Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-r5zm4 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-23T08:17:47.218Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

17 - Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o: A True Story

from Part II - Memories, Recollections & Tributes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 July 2019

Grant Farred
Affiliation:
teaches at Cornell University.
Get access

Summary

This story, let us call it a ‘story’ only because I can think of no better term, has no proper beginning. Whether or not it has proper ending, well, that is a matter that has not yet been decided. Let us try for a beginning, then.

My colleague in the Program in Literature at Duke University, V. Y. Mudimbe, invited Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o to present a series of lectures at our institution. On one of these afternoons, a couple of hours before he was scheduled to deliver his talk, I spotted Ngũgĩ on an East Campus bench, enjoying the warm Durham sunshine. I walked over to him, introduced myself, and proceeded to tell my story. He smiled, good naturedly; in his modesty, however, he scoffed at my account.

‘I'll bring you a book tomorrow,’ I said, ‘to show you that it's true.’ My promise of proof, in hindsight, is more like an ending – an ending of sorts, anyway – than a beginning.

So, let me try again.

It wasn't until I was in ‘Standard Nine’ (today it would be called ‘Eleventh Grade’ in South Africa, the equivalent of being a high school ‘Junior’ in the US) at Livingstone High School in Cape Town, a school designated for Coloureds only, that I first read any South African literature. Other, that is, than Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country, which I'd picked off the shelves of my local library. Livingstone H.S., I should be clear, was a singular institutional animal in apartheid South Africa. The teachers, for the most part, were incredibly committed, no matter their race. Livingstone H.S. was a school that prided itself on educating its student body in two senses of the term: it taught the apartheid curriculum as rigorously as though us Coloured boys and girls were being instructed by Plato in Athens, no matter the discrepancy in resources, no matter the ideological strictures imposed by the apartheid regime's educational arm. (I should say, there were other schools such as Livingstone, Trafalgar and South Peninsula foremost among them. But Livingstone had one distinct advantage.) And, Livingstone's political and philosophical ethos was steeped in Marxist thought, most notably the work of Leon Trotsky.

Type
Chapter
Information
Ngugi
Reflections on his Life of Writing
, pp. 97 - 101
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2018

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×