Wizard of the Crow

Title: Wizard of the Crow

Author:  Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Published by: Harvill Secker

Publication year: 2006

 

Written in Kikuyu and translated into English by the author, Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong’o will not disappoint anyone familiar with the author’s prolific body of work. This work of fiction sears with truth and lays bare the international foibles of postcolonial African politics. Pregnant with humour and irony, this allegory leaves nothing sacred as when one of the characters is cured of the disease of white-ache. It is a most human story examining both the character of leadership and the desires of the common citizen. Farcical characters become believable, while women, especially, are portrayed with complexity. The story challenges many stereotypes. For example, the main character, the Wizard of the Crow, is a witchdoctor or traditional healer or (~frochiatrist)(p. 622), and proves to be the voice of reason and sanity. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves storytelling or is interested in international relations and African culture and society.

The story tells of a megalomaniacal African ruler with a grandiose development scheme surrounded by conniving sycophants obsessed with greed who try to control the masses and outmanoeuvre each other. The trials of these politicos are interwoven with a love story involving the Wizard of the Crow and an underground activist posing as a secretary. The roles of thinly disguised entities such as the Global Bank also figure into this brazen expose of the (politics of poverty) (p. 87), while many other novel characters populate the landscape such as the (professors of parrotology) (p. 572).

The work is cynical, critical, insightful, and inspiring. Describing the fictional place, Ngugi writes, (If there were no beggars in the streets, tourists might start doubting whether Aburiria was an authentic African country) (p. 35). Contrast this with the line, (The world has no soul) (p. 62). The calcu180 Journal for Global Initiatives (Many a government in the world has been brought to ruin because it has been lax and allowed students, youth, and women to say and do whatever without proper guidance and supervision” (p. 557). And Ngugi observes, (Disorder reigned supreme, for any attempt on the part of the people to organise themselves was deemed by the Ruler’s government as a challenge to its authority” (p. 576). Describing the actions of one of the rich and successful political appointees, he writes, (How does one find humor in humiliating the already humiliated?” (p. 383). He also asks, (Why does needy Africa continue to let its wealth meet the needs of those outside its borders and then follow behind with hands outstretched for a loan of the very wealth it let go?” (p. 681). He also states, (It will not do for any region or community to keep silent when the people of another region and community are being slaughtered” (p. 726).

There is so much to highlight in this wide-ranging engaging story that no review could possibly do it justice. Don’t let the book’s size or the author’s reputation intimidate you. It’s a fun, easy read, and you may learn a lot. As always, Ngugi places the primary burden of resolving Africa’s maladies solely on Africa without shying away from the complex, detrimental influence of the colonial past. The question of whether Africa will experience globalisation as the latest reincarnation of an oppressive colonial past or participate actively as a contributing voice of reason may in some small part be presaged through the reception of this telling book. Thank you for this gift of a book and for holding up a mirror in which to exorcise so many daemons.

Credit: Daniel Paracka, Journal of Global Initiative.

 

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Remember the Morning

remember-the-morning

Book title: Remember the Morning

Author: Thomas

Fleming

Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates Inc

Publication year: 1997

 

Thomas Fleming in this book, Remember the Morning, sets the foundational brick of an American classic and historical series, a saga that fires into one’s imagination and stays with you for a long time after you read it. It is a stunning book with two dramatic and powerful women, radically different yet bound together by heritage, experience, circumstance, in a blazing tale that plumbs morality as brilliantly as it illuminates a crucial part of American past.

Clara and Catalyntie both lost their parents while they were young (arguably I think while they were 5), they were killed by some Indians who captured them with Catalyntie’s two older siblings – Peter and Eva, who both died in captivity. While in captive, Clara the black young woman was treated like a princess while the other white captive was made to eat poorly. The book further narrows down into how these young women were made to suffer at the hands of their captors at a time they knew little or nothing     – After a number of years, the young women were part of a treaty that results in them being turned over to the white people. (This brought another “complication,” as one of the girls was actually a slave–but didn’t even know it.) The book gives that background and then moves into what happens to the young women as they enter the world of the white man. Catalyntie seems to be focused on material things as to the opposite of who Clara is, who is more disposed at giving help to others.

This is a book into the life and times of America and Americans with much of historical allusions in a story set primarily in 1700’s New York City. I guess most of some non-enthusiastic readers would have skimmed through some of the war sections in this book, I know it might just look boring to them. Though, an insight into the plots of the book will give readers a concise account into American history of the classics. Intertwined in the lives of the main characters is rich vivid history. French, Dutch, English,

African and Indians all played a part in creating America.

Remember the Morning helps explain how life was after the English took over from the Dutch. France and England fought over the land, trading rights and even the Indians. The Africans struggled for their freedom while they remain the major race that helped in gathering the ‘wealth’ we’re seeing in America today. The Catholics worshipped in secret and wished for their own freedom. Fleming writes wonderfully. He’s taken the facts of American history and made them the background to a good story. You hardly realise that you’re learning something until it hits you hard like a tornado. Not to worry, Fleming is such a distinguished historian with vast history into the making of a nation where it takes root from.

I will gladly recommend this book if you’re a historical fiction enthusiast and even a student given to historical account would want to learn more about pre-revolutionary America.

Things fall Apart

Book title : Things fall Apart

Author: Chinua Achebe

Published by: Heinemann publishers

Publication year: First Published 1958

things fall apart

After reading Things fall apart by one of Nigeria’s renown writer, I got to understand the two intertwining stories Chinua Achebe told with ease. The first which centers
around Okonkwo, a “strong man” belonging to an Igbo (Ibo) ancestry in eastern part of Nigeria and the second, the missionary movement in the ancient village of Umuofia. The first of this story traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives, and in its classical and economical beauty it provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict between the individual and society. The second story, which is as modern as the first is ancient, and which elevates the book to a tragic plane, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo’s world through the
arrival of aggressive, proselytizing European missionaries which wouldn’t co-relate with certain ritual prone traditional practices in Umuofia. These two sagas perfectly harmonizes, an awareness capable of gathering at once a rural native life, nature expectations and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.

This is one book of several contrasts I have ever read. It brings in a story, the marriage of colonialism, native culture, animism and Christianity. Masculinity was also never exempted. The author brings it more in the quest to showcase Okonkwo’s manly ego over the women folks.

 Achebe did justice to this character by epitomizing Okonkwo who is the most intriguing character in this African fiction for an abusive, misogynist, who has little patience for the weak, and perhaps his over-ambitious nature. Despite all his faults, his struggles to uphold the traditional practices of his people. But it’s still possible to cast an iota of pity on him after his valiant displays of a true descendant of his ancestors even up to the point of death.

Achebe did brilliantly in this work of fiction by cleverly driving home his story-line with the right visuals and loads of African proverbs in his reservoir of knowledge, no wonder the Europeans got to understand him better on the basis of his clever use of words. I though stand to be corrected, but I’m of the opinion that, no other book of history summarizes the pre-colonial ways, tradition and culture of the Ibo descent and even Africa like Things Fall apart does. Chinua Achebe did justice to all you need to know in this masterpiece, no wonder the celebration of his death was enormous, second to none in the funeral history of his country.

Things Fall Apart is one good novel you need stock in your library and even if you’ve got it already, ain’t nothing bad in buying for someone else.