Booked All Week

and next week, too

Wizard of the Crow, by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

with 12 comments

Oh. My. Gosh. LIFE SOMETIMES, RIGHT?! A few months ago I warned you that I would likely be very busy with my last semester of undergrad, and other things, and that posting would be slow. Little did you (or I!) know, I was actually about to disappear from this blog for months. MONTHS.

I guess the good news about not having been able to do hardly any just-for-fun reading lately is that there’s not very much to catch up on. :/ On the other hand, it’s been really difficult to revitalize my drive to read, which makes me sad. It’s all over now, but I am intellectually exhausted and want to do nothing but watch X-Files (good thing it’s streaming on Netflix!). So, I’m working on that. In the meantime, though, I will try to remember what I can about the last book I did finish, which also happened to be GREAT and will surely remain one of my favorites this year.

Wizard of the Crow takes place in the fictional country of Aburiria, a totalitarian state in which the people suffer under a dictator who squanders all the nation’s resources on a modern Tower of Babel, a structure tall enough to unite The Ruler with the ultimate power and omniscience of God. But he is challenged by a growing number of subversives lead by the unlikely pair of the elusive mystic Kamiti and the practical, confrontational Nyawira. Posing together as The Wizard of the Crow, they begin to diagnose the corrupt government officials and businessmen that seek their help in secrecy with internalized racism and destructive envy of white male power. Finally their reputation leads them straight to The Ruler himself, who is yet to identify them as the source of the political humiliation he is beginning to suffer at the hands of unruly queuing peasants and, worst of all, non-submissive women, in front of his Global Bank acquaintances and the international community at large.

Though the book deals with heavy themes, it is written with a strong sense of humor and never felt anything but lively despite its great length (though I will admit the last hundred pages–of about seven hundred–were a bit pedantic!). I loved his use of magical realism, his dialogue, and especially his female characters. I especially love that they led the resistance by exaggeratedly fulfilling their traditional roles and, later, by establishing an all female people’s court to try and punish perpetrators of domestic violence, revealing links between “the personal and the political”. This kind of satire may seem familiar, but this book feels far from tired.

Though I know little of Kenya’s history, I think it’s fair to read what I do know into this novel. But having just finished a course on the DRC and Rwanda, it seems equally possible to read a bit of post-colonial Africa in general into it. Towards the end, Thiong’o plays explicitly with pan-Africanism, which I think validates that reading. I look forward to learning more about Kenya’a specific past with this book in mind.

Inventive, ranging, and assertive…this chunkster comes highly recommended.

This book counts toward both The Africa Challenge and my own private Kenya project, on which I have fallen far, far behind. Ditto A Year of Feminist Classics, which I plan to catch up on in good time. 

Written by Emily Jane

May 18, 2012 at 9:56 pm

12 Responses

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  1. Thanks. That sounds like fun–a good break for all of us.


    May 19, 2012 at 2:50 am

  2. Hiiiiiiiii! Nice to see you again, lady! One thing I definitely do not miss about college is the limited amount of time I frequently ended up having for leisure reading. I used to get headaches from reading only texts for class, and I’d have to take a break from that and read a trashy novel to cure myself. :p

    I have been meaning to read something by this author for a year and a half nearly, and this sounds like a wonderful place to start.


    May 28, 2012 at 12:41 am

    • Hey, good to hear from you too, Jenny! Yeah, it’s the worst. Still haven’t found my reading stride again/can’t figure out what kind of reading mood I might me be in :/ But, OH WELL, IT’S SUMMER!!!

      I obviously enjoyed it, though I hear it’s very, very different from his other books so may be a weird place to start in that way. But I say go for it!

      Emily Jane

      June 1, 2012 at 1:00 am

  3. Thanks for the review of this one. It’s a book that is sitting on my shelf to read and which I’m really looking forward to, I just need to find the time to commit to it!


    May 28, 2012 at 11:52 am

    • Thank YOU Amy! It goes faster than you might imagine, though yes, it is still a very long book. I’m sure you’ll like it when you get to it 🙂

      Emily Jane

      June 1, 2012 at 1:02 am

  4. This is a book I’ve been looking forward to… I will love to read this.

    Nana Fredua-Agyeman

    June 4, 2012 at 1:02 pm

  5. Hope your uni stuff is going well! And now you’ve gone and reminded me I could stream the X-Files whenever I want to!! 🙂

    This book sounds pretty amazing and I really want to know about the female characters and subverting their traditional role…but I’m always a bit reluctant to start chunksters (that every book with more than 350 pages for me 😀 ).


    June 10, 2012 at 8:58 pm

  6. Um. HOW MUCH DO I LOVE THIS COVER?!! This book looks (and sounds) awesome.


    July 12, 2012 at 7:34 am

    • It’s GREAT, isn’t it? What’s inside won’t let you down, either!

      Emily Jane

      July 12, 2012 at 6:45 pm

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