By Mahat Hassan
Ngugi’s fictional rendition of the realities of colonial Kenya in general and the Mau Mau war in particular is commendable but contestable. Kenyan national narrative is rich and told by people from all walks of life.
Literary artists, academics, economists, foreigners and politicians have all had a shot at this history in their works. Granted, the rendition is not anyone’s prerogative but interrogation of the rendition is most welcome.
Missed the point
A certain critic objected to my critique of Ngugi in these pages on December 22, last year. This critic missed the point when he accused me of “jaundiced perspectives”. Ironically, in a piece by Vivere Nandiemo that appeared elsewhere alongside those by Ngugi’s griots, Nandiemo rightly opines that Ngugi’s preoccupation with “the disruption of Gikuyu life during the Mau Mau” as having stolen the literary luster from Ngugi’s fiction. This was basically my thesis.
This critic would want us to ignore Ngugi’s dramatis personae. We shall nose around them as they are essential and embody the ideological eloquence of their creator. If this critic made an attempt and travelled the road less taken, it would have made a difference.
He would be in the company of Carol M Sicherman and William Ochieng. But to such a critic big names (Ngugi, Achebe, Soyinka and Nurrudin Farah) are incapable of literary flaws.
Is it justifiable to label his criticism chimney sweep criticism?
Can such a critic appreciate Carol Sicherman’s and William Ochieng’s less flattering perspectives on Ngugi without throwing up Ngugi’s literary soot?
Chimney Sweep criticism is predictable and boring. Honest and objective criticism is not.
There is massive transformation of the Kenyan society since Ngugi wrote his debut drama, The Black Hermit.