Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o: The Myth of Human Progress

One of the greatest living writers, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o joined the 2021 Edinburgh International Book Festival by a live link from his home in Kenya. When he visited Edinburgh in 2018, Thiong’o discussed his detainment as a political prisoner in Kenya and his passionate advocacy for the use of local languages in literature. That passion is at the core of his new novel, The Power of Nine, which retells in verse form the Kenyan myth of Gikuyu and Mumbi. In Kenya it is an origin story as well-known as The Mahabharat is in India. Originally written in the Gikuyu language, the novel – translated by the author himself into English – is Thiong’o’s first since 2004 and will provide further evidence that he should win the Nobel Prize. It tells the story of the first man, Gikuyu; the first woman, Mumbi, and their nine gifted daughters. There is a tenth daughter, whose disability makes people see her differently, but who possesses special skills that will serve her well in the end. In effect the daughters are, Thiong’o notes, ‘the original feminists.’ Join Thiong’o as he seeks to highlight and undermine different languages of power. Chaired by Culture Correspondent for the Economist and 1843, Fiammetta Rocco.

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