Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

At nearly one thousand pages, Wizard of the Crow is a massive work. Writing since the 1960’s, Ngugi wa Thiong’o has always been concerned with the politics of his native Kenya. It would be impossible to discuss the relevance and structure of the novel without understanding first the background of its author. Imprisoned for a year in 1977 for his involvement in the Gikuyu-language play Ngaahika Ndeenda (pr. 1977, pb. 1980; with Ngugi wa Mirii; I Will Marry When I Want, 1982), Ngugi was able to escape further persecution, and perhaps even execution by the Moi government, only by choosing exile in the West. This exile has proven to be a hindrance to him as a Kenyan trying to affect Kenyan politics, yet it has also given him visibility as an African writer in the West. Ngugi’s interest in issues of dominant and dominated languages has its roots in the postcolonial histories of Kenya and other African nations. Ngugi has contributed much to the writing on colonialism and language.

Unlike Ngugi’s other novels, Wizard of the Crow portrays not Kenya but a fictional African country. In the vein of oral literature, Wizard of the Crow weaves together several different stories and characters that may seem unrelated but in the end create a much larger and more vibrant picture. The main plot is often interrupted by stories-within-the-story, tales, and rumors passed between villagers, all of which serve to mimic the feel of African orality. In addition, Ngugi provides allusions to his own work, including direct references to his novel Caitaani Mtharaba-In (1980; Devil on the Cross, 1982). It can be conjectured that the story he begins in Devil on the Cross, of a Kenya mired in the desire for capitalist trappings, is one he finishes with Wizard of the Crow, which features a country indistinguishable from any other postcolonial country in Africa—complete with...

(The entire section is 796 words.)