu and Mumbi have had nine perfect and beautiful daughters and well there is a tenth daughter. So the news of these daughters has spread so when 99 suitors appear for them.  they are sent on quests ad challenges of strength and skill along the road to find the best set by the parents to the mountain and lands to discover, The last challenge for those that are left is to find the cure to help Wariga the tenth daughter who has been injured and needs a cure that is held by an Orge king so the suitor’s team up each with daughter and then set out this is the origins of the tribe as each daughter settles with them suitor these are all told in little verse in the book that tells of them settling such as Wantjiru, the matriarch of the3 Anjiru clan Wanmbui, Wanjiku and so on these are all the matriarchs of the clans that make up the tribe.

Wanjira, Matriarch of the Anjiru Clan

Of the Perfect nine, she is the oldest.

It is saqid she once put a curse on a hyena

But she had simply put a curse on greed.

Her face exudes empathy and goodness, and

She does not falter when fighting for peace;

She swears by her clan as she calls for conflicts to cease.

When visitors decend upon her from anywhere,

She says, “Don’t ask hunger questions. First give it food”

Her beauty makes men fight to walk beside her.

One of the clan stories of the nine and how they staert the clans.

 

This is a poetic book that has a nod toward the greek epic verses. That is also told in verse poems like Aeneid.  But there is  also the oral tradition of the storyteller around the fire. This is the history of a tribe that had been passed down from generation to generation. It is an origin story that has echoes of other origin stories from around the world. Gikuyu and Mumbi cold be adam and eve and their descendants. But also a nod to tribal histories I remember Michael Palin visit a tribe and being shown a similar history to this. It follows also follows a classic quest story a sort of quest to find something like The lord of the ring’s journey that sees the daughter’s show strength but also sees the suitors fall to one side a survival of the fittest. Myth and reality blur as the epic tells of the start of the tribe. It is very different from his earlier work but also an interesting work that embodies a tribal and vocal history that in these fast-changing times is disappearing like Hunter school which I read earlier this year tribal history is fast disappearing in this modern age where we all want to be connected and the world is shrinking but individual tribes are disappearing and histories are. So that is the tenth book I have reviewed from this year’s longlist three left!

Winstons score – B+

 

 

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Hill
    Apr 15, 2021 @ 23:02:25

    I’ve got this one on order, Stu, and I’m hoping I will like it. (I find the way he represents women a bit alienating, but I’ve only read Petals of Blood and The River Between so maybe this one, being later in his career, will be better.)

    Reply

  2. 1streading
    Apr 18, 2021 @ 14:52:21

    I enjoyed this, and liked the way Ngugi has modernised the message of the story. He’s probably the only well known name on the long list this year! I don’t envy the judges trying to compare books which are so different though.

    Reply

  3. Adira
    Apr 22, 2021 @ 08:52:10

    I love Thiong’o’s novels. I had to read A Grain of Wheat in grad school in my Global Literature class and loved his quiet, but powerful writing style. I’m hoping to read Petal of Blood and The Wizard of the Crow this year.

    Reply

  4. Trackback: April 2021 that was the month that was !! | Winstonsdad's Blog

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