Ngugi’s Devil on the Cross, my best – Ellerhoff | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Ngugi’s Devil on the Cross, my best – Ellerhoff

Posted: Apr 5, 2015 at 1:39 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Yemi Adebisi, Acting Head, Literary/Arts

One of the foremost living African novelists, Professor Ngugi wa Thiong’o of Kenya, is a mentor to several writers and literary critics across the shores of the world, especially because of his campaign for liberation of indigenous African literature.



A novel, short story and theatre writer of Kenyan descent, Wa Thiong’o  has also developed a reputation as a post-colonial theorist, and has taught at universities throughout the world.

In 1977, while in detention, he announced that he would no longer write in English, and campaigned for other African writers to do the same.

Since then, he has published most of his novels in Giyuku, his native language, before translating them himself for English-speaking audiences abroad.

One of his fans, Steve Gronert Ellerhoff, an Iowan writer and critic, said he preferred his writing because of his rare strength in story telling.

“I was first introduced to Ngugi’s novels in my African literature class when I was an undergraduate. My mentor, Peter Nazareth, who also teaches an incredible course on Elvis Presley, went to college with Ngugi in Uganda and postgraduate school in Leeds, England.

“The only writer from Africa I’d read up until that course was Achebe, but there are so many truly amazing novels by Africans out there that most Americans simply don’t know about-a whole literature that goes far beyond Things Fall Apart: The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born by Armah, Maru by Bessie Head, A Season of Migration to the North by Salih, The Famished Road by Ben Okri, The Palm-Wine Drunkard by Amos Tutuola, The Book of Secrets by Vassanji, Nehanda by Vera, A Walk in the Night by La Guma, The General Is Up by my mentor Peter Nazareth, and on and on. The best storyteller among them all, however, I must say, in my own opinion, is Ngugi wa Thiong’o,” he said.

Specifically, he identified the evergreen memories of Ngugi’s  A Grain of Wheat, which he said treated how England gained colonial power over Kenya, the Mau Mau movement, and Gikuyu culture.

“Another of his novels I love and have read several times is Devil on the Cross. He was detained by the Kenyan government in the late seventies after his novel Petals of Blood sparked the popular imagination and made him a threat to the regime.

“While in detention, he wrote Devil on the Cross, I’m told partly on toilet paper as it was all there was to write upon. Soaring with magic realism, it gives a mythic, moral critique of the Kenya he was experiencing. It’s one of the great books I’ve read. And until this summer, it was my favorite of his works,” he said.