Tuesday, April 17

Harvard Book Store Presents (Past Events)Special Events Archive

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

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Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o


Wrestling with the Devil:
A Prison Memoir

in conversation with MŨKOMA WA NGŨGĨ

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This event includes a book signing

Harvard Book Store, the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, and Mass Humanities welcome renowned Kenyan writer and scholar NGŨGĨ WA THIONG’O—author of the acclaimed novel Wizard of the Crow—for a discussion of his latest book, Wrestling with the Devil: A Prison Memoir. He will be joined in conversation by his son, Cornell professor and author Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ.

About Wrestling with the Devil

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s powerful prison memoir begins literally half an hour before his release on December 12, 1978. In one extended flashback, he recalls the night, a year earlier, when armed police pulled him from his home and jailed him in Kenya’s Kamĩtĩ Maximum Security Prison, one of the largest in Africa. There, he lives in a prison block with eighteen other political prisoners, quarantined from the general prison population.

In a conscious effort to fight back the humiliation and the intended degradation of the spirit, Ngũgĩ—the world-renowned author of Weep Not, ChildPetals of Blood; and Wizard of the Crow—decides to write a novel on toilet paper, the only paper to which he has access, a book that will become his classic, Devil on the Cross.

Written in the early 1980s and never before published in America, Wrestling with the Devil is Ngũgĩ’s account of the drama and the challenges of writing fiction under twenty-four-hour surveillance. He captures not only the excruciating pain that comes from being cut off from his wife and children but also the spirit of defiance that defines hope. Ultimately, Wrestling with the Devil is a testimony to the power of imagination to help humans break free of confinement, which is truly the story of all art.


“One of the greatest writers of our time.” —Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“In his crowded career and his eventful life, Ngũgĩ 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.” —John Updike, The New Yorker

Event Series: This Month’s Selection for our Signed First Edition Club
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Co-Sponsored by the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research
The Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University supports research on the history and culture of people of African descent the world over and provides a forum for collaboration and the ongoing exchange of ideas. Learn more at hutchinscenter.fas.harvard.edu.

Co-Sponsored by Mass Humanities

Mass HumanitiesMass Humanities conducts and supports programs that use history, literature, philosophy, and the other humanities disciplines to enhance and improve civic life in Massachusetts. Learn more at masshumanities.org.

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Featured event books will be for sale at the event for 20% off. Thank you for supporting this author series with your purchases.

Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ

Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ is an Assistant Professor of English at Cornell University and the author of The Rise of the African Novel: Politics of Language, Politics and Ownership, the novels Mrs. Shaw, Black Star Nairobi, Nairobi Heat, and two books of poetry, Hurling Words at Consciousness and Logotherapy.  He is the co-founder of the Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature and co-director of the Global South Project Cornell.  In 2013, New African magazine named him one of the 100 most Influential Africans. For more see, www.mukomawangugi.com.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o was born in Limuru, Kenya in 1938 and is one of the leading writers and scholars at work today. He is the author of Wizard of the Crow; A Grain of Wheat; Weep Not Child; The River Between; Petals of Blood; and Birth of a Dream Weaver. He is currently Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine.