(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The Ruler of the fictional Kingdom of Aburiria has been in power for so long that no one can remember how long he has been governing. Now, the country is in such devastation that most average people are starving. In the midst of this poverty, The Ruler decides to build a testimony to his legacy—a massive skyscraper called Marching to Heaven that will be high enough to reach space. Having run out of the people’s Buri notes (the national currency, whose name means “worthless” in Gikuyu), he resolves to approach the Global Bank and ask for a loan to pay for the building.

Meanwhile, when a rumor circulates that the Eldares Construction Company is hiring, a queue of applicants builds that wraps around the entire city. Kamt decides to try his luck and is the first to inquire about a position. He makes an unsuccessful bid for the job, failing to convince Tajirika that his Indian postgraduate degrees are of any value. Tajirika even humiliates him, and Kamt leaves feeling angered and frustrated. Nyawra has witnessed the humiliating scene and is strangely drawn to Kamt. They meet again the same night. Both of them are dressed in beggar’s clothing, and they are run out of Paradise, an exclusive restaurant. Two policemen follow them to Nyawra’s apartment, and Kamt creates a sign for the door to ward them off: “enter at your own risk.” Tying chicken bones and string to the sign, he hurriedly signs it with a wizard’s moniker. To protect himself, Kamt is forced to adopt the new identity he created for the sign: The police are frightened away, but they return soon after, seeking advice from the one who calls himself the Wizard of the Crow.

When the police leave, Kamt and Nyawra begin talking. Nyawra shocks Kamt when she throws a plastic snake at him, the same kind that had created the disturbance at Paradise earlier that evening. The night ends with each of them increasingly interested in the other but afraid to know more. Nyawra returns the next day to Eldares, and Kamt stays behind and waits for her. While he is waiting, one of the policemen returns; remembering his moniker, Kamt does his best to conjure the spirits by consulting a mirror. The policeman leaves, satisfied by Kamt’s wizardly powers and confident that his own path to success has been assured. It is not long before others hear about the Wizard of the Crow.

At work, Nyawra notices that her boss has been bringing in Buri notes by the sackful. After a meeting with The Ruler, Tajirika has been put in charge of organizing the construction for Marching to Heaven. Afraid that a thief will steal his money, he soon starts carrying a gun. His paranoia builds, and he begins acting very strangely; his wife...

(The entire section is 1096 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The Wizard of the Crow reflects the global political changes which have occurred since Ngugi first began writing. Because it attempts to present a historical account, the novel includes many characters. However, all of the events that take place in the fictional land of the Free Republic of Aburiria relate in some way to four central characters: Kamiti wa Karimiri, the man who will become known as the Wizard of the Crow; Grace Nyawira, the chairperson of the Movement for the Voice of the People; the nation’s second independence-era leader, known only as the Ruler; and Titus Tajarika, a businessman, then minister, and, finally successor to the Ruler.

Kamiti and Nyawira find themselves allied in opposition to the Ruler’s despotic quest for personal glorification at the expense of the well-being of the nation’s citizens. This quest is represented by the Ruler’s attempt to secure a loan from the Global Bank to build the world’s tallest building, a monument to the Ruler called Marching to Heaven, in a time of mass unemployment. Though Kamiti and Nyawira triumph in the sense that they evade capture, survive the attacks on their lives, and expand the Movement for the Voice of the People, the novel ends with their success as a counterpoint to the beginning of a new cycle of exploitation. The Ruler has been succeeded by Tajarika (now known as Emperor Titus Flavius Vespasianus Whitehead), loans from the Global Bank have been secured, and the...

(The entire section is 488 words.)