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Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o: Three Days with a Giant of African Literature                                         

One of the century’s most influential African writers, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o rose to prominence in the waning days of colonialism, alongside other great authors, such as Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka. With a style that could be described as militant, he skewered the colonial powers and later attacked the inefficacy and corruption of Kenya’s subsequent rulers. Ngũgĩ’s career is often divided neatly into two parts. There’s the first Ngũgĩ, whose work as a published writer began at Makerere University in Uganda in the late 1950s and continued until the end of the 60s. This Ngũgĩ was called James Ngugi (sometimes JT Ngugi) and he wrote in English. His novels were political and critical of the colonial state, but subtly so. The second Ngũgĩ emerged in the 70s. Ngũgĩ dropped his English name, and later rejected English as his primary literary language. Influenced by his reading of Marx and Frantz Fanon, in these later works he began to engage much more directly with the state, with class, with education, with every aspect of postcolonial life. Petals of Blood, published in 1977, attacked the new political elite in independent Kenya.