Author opens Writers Series

September 21, 2007
Kathy Miller, 661/654-2456, or
Michele Newel, 661/654-2720,

Renowned Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong'o will open the third annual California Writers Series at California State University, Bakersfield with a reading from his most recent novel on Friday, Sept. 28, at 6:30 p.m.

Ngugi, a professor of English and comparative literature and director of the International Center for Writing and Translation at UC Irvine, will read from "Wizard of the Crow," published in 2006, at the Icardo Center on the CSUB campus. Admission is free and the public is invited. Sponsors include Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honors Society; the CSUB English Department, the CSUB History Department, Black Women on Campus, and the African Association of Kern Country.

As the Sunday Times of London observed, the novel "is an impish and hallucinatory satire on dictatorship – as though Saddam Hussein had won a coup d'état in Wonderland, then sent Alice and the rabbit to a Soviet labour camp."

Ngugi is also author of "A Grain of Wheat" (1967), "Petals of Blood" (1977), "Detained: A Writer's Prison Diary" (1981), and "Matigari" (1986, whose main character earned a warrant for his arrest until Kenyan authorities learned he was fictional). His book "Decolonizing the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature" (1986) is a central text in postcolonial theory, and explains his decision to begin writing in his native language, Gikuyu, rather than English. His books have been translated into more than 30 languages.

The Kenya of his birth and youth was a British colony (1895-1963). As an adolescent, he lived through the Mau Mau War of Independence (1952-1962), the central historical episode in the making of modern Kenya and a major theme in his early works.

As John Updike wrote in The New Yorker in 2006, "In his crowded career and eventful life, Ngugi has enacted, for all to see, the paradigmatic trials and quandaries of a contemporary African writer, caught in sometimes implacable political, social, racial, and linguistic currents."

Ngugi is the recipient of seven honorary doctorates, and he has delivered the 1984 Robb Lectures at Auckland University in New Zealand, the 1996 Clarendon Lectures in English at Oxford University, the 1999 Ashby Lecture at Cambridge, and the 2006 MacMillan Stewart Lectures at Harvard. In 2001 he received the 2001 Nonino International Prize for Literature.