Dear Tee Ngugi,
I am writing this piece as a rejoinder to the article you wrote in the Nairobi Saturday Nation on 14th October 2017.You wrote about why your father Ngugi wa Thiong’o has not been given the literature Nobel Prize, but instead the Swedish Academy chose to give the Prize to Kazuo Ishiguro, a Britsh writer who also has Japanese ancestry. It was so clear from your article that you were very much pained and disappointed with an eventuality of your father not winning the Literature Nobel prize. Unfortunately, the reality is that your Father, Ngugi wa Thiongi’o has done nothing to deserve a recognition for such a serious prize like the literature Nobel Prize, if at all he will ever win literature Nobel Prize then the Swedish academy would be doing nothing else but simply urinating on literature they it did in 1986 in its impetuous flirtation with Wole Soyinka for no other efforts but for Wole Soyinka’s blind hatred of revolutionary literature and politics. Let me be brief and give you main reasons why Ngugi wa Thiong’o does not deserve a literature Nobel Prize.
Ngugi’s first two books, Weep Not Child and then the River Between were a good start. They are the only two works of literature from Ngugi. The style, language and themes in these two books meet standards of the works of literature. Weep Not, Child was initially written under the title Black Messiah, the black Messiah in this case being Jomo Kenyatta, a tribesman of Ngugi and the first president of Kenya. Ngugi never told his readers, how Kenyatta was a black Messiah.
The title, Weep Not Child was used later on, but it is not Ngugi’s original idea, it is a line borrowed from I am alone on the beach in the Night a poem by Walt Whitman, found in his collection of poems under the title The Leaves of Grass. This poem is about political and gender dilemmas of the gender-fluids as well as the bi-curious, unfortunately, Ngugi did not have any queer themes in Weep Not Child.
In The River Between, one cannot differentiate Ngugi from Chinua Achebe, given that reading themes of the clash of civilization in the River Between is as same as reading Things Fall Apart. This failure to be intellectually original is Ngugi’s great weakness, this is the same mistake he committed in the Secret Lives, a collection of short stories, in which he simply over adapted or plagiarized or shortened Achebe’s No Longer at Ease in to a Mbensi, a short story of fifteen pages. It is also the same weakness when it comes to Petals of Blood, Ngugi simply over adapted Sembene Ousmane’s God’s Bits of Wood. As if he is not tired of adaptation, Ngugi again has recently intensely adapted Paul Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed to write the Globalectics, his Rene Wellek memorial lecture. Unfortunately, literature prizes look for originality in thought, style, language and motif of. Failure to observe and achieve originality was also the major weakness in Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, as well as Tolstoy’s collection of Short Stories. Tolstoy over adapted the Holy Bible. That is why history of literature has it that absence of originality made Alfred Nobel to decline from awarding Leo Tolstoy the literature Nobel Prize.
Ngugi wrote his next Novel, The Grain of Wheat, after he had been converted to Fanonianism. In this book, you often come across un-edited statements from Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, Facts of Blackness, Black Skin, and White Masks, Dying Colonialism and also on Towards African Revolution. Since then, Ngugi’s books have been neurotic pamphlets that soft-peddle variants of infeasible socialism and communism. Ngugi’s conversion to utopian socialism was the most misfortunate historical eventuality of his literary life, he was unknowingly toyed away from literature proper to the utopia of socialist phrase-mongering.
-On detention as a sign of fighting for freedom in Kenya; Ngugi was not the only detainee at Kamiti, history of Kenya’s struggle from colonial and post-colonial tyranny clearly shows that Markham Singh, Amb Patel, Kibachia Macharia, Raila Odinga, Elijah Masinde, Joash Walumoli, Arap Manyei, Martin Shikuku, Abdalla Abdullatif, Wafula Buke, Stephen Adongosi and very many others were detained for voicing their concerns about freedom and democracy. But Ngugi has almost personalized experience of detention without mentioning properly the men and women he was with in the detention. After detention Ngugi ran away from the struggle, others remained in Kenya to keep on fighting, thus logic of struggle for freedom bars Ngugi from claiming a slice or a pie in history of Kenya’s struggle for freedom from post-colonial political brutality. I mean you cannot fight for freedom a half way and claim to be a freedom fighter.
Ngugi has similarly made mistaken claims about Mau Mau, especially when he presents themes om maumau in his books and pamphlets. Mau Mau was not a Kenyan Guerrilla Movement for Independence. It was a group of Gikuyu men fighting for land in central Kenya and not anywhere else, Ngugi has deliberately ignored narratives about the Luo movement for independence through trade unionism and the Church, Ngugi has ignored also the Dini yaMusmbwa religious and political movement let by Elijah Masinde who used religion and violence to fight colonialism in western Kenya and eastern Uganda. Ngugi does this in contradiction of a fact that literature must respect historical truth. He has been cheating to the world that Mau Mau fought for Kenya’s freedom, no it did not.
Ngugi’s book, Wizard of the Crow, discusses a cult of dictatorship in African politics. In this book Ngugi uses onamastics as a literary weapon to explain how dictatorship works, his plot was basically based on Kenya. But Ngugi identifies Daniel Moi as the only dictator in Kenya’s political history, according to Ngugi Kenyatta was not a dictator but a father of Drama in Kenya, Ngugi admires Kenyatta’s book Facing Mount Kenya, even though Ngugi is aware that the book was written by Maliknowisky but not Kenyatta. Why Ngugi has ever ignored Oginga Odinga’s Not yet Uhuru is somehow telling.
During the past fifteen years Kenya has been ranked among the top most corrupt countries in the world, and it is obvious that corruption is an overtone of tyranny and political brutality. A vice which any novelist worth his or her salt must condemn. Ngugi as a supposed literary patriarch has remained mum. Instead he has been complaining about the West killing African languages like Gikuyu. This is also the time Ngugi chose to write his memoirs in which he praised the traditions and genealogies of his Gikuyu people. Outrightly ignoring to see the fact that MwaiKibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta, the two Gikuyus, have led the most corrupt governments in Kenya during the last twenty years. This is somehow frivolous and silly; we cannot talk of writing in Gikuyu when Corruption is eating the country away. Furthermore, writing in a native language should not be a matter of time-wasting debate, it should be done spontaneously, the way Mazisi Kunene, Okot P’ Bitek, and Grace Ogot did.
Ngugi has been nothing but a monument of self-contradiction, in all of his pamphlets published as novels by Henry Chakava and previously, by Heinemann under African writers’ series, he has been fiercely lambasting the western political system of capitalism, these are the themes in his pamphlets like, Writers in Politics, Ngugi Writes Back, Globalectics, Home-coming, Matigari, In the name of the Mother and so forth. Surprisingly, Ngugi works for a University in California, he recently picked an art prize from the government of South Korea, Both South Korea and North America are the cardinal centers of capitalist imperialism, now let Ngugi show his readers the socialism he has been preaching. I don’t think Fidel Castro, Antonio Gramci, Josef Stalin, Kwame Nkrumah, Mao tse Tung, Amilcar Cabral, Che Que Vara and many other ancestors of socialism could pick an art prize from South Korea and a job in California, they would not in humble recognition of the fact that socialism ethics is openly against private accumulation.
I want to agree that literary nationalism comes but with special brand of sentimentalities, this is why I am ready to sympathize and understand as well as empathize with the emotional weakness of scholars and intellectuals from the Gikuyu Community in Kenya and all over the world, who have been sentimentally consuming Ngugi to an extent of holding him as a literary religion in their hearts. But I will not forgive Gikuyu scholars in the like of Evan Mwangi, Tee Ngugi, and Ng’ang’a Mbugua for being so Narcisstic, they rarely accept a mistake on their side. They must wake up now from this slumber of Uthamaki syndrome which makes them to believe that because Ngugi wa Thiongi’o is their Gikuyu tribesman therefore he is intellectually infallible, above committing a mistake and hence he must be given the literature Nobel Prize.A simple exercise in objective reading of Laila Lalami, Emma Dabiri, Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, Henry Ole Kulet, TayieSelasie, and Ken Walibora will disillusion them from Ngugi and the Nobel Prize fantasy to a reality that the day of the worthwhile literature Nobel Prize to Africa and Asia is coming.
Alexander Opicho writes from Lodwar, Kenya and csn be reached through email@example.com