Critical Context

Petals of Blood, Ngugi’s fifth novel, resulted in his arrest by the Kenyan government. His imprisonment without trial became an international cause celebre; among those protesting his incarceration were C. P. Snow, Harold Pinter, and James Baldwin. Even before the appearance of Petals of Blood, however, Ngugi had established himself as a major figure among contemporary African writers; his novel A Grain of Wheat (1967) was particularly well received. While all of his fiction is concerned with social issues, Petals of Blood is his most explicitly political novel, didactic in its analysis of a revolution betrayed.

Like most of Ngugi’s works (in addition to novels, he has published short stories, plays, and essays), Petals of Blood was written in English. He has also, however, written a novel and a play in Kikuyu, the language of his native region in Kenya.