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+

 

 

A grain of wheat by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

20150918_192513

A grain of wheat by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

Kenyan fiction

Source – Personnel copy

Exodus: Movement of Jah people! Oh-oh-oh, yea-eah!
…….
Men and people will fight ya down (Tell me why!)
When ya see Jah light. (Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!)
Let me tell you if you’re not wrong; (Then, why?)
Everything is all right.
So we gonna walk – all right! – through de roads of creation:
We the generation (Tell me why!)
(Trod through great tribulation) trod through great tribulation.

Exodus, all right! Movement of Jah people!
Oh, yeah! O-oo, yeah! All right!
Exodus: Movement of Jah people! Oh, yeah!

I choose Exdous a Marley sung about freedom this lyric is influenced by a biblical text as is the title of the book .

 

I add a second from the list of names in the nobel Betting for this years Lit prize the Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o  has been high on the betting the last few years .He studied in Both Kenya , Uganda and Leeds in the uk,which is where he wrote this book in 1967.He is an active campaigner for maintaining African languages and has written a number of books in his own Gikuyu language .

Mugo felt nervous .He was lying on his back and looking at the roof .Sooty locks hung from the fern and grass thatch and all pointed at his heart .A clear drop of water was delicately suspended above .The drop fattened and grew dirtier as it absorbed grains of soot ,Then started drawing towards him.He tried to shut his eyes.The would not close .

The opening sets the scene so well .

A grain of wheat is set in the time just before,during and after the independence of Kenya . WE see the story of how Kenya gained independence  in a series of flashback stories as we are in the present with Mugo ,a lonely man in his village as the prepared to celebrate Independence day .Add to this a revenge for a traitor that is to be dealt with on this day or as it is called by the villagers Uhuru day (freedom day ) . Mugo sold people out to the brits but he wasn’t the only one Karanja did as well where as others in the village fought with the rebels and killed a brutal police man  and were capture and sent to prison whilst the wives were left behind with men like Karanja need I say more,add to this a Brit ex pat that is in one man all that was wrong with Brits in Africa John Thomson is that man .All this in one small african village the whole country in a group of a few men each showing a side of the conflict and how it effect each one of them .

Kenya Regained her Uhuru from the British on 12 December 1963 .A minute before midnight , lights were put out at Nairobi stadium so that people from all over the country and the world who gathered there for the midnight ceremony were swallowed by darkness .In the dark ,the Union Jack was quickly lowered .When next the lights came o the new Kenya flag was flying and fluttering and waving,in the air .The police band played the new National Anthem

Near the end we see the Freedom regained for Kenya .

What we see here is one of the books that is considered the main books in the cannon of African fiction a book that breaks away in style somewhat of earlier novels .The feel is of using the oral tradition in the village in the way the story of them all getting to Uhuru are woven into a complex novel  that shows how Britain was in Africa , how Kenya found freedom  is a blueprint for a number of other countries that found freedom afterwards  .This book is still as powerful as when it was written .I have had him as nobel winner for a few years it just the look of the draw who will win next week .

Have you read Thiong’o ?

June 2021
M T W T F S S
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930  

Archives

%d bloggers like this: