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'Translated from the Gikuyu by the author': Ngugi wa Thiong'o's self-translation of Wizard of the Crow

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter

Publication date15/05/2017
Host publicationTranslating the postcolonial in multilingual contexts
EditorsJudith Misrahi-Barak, Srilata Ravi
Place of PublicationMontpellier
PublisherPresses universitaires de la Méditerranée
Number of pages14
ISBN (print)2367812411
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Publication series

PublisherPresses universitaires de la Méditerranée


Ngugi wa Thiong’o wrote Murogi wa Kagogo in Gikuyu in 2004, and published the English version, Wizard of the Crow, in 2006, announcing on the title page that the novel is ‘A translation from Gikuyu by the author’. The complex interplay of languages in Ngugi’s self-translation is central to understanding the novel for two main reasons. Firstly, Ngugi’s dictator novel depicts the political, economic and social intricacies that have characterised the postcolonial African state and, as stories and realities collapse into one another, the reader realises that the eponymous Wizard of the Crow is the embodiment of the writer in postcolonial society. Consequently, the play of languages in the text raises questions about the role of the writer in the face of dictatorship. Secondly, the reader is invited to question the status of the translated text in light of Ngugi’s advocacy of writing in indigenous languages. The author of a literary work must first make a choice of language and then consider how the language will be used. When that work is, in turn, translated, this raises another set of questions about the status of the text, as well as the status of the translation. My interest here then, is not in the similarities or dissimilarities between Murogi wa Kagogo and the English version, but instead Ngugi’s preoccupation with the question of language in Wizard of the Crow and the text’s critical status as self-translation.