In these essays based on his 2006 McMillan-Stewart Lectures at Harvard, Kenyan novelist Ngugi (The Wizard of the Crow), asks, "Is an African renaissance possible when we keepers of memory have to work outside our own linguistic memory?" a theme he has explored privately and publicly since his decision in the 1970s to write in his native tongue, Kikuyu. In the first lecture, "Dismembering Practices," Ngugi reaches into the English-Irish past ("a prototype for all other colonies in Asia, Africa and America") with a surprising turn to "The Fairie Queen, the poetic manual of English nationalism." In "Re-membering Visions," he compares the "different attitudes toward African memory and means of memory [of] the diasporic and educated continental Africans," with particular attention to Garveyism and Pan-Africanism. With "Memory, Restoration, and African Renaissance," Ngugi moves fully into his argument for the crucial role of African languages in "the resurrection of African memory," echoing European writers' "victorious emergence from the shadow of Latin." Ngugi's language is fresh; the questions he raises are profound, the argument he makes is clear: "To starve or kill a language is to starve and kill a people's memory bank." (Mar.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Something Torn and New: An African Renaissanceby Ngugi wa Thiong'o
Novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o has been a force in African literature for decades: Since the 1970s, when he gave up the English language to commit himself to writing in African languages, his foremost concern has been the critical importance of language to culture. In Something Torn and New, Ngugi explores Africa’s historical, economic, and cultural fragmentation by slavery, colonialism, and globalization. Throughout this tragic history, a constant and irrepressible force was Europhonism: the replacement of native names, languages, and identities with European ones. The result was the dismemberment of African memory.
Seeking to remember language in order to revitalize it, Ngugi’s quest is for wholeness. Wide-ranging, erudite, and hopeful, Something Torn and New is a cri de coeur to save Africa’s cultural future.
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Meet the Author
Ngugi wa Thiong'o, currently Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Director of the International Center for Writing and Translation at the University of California, Irvine, was born in Kenya in 1938. After penning Petals of Blood in 1977, a novel sharply critical of life in neo-colonial Kenya, he was arrested and imprisoned without charge for a year. Vanity Fair has called him the scourge of African dictators and warlords” and the San Diego Union-Tribune praised him as a writer whose output feels essential for those hoping to understand contemporary Africa.” He lives in Irvine, California.
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