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Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Photo credit: Leonardo Cendamo, Leemage.

Thirteen years after his last novel Wizard of the Crow, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, who turned 81 on 5 January, has a new one forthcoming. Kenda Muiyuru: Rugano Rwa Gikuyu na Mumbi, published in Gikuyu by East African Educational Publishers, is, according to Kenya’s The Standard, “a ground-breaking epic that subverts patriarchy and roots for social equity.” The book, the author’s 10th fiction book and 34th overall, will be translated into English by him, as The Perfect Nine: The Story of Gikuyu and Mumbi. 

Writing in The Standard, Peter Kimani, author of Dance of the Jacaranda, calls Kenda Muiyiru “ground-breaking on several fronts,” both as an epic, “a genre that he is least known for,” and as “an affirmation of his decades-long commitment of writing in an African language.” While the revered author has been writing fiction primarily in his native Gikuyu for decades, since 1980’s Caitaani Mutharaba-Ini (Devil on the Cross), he has stated that his nonfiction and academic work would continue to be written first in English.

Kimani calls the 136-page novel, Ngugi’s shortest so far, his most feminist yet, writing that it “proudly joins the hallowed space of world epics, such as Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali and epics of ancient India such as Ramayana and Mahabharata.” Aesthetically, “it is possibly his most sophisticated. Every line encapsulates sage philosophy, rendered with lyrical tenderness.”

In December, Ngugi: Reflections on His Life of Writing, edited by Simon Gikandi and Ndirangu Wachanga to celebrate his 80 years of age, was released by the British publisher Boydell & Brewer.

Our crosscheck of Ngugi’s titles on Wikipedia with those on his website shows 33 published books. His fiction oeuvre includes seven previous novels: Weep Not, Child, (1964), The River Between, (1965), A Grain of Wheat, (1967, 1992), Petals of Blood (1977), Caitaani Mutharaba-Ini (Devil on the Cross, 1980), Matigari ma Njiruungi (1986), Mũrogi wa Kagogo (Wizard of the Crow, 2006); and two short story collections: A Meeting in the Dark (1974) and Secret Lives, and Other Stories (1976).

He has published 13 collections of essays and polemic: Homecoming: Essays on African and Caribbean Literature, Culture, and Politics (1972), Writers in Politics: Essays (1981), Education for a National Culture (1981), Barrel of a Pen: Resistance to Repression in Neo-Colonial Kenya (1983), Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature (1986), Mother, Sing For Me (1986), Writing against Neo-Colonialism (1986), Moving the Centre: The Struggle for Cultural Freedom (1993), Penpoints, Gunpoints and Dreams: The Performance of Literature and Power in Post-Colonial Africa (1998), Something Torn and New: An African Renaissance (2009), Globalectics: Theory and the Politics of Knowing (2012), In the Name of the Mother: Reflections on Writers and Empire (2013), and Secure the Base (2016).

He has released four memoirs: Detained: A Writer’s Prison Diary (1981), Dreams in a Time of War: a Childhood Memoir (2010), In the House of the Interpreter: A Memoir (2012), and Birth of a Dream Weaver: A Memoir of a Writer’s Awakening (2016).

He has further published four plays: The Black Hermit (1963), This Time Tomorrow (1970), The Trial of Dedan Kimathi (1976), and Ngaahika Ndeenda: Ithaako ria ngerekano (I Will Marry When I Want, 1977); and three children’s books: Njamba Nene and the Flying Bus (1986), Njamba Nene and the Cruel Chief (1988), and Njamba Nene’s Pistol (1990).

Brittle Paper congratulates and sends him birthday wishes.

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Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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