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Authors: Ngugi wa'Thiong'o

Wizard of the Crow

BOOK: Wizard of the Crow
10.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Power Daemons
Acclaim for Ngügiwa Thiong’o’s

“Aburiria is a fictional nation, but in
Wizard of the Crow
it becomes a kind of dystopia, representing the all-too-real problems of many African nations. … A combination of Swiftian satire and adult fairy tale. … A reminder that people can find within themselves redemptive resources.”

The Wall Street Journal

“This wild, feverish satire about a despot building a tower of Babel exceeds even the grotesque realities of African politics.”


“Ngügi writes with bite on contemporary African themes like corruption and sexual discrimination, but he isn’t caustic or heavy-handed. It’s magical realism meets Africa, and it hits the mark.”


“At once an epic burlesque of a sick, lumbering state and a praise song to the manifold forms of African resilience, the phantasmagoric saga of Aburiria is as clear a view of Africa as we are likely to get for some time.”


“The whole novel is a kind of miracle, in which the raw, personal pain and rage of an artist … is transformed by his genius into a tragicomedy for the ages.”


“Wizard of the Crow
is full of vibrant characters and the plot twists for which Thiong’o is known. And there’s an underlying message that will keep you thinking long after the book ends…. The heart of the story concerns globalization, corruption, the power of stories, the power of the people, and love.”

Black Issues Book Review

“The book begins with illness and ends in a Joycean celebration of life.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune

“The pull and promise of
Wizard of the Crow
… is evident in the labyrinthine wonders of its opening chapters, which involve the author’s most raucous and ambitious combination to date of satire, social realism, and supernatural occurrence.”

Harper’s Magazine

“Ngügi deploys a collage of characters and narrative mosaic that begins in Aburfria, a fictional African country, and sweeps the reader over vast space and time, bringing African and diasporic cultures into dialogue with Eastern and Western philosophies, religions, and cultures.”

World Literature Today

“Wizard of the Crow
is a magisterial comic tale that has echoes of traditional African storytelling.”


“Wizard of the Crow
is an apt metaphor, for the real subject of this novel is not of a ruler’s hubris, but the way it trickles down to the people, and filters up to the organizations that support the farce of this rule.”

Newark Star Ledger

“In its best scatological moments, it echoes the great Latin American novels of dictatorship by Miguel Angel Astu-rias, Carlos Fuentes and Gabriel Garcia Märquez.”

Foreign Policy

“Wizard of the Crow
[is] the magnum opus of one of Africa’s greatest writers.”

The New York Sun

“Heavily infused with biblical symbolism, rife with mysticism and sorcery, and peopled by shape-shifting characters,
Wizard of the Crow
—in brilliant jabberwocky and fantastical imagery—takes on all neocolonial corruption, whether African, Asian, or Latin American.”

The Seattle Times

“Despite the magically imbued story line,
Wizard of the Crow
deals in reality across the spectrum, touching on everything from the scourge of AIDS to poverty to the “white-ache” that Africans suffer when they long to be more European. In doing so, Ngügi manages to endow the imaginary Aburfria with a certain degree of stark realism.”

The Christian Science Monitor

“The novel is full of humor and magical realism, and presents a portrait of contemporary Africa through the people of this fictional country.”

San Francisco Examiner

“The most ambitious entry yet from a writer whose output feels essential for those hoping to understand contemporary Africa.”

The San Diego Union-Tribune

Ngügi wa Thiong’o

Ngügi wa Thiong’o has taught at Amherst College, Yale University, and New York University. He is Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine, and is director of the university’s International Center for Writing and Translation. His books include
Petals of Blood,
for which he was imprisoned by the Kenyan government in 1977. He lives in Irvine, California.



Petals of Blood

Weep Not Child

The River Between

A Grain of Wheat

Devil on the Cross


Short Stories

Secret Lives


The Black Hermit

This Time Tomorrow

The Trial ofDedan Kimathi
(with Micere Mugo)

I Will Marry When I Want
(with Ngügi wa Mirii)

Prison Memoir

Detained: A Writer’s Prison Diary


Decolonising the Mind

Penpoints Gunpoints and Dreams

Moving the Center

Writers in Politics


This book is dedicated to my late parents

Wanjikü wa Thiong’o

Thiong’o wa Ndücü


to my wife,

Njeeri wa Ngügl,

for your love, courage, strength, and support

In the spirit of the dead, the living, and the unborn,
Empty your ears of all impurities, o listener,
That you may hear my story


There were many theories about the strange illness of the second Ruler of the Free Republic of Aburiria, but the most frequent on people’s lips were five.

The illness, so claimed the first, was born of anger that once welled up inside him; and he was so conscious of the danger it posed to his well-being that he tried all he could to rid himself of it by belching after every meal, sometimes counting from one to ten, and other times chanting
ka ke ki ko ku
aloud. Why these particular syllables, nobody could tell. Still, they conceded that the Ruler had a point. Just as offensive gases of the constipated need to be expelled, thus easing the burden on the tummy, anger in a person also needs a way out to ease the burden on the heart. This Ruler’s anger, however, would not go away, and it continued simmering inside till it consumed his heart. This is believed to be the source of the Aburirian saying that ire is more corrosive than fire, for it once eroded the soul of a Ruler.

But when did this anger take root? When snakes first appeared on the national scene? When water in the bowels of the earth turned bitter? Or when he visited America and failed to land an interview with Global Network News on its famous program
Meet the Global Mighty}
It is said that when he was told that he could not be granted even a minute on the air, he could hardly believe his ears or even understand what they were talking about, knowing that in his country he was always on TV; his every moment—eating, shitting, sneezing, or blowing his nose—captured on camera. Even his yawns were news because, whether triggered by boredom, fatigue, hunger, or thirst,
they were often followed by some national drama: his enemies were lashed in the public square with a
whole villages were blown to bits or people were pierced to death by a bows-and-arrows squad, their carcasses left in the open as food for hyenas and vultures.

It is said that he was especially skillful in creating and nursing conflicts among Aburlrian families, for scenes of sorrow were what assuaged him and made him sleep soundly. But nothing, it seemed, would now temper his anger.

Could anger, however deeply felt, cause a mystery illness that defied all logic and medical expertise?


The second theory was that the illness was a curse from the cry of a wronged he-goat. It is said that some elders, deeply troubled by the sight of blood flooding the land, decided to treat this evil as they had epidemics that threatened the survival of the community in the olden days: but instead of burying the evil inside the belly of a beast by inserting flies, standing for the epidemic, into its anus, they would insert the Ruler’s hair, standing for the evil, into the belly of a he-goat through its mouth. The evil-carrying goat, standing for the Ruler, would then become an outcast in the land, to be driven out of any region where its cry announced its evil presence.

Led by a medicine man, they mixed the hair, obtained secretly from the Ruler’s barber, with grass, salt, and magic potions and gave it to the goat to swallow. Needle and thread in hand, the medicine man started sewing the seven orifices of the body beginning with the anus. The struggling he-goat gave out a bloodcurdling cry and, before the medicine man could seal its mouth, it escaped. It is said that it cried grief across the land, until the Ruler heard the cry and, learning about the curse, which he imagined to be a call for a coup, sent soldiers to hunt down the he-goat and all involved. Rumor has it that the goat, the barber, the medicine man, the elders, and even the soldiers
were given over to the crocodiles of the Red River to ensure eternal silence about the curse. And it was to mark this day of his deliverance that the Ruler had the picture of the Red River added to Burl notes, the only picture besides his own to honor the Aburlrian currency.

Still, he worried about the fact that the goat had a beard, and he secretly consulted an oracle in a neighboring country, who assured him that only a bearded spirit could seriously threaten his rule. Though he read this as meaning that no human could overthrow him, for, since they had no bodily form, spirits could never grow beards, he became sensitive to beards and then decreed what came to be known as the Law of the Beard, that all goats and humans must have their beards shaved off.

There are some who dispute the story of the bearded he-goat and even argue that the Law of the Beard applied only to soldiers, policemen, civil servants, and politicians, and that the herdsmen shaved their he-goats out of their own volition, shaving goats’ beards then being the fashion among Aburlrian herdsmen.

These skeptics wondered: what has the cry of a he-goat whose anus, ears, and nose being sealed, have to do with the strange illness that befell the Ruler?


Others now came up with a third theory, which said that since nothing lasts forever, the illness had something to do with the aging of his rule: he had sat on the throne so long that even he could not remember when his reign began. His rule had no beginning and no end; and judging from the facts one may well believe the claim. Children had been born and had given birth to others and those others to others and so on, and his rule had survived all the generations. So that when some people heard that before him there had been a first Ruler, preceded by a succession of governors and sultans all the way from the eras of the Arabs, the Turks, the Italians, to that of the British, they would simply shake their heads in disbelief saying, no, no, those are
just the tales of a daydreamer: Aburiria had never had and could never have another ruler, because had not this man’s reign begun before the world began and would end only after the world has ended? Although even that surmise was shot through with doubts, for how can the world come to an end?

BOOK: Wizard of the Crow
10.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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