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Wrestling with the Devil: A Prison Memoir

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Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s powerful prison memoir begins half an hour before his release on 12 December 1978. A year earlier, he recalls, armed police arrived at his home and took him to Kenya’s Kamiti Maximum Security Prison. There, Ngugi lives in a block alongside other political prisoners, but he refuses to give in to the humiliation. He decides to write a novel in secret, on Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s powerful prison memoir begins half an hour before his release on 12 December 1978. A year earlier, he recalls, armed police arrived at his home and took him to Kenya’s Kamiti Maximum Security Prison. There, Ngugi lives in a block alongside other political prisoners, but he refuses to give in to the humiliation. He decides to write a novel in secret, on toilet paper – it is a book that will become his classic, Devil on the Cross. Wrestling with the Devil is Ngugi’s unforgettable account of the drama and challenges of living under twenty-four-hour surveillance. He captures not only the pain caused by his isolation from his family, but also the spirit of defiance and the imaginative endeavours that allowed him to survive.


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Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s powerful prison memoir begins half an hour before his release on 12 December 1978. A year earlier, he recalls, armed police arrived at his home and took him to Kenya’s Kamiti Maximum Security Prison. There, Ngugi lives in a block alongside other political prisoners, but he refuses to give in to the humiliation. He decides to write a novel in secret, on Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s powerful prison memoir begins half an hour before his release on 12 December 1978. A year earlier, he recalls, armed police arrived at his home and took him to Kenya’s Kamiti Maximum Security Prison. There, Ngugi lives in a block alongside other political prisoners, but he refuses to give in to the humiliation. He decides to write a novel in secret, on toilet paper – it is a book that will become his classic, Devil on the Cross. Wrestling with the Devil is Ngugi’s unforgettable account of the drama and challenges of living under twenty-four-hour surveillance. He captures not only the pain caused by his isolation from his family, but also the spirit of defiance and the imaginative endeavours that allowed him to survive.

30 review for Wrestling with the Devil: A Prison Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Meike

    "Thought for despair? No! I am part of a living struggle. And without struggle, there is no movement, there is no life." Will this man now finally get his well-deserved Nobel Prize, for God's sake?! It's actually bizarre to even rate this, the memoir of a man who was once thrown into a maximum security prison after writing a play in an African language and staging it with local workers and peasants. Today, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o is considered one of the main contestants for the Nobel Prize in Literatu "Thought for despair? No! I am part of a living struggle. And without struggle, there is no movement, there is no life." Will this man now finally get his well-deserved Nobel Prize, for God's sake?! It's actually bizarre to even rate this, the memoir of a man who was once thrown into a maximum security prison after writing a play in an African language and staging it with local workers and peasants. Today, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o is considered one of the main contestants for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and his writings on Kenyan culture and about the consequences of the British rule over his home country are invaluable for everyone trying to understand African history or colonialism in general. This is the first time this memoir is published in English, in a re-edited version, although its original version in Gikuyu was already put out in 1982. Ngũgĩ wrote most of the text secretly on toilet paper in his prison cell in 1978, as a means of resistance, to uphold his own sanity and intergrity, and as a testimony to let others know about the faith of political prisoners under the authoritarian Kenyatta regime. Jomo Kenyatta was the country's first black head of government and played a significant role in the transformation of Kenya from a colony into an independent republic. Born in 1891, he experienced the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial era - and this man's policies were just as contradictory as Kenya's history (see Ngũgĩ's highly interesting postscript). In his memoir, Ngũgĩ strongly criticizes the man who jailed him and many of his fellow intellectuals, describes the connection between colonial atrocities and the wrongdoings of the Kenyatta government, and elaborates on the power which the ideology of colonialism still holds over the Kenyan people, from poor peasants up to the head of state. From his prison cell, Ngũgĩ fights the colonial "culture of silence and fear" and its "aesthetic of blind trust and obedience to foreign economic, political, and cultural occupation and encirclement" with many acts of resistance, his art being one of them. After dozens of years of being indoctrinated that they are worthless and that their actions are futile, Ngũgĩ sees Kenyan culture and creativity as the constructive force that will enable Kenyans to overcome the legacy of the "colonial Lazarus": "It's the history of Kenyan resistance culture, a revolutionary culture of courage and heroism (...). It's a creative, fight-back culture unleashing tremendous energies among the Kenyan people." "(...) even behind the barbed wire and stone walls of the colonial Jericho, they (the Kenyan people) went on composing new songs and singing out a collective defiance that finally brought those walls down." In contrast, "(b)eyond drinking whiskey, drugging themselves into sexual fantasies, whoring each other's spouses, and gunning lions and natives for pleasure in this vast Happy Valley, the settlers produced little." The text has a peculiar structure, containing foreshadowings and flashbacks, providing historical and political context, giving insights into the physical and psychological measures applied to subdue or even destroy prisoners, and letting the reader get really close to the author: The way Ngũgĩ talks about his feelings, his pain, but also his strength is powerful and highly impressive. The memoir is closely connected to his novel Devil on the Cross, which he also wrote in prison (but it is not necessary to know the novel to appreciate this book). Full disclosure: I didn't know much about Kenya before reading this book, but now I want to learn much more about this country which is located around 10,000 km away from me - and I want to read more Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o. This is a fascinating book, and it is almost impossible to put it down.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jessica T.

    Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o was a political prisoner in Kenya and this is his memoir about that dark time. It is also a history lesson about the people's struggle in Africa to rise above colonial and state oppression. It's an amazing work. I had no idea about Africa's history, but I feel like I learned something and am hungry for more. What is troubling for me is that I see parallels in America's society and what was described in this memoir.. This is a very poignant read. thanks to netgally Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o was a political prisoner in Kenya and this is his memoir about that dark time. It is also a history lesson about the people's struggle in Africa to rise above colonial and state oppression. It's an amazing work. I had no idea about Africa's history, but I feel like I learned something and am hungry for more. What is troubling for me is that I see parallels in America's society and what was described in this memoir.. This is a very poignant read. thanks to netgally

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mickey

    This is, by far, the worst book I've ever read. It is nothing but a vanity piece for the author, who is clearly puffing himself up to be some sort of African Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. He's also an anti-Semite. Kenya was right to help Israel refuel after the Entebbe raid. This is, by far, the worst book I've ever read. It is nothing but a vanity piece for the author, who is clearly puffing himself up to be some sort of African Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. He's also an anti-Semite. Kenya was right to help Israel refuel after the Entebbe raid.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Skip

    This republished edition is really divided into two distinct parts: the first half is about Kenyan political history as a British colony, with the second half on the day-to-day injustices of being a political prisoner. Further confusing matters is the reality that the book is not structured in a linear fashion, jumping around in time from the author's arrest to the colonial times in the late 1800s/early 1900s to the country's liberation, with too many names to remember. To summarize the first ha This republished edition is really divided into two distinct parts: the first half is about Kenyan political history as a British colony, with the second half on the day-to-day injustices of being a political prisoner. Further confusing matters is the reality that the book is not structured in a linear fashion, jumping around in time from the author's arrest to the colonial times in the late 1800s/early 1900s to the country's liberation, with too many names to remember. To summarize the first half, quoting wa Thiong'o: "Pillage, plunder and murder. That was the colonial way." The only thing he forgot was imprisonment. He compares the capitulation of Kenyatta and Thuku with the long list of those for whom "detention and imprisonment couldn't break their spirits; it could at most break their bodies." He also recognizes the unity with indigenous Indians in their anti-imperialist struggle. The second half was lost on me, except for the funny story about how his drafts on toilet paper were seized (along with the final versions, which had been re-rolled), casting him into depression, until the drafts were returned ironically because of the writing. N.B.: the other rolls were eventually recovered as well.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Curiosbag

    "I am not trying to write a story of heroism. I am only a scribbler of words. Pen and paper have so far been my only offensive and defensive weapons against those who would like to drown human in pool of fear-or blood." . "There's a fellowship that develops among people in adversity that's very human and gives glimpses of what human beings could become if they could unite against the enemy of humanity: social cannibalism." -Wrestling with the Devil: A Prison Memoir, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o . Although the "I am not trying to write a story of heroism. I am only a scribbler of words. Pen and paper have so far been my only offensive and defensive weapons against those who would like to drown human in pool of fear-or blood." . "There's a fellowship that develops among people in adversity that's very human and gives glimpses of what human beings could become if they could unite against the enemy of humanity: social cannibalism." -Wrestling with the Devil: A Prison Memoir, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o . Although the play "Ngaahika Ndeenda" was a commercial success, it was shut down by the authoritarian Kenyan regime six weeks after its opening in 1977, and that caused him in jail. This book is such a powerful prison memoir that open my eyes to see and learn so much more about Kenya. And Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o is an a remarkable storyteller. He portrayed such an emotional life experience in prison with other political prisoners. Yet his spirit raised above the injustice and kept hiding and writing in his cell on the toilet papers. . This book is a combination of different composition about the history of British Colonial in Kenya, Kenya political situation and Ngũgĩ personal experience in jail. He talked briefly about the famous book "Out of Africa" by Karen Blixen, and debated how the writer mislead the situation. He also mentioned about the Arab slave-dealers. And these are the major learning for me. Despite the seriousness of the context, the narration of this book is beyond extraordinary. . I am a fan of Ngũgĩ writing and his ability to create perfect words and put them in perfect places. He's just a pure genius. The fact that English is his second language blew my mind. He writes in Gikuyu and translates some of his book into English by himself. He also teach writing at Yale, NYU and UCI. . I hope I convince you to read more of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Jez

    While I volunteer with a prison abolitionist organization and have worked on a legal prison rights case, I had zero knowledge about Kenya's prison system, let alone its history or politics, before reading this book. The chapters flit between Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o's thoughts in prison and the study of the past. He is exceptional at marrying all this information, so it was a captivating and educational read. I learned so much about the effects of [neo-]colonialism in Kenya and highly recommend this bo While I volunteer with a prison abolitionist organization and have worked on a legal prison rights case, I had zero knowledge about Kenya's prison system, let alone its history or politics, before reading this book. The chapters flit between Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o's thoughts in prison and the study of the past. He is exceptional at marrying all this information, so it was a captivating and educational read. I learned so much about the effects of [neo-]colonialism in Kenya and highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the resistance of capitalism and cultural imperialism. Note: I received an advance copy from The New Press through an Instagram giveaway.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sergey Kahn

    A really interesting and informative memoir that in part tells the story of Kenya's struggles under colonial rule and how the colonial mindset persisted into post-colonial Kenya and resulted in, among other things, the author's imprisonment for his political views. The author juxtaposes his experience as a political prisoner with that of other key figures in Kenya's resistance, showing how the system tries to break the will of the imprisoned and even can turn them against their own causes. A really interesting and informative memoir that in part tells the story of Kenya's struggles under colonial rule and how the colonial mindset persisted into post-colonial Kenya and resulted in, among other things, the author's imprisonment for his political views. The author juxtaposes his experience as a political prisoner with that of other key figures in Kenya's resistance, showing how the system tries to break the will of the imprisoned and even can turn them against their own causes.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    Let me preface this by saying I've never read any of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o's novels; I saw this available on NetGalley and they provided me with a copy. Ngũgĩ's strength and perseverance in this memoir is unparalleled. I never doubted his commitment to staying firm to his beliefs. It's tough to review this as a piece of literature; it's a very personal story, it's short, and I'm not quite sure it's even meant to embody his entire prison experience rather than his unparalleled focus on maintaining in Let me preface this by saying I've never read any of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o's novels; I saw this available on NetGalley and they provided me with a copy. Ngũgĩ's strength and perseverance in this memoir is unparalleled. I never doubted his commitment to staying firm to his beliefs. It's tough to review this as a piece of literature; it's a very personal story, it's short, and I'm not quite sure it's even meant to embody his entire prison experience rather than his unparalleled focus on maintaining integrity throughout his imprisonment. It's very informative on the role of colonialism in modern-day Kenya, and Ngũgĩ is especially interested in its stranglehold on the norms that permeate Kenyan culture and governance. Informative, well-written, and - though I usually loathe the sentimentality of the word - inspiring.

  9. 4 out of 5

    James Winter

    I love "Devil on the Cross," and was a little let down by this memoir. Only about a third of the material is really about N's time in a Kenyan prison. The other thirds are a brief history of Kenya's colonial oppression and a mish-mash of other works by imprisoned writers as well as some of N's experience writing "Devil." Honestly, although there are some excellent passages diagnosing Kenya's problems at the time of this writing, I expected more here. I love "Devil on the Cross," and was a little let down by this memoir. Only about a third of the material is really about N's time in a Kenyan prison. The other thirds are a brief history of Kenya's colonial oppression and a mish-mash of other works by imprisoned writers as well as some of N's experience writing "Devil." Honestly, although there are some excellent passages diagnosing Kenya's problems at the time of this writing, I expected more here.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    Prison memoirs of revolutionaries (who remain revolutionary) are such staggeringly heart-breaking and beautiful insights into resolve and spirit many of us are unfamiliar with. Ngugi, with his wit and vulnerability, analyzes imperialism, (neo)colonialism, theatre, detention, suffering and the long lineage of the many brave Kenyan struggles against foreign domination in this memoir partially written on toilet paper while in prison. His telling of prison as the incarceration of the body and a disc Prison memoirs of revolutionaries (who remain revolutionary) are such staggeringly heart-breaking and beautiful insights into resolve and spirit many of us are unfamiliar with. Ngugi, with his wit and vulnerability, analyzes imperialism, (neo)colonialism, theatre, detention, suffering and the long lineage of the many brave Kenyan struggles against foreign domination in this memoir partially written on toilet paper while in prison. His telling of prison as the incarceration of the body and a disciplinary weapon against the radicals' mind and spirit... and his retaliation of constant, clandestine writing, as a refusal to surrender to this disciplining, a refusal to be eaten alive by the 'stony dragon'; was beyond words. So much to hold on to in this book, so much to be made alive by. "I had no intention of suffering in silence" "I am part of a living history of struggle. And without struggle, there is no movement, there is no life" "I am ever willing to learn"

  11. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    Colonialism has cast a long shadow over the history of modern Africa. The injustice many Africans endured under colonial oppression is hard to imagine or stomach. And the legacy that it left behind is one that Africans still struggle with into the present. In this edited reprint of his prison memoirs from the 1980s, Mr. Thiong’o not only retells his political imprisonments, but reflects on how British colonialism and its legacy played a major role in his and others’ political imprisonment. Ngugi Colonialism has cast a long shadow over the history of modern Africa. The injustice many Africans endured under colonial oppression is hard to imagine or stomach. And the legacy that it left behind is one that Africans still struggle with into the present. In this edited reprint of his prison memoirs from the 1980s, Mr. Thiong’o not only retells his political imprisonments, but reflects on how British colonialism and its legacy played a major role in his and others’ political imprisonment. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o is one of the most famous East African authors writing today. In the late 1970s. His plays, written in a local language about the people, landed him in political prison. During that time, he wrote his novel, Devil on the Cross, on toilet paper during his time in jail. The first chapters and the second half of this book deal with his time in prison, how he hid his writings from his jailers, and the constant struggles he and the other political prisoners faced to keep hope alive. This part of the book is fascinating and for anyone interested in freedom, you’ll enjoy it. However, after the first chapters, most of the first half of the book is Thiong’o’s reflections on Kenya’s colonial and post-colonial past, drawing the connection between British imperialism and the repressive political tactics Kenya’s leader at the time engaged in. As someone who is rather unfamiliar with the history of colonialism in Africa and its legacy, this book was a bit of a slog. While he made the connections pretty clearly, my unfamiliarity with what he was talking about made it difficult to understand what he was saying. Perhaps, after learning more about European colonialism in Africa, I will better understand and appreciate what Mr. Thiong’o is saying. Overall, I enjoyed this book, but I will need to learn more about Africa’s colonial past to truly appreciate this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    I had only learned of Thiong'o's work through the book list 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I haven't read any of his fiction works but I was curious about this memoir being released so many years after its initial publication. Apparently it was edited to focus on Kenyan political history as a whole and less on the day-to-day injustices in the prison. The book is not structured in any linear fashion, but jumps around in time from the author's arrest to colonial times to recent political I had only learned of Thiong'o's work through the book list 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I haven't read any of his fiction works but I was curious about this memoir being released so many years after its initial publication. Apparently it was edited to focus on Kenyan political history as a whole and less on the day-to-day injustices in the prison. The book is not structured in any linear fashion, but jumps around in time from the author's arrest to colonial times to recent political history. His sharp criticism for the colonial people has an edge to it; he complains that they have no culture of their own, in addition to abusing the Kenyans brutally. He has some amazing stories about the bizarre and disgusting things they did to Africans and to each other. He goes through Kenyan history. He details his arrest, which is a terrifying thing: spirited away in the night in an unmarked car, and put in a prison without anyone knowing he is there. I had not known anything about Kenyan history, and the story of Kenyatta is so frustrating and heartbreaking. He was an anti-colonial activist who was imprisoned for his political actions, then when he became the ruler of Kenya he was authoritarian and corrupt. He imprisoned Thiong'o for a play that addressed issues of class in society. The anti-oppression activist becomes the oppressor. Why? Well, it's an issue that is topical these days with all of the "populists" gaining ground, "leaders" who talk about helping out the common people then turn around and oppress them. This book was a bit of a challenge to read because of how much it jumps around, but it is an important story that we should all hear. I look forward to reading Thiong'o's fiction. My thanks to Netgalley and The New Press for sending me an e-galley free of charge. My opinions are my own.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Leah Hoelscher

    GREAT READ. Thiong'o was a political prisoner in the late '70s in Kenya for writing a play in an indigenous language and founding a community theater run by working class people. He writes of the struggles of the Kenyan people against British imperialism, and the importance of practicing one's authentic culture and language in the face of the influence of foreign capital which seeks to dominate all aspects of life. Thiong'o wrote a novel on toilet paper while imprisoned, and describes the act of GREAT READ. Thiong'o was a political prisoner in the late '70s in Kenya for writing a play in an indigenous language and founding a community theater run by working class people. He writes of the struggles of the Kenyan people against British imperialism, and the importance of practicing one's authentic culture and language in the face of the influence of foreign capital which seeks to dominate all aspects of life. Thiong'o wrote a novel on toilet paper while imprisoned, and describes the act of continuing to practice creativity as an act of resistance. QUOTES: "I rediscovered the creative nature and power of collective work...work, from each according to his ability for a collective vision, was the great democratic equalizer. Not money, not book education, but work...not religions, not good intentions, but work. Work and yet more work, with collective democratic decisions on the basis of frank criticisms and self-criticism, was the organizing principle, which gradually became the cornerstone of our activities." "The right to strike was a worker's basic human right: it was only the enslaved who had no right to bargain for what they should be given for the use of their labor power. If a worker is unable to strike, then he is in the position of the enslaved." "today more and more professionals are realizing that their sciences, which should serve people - for really, medicine, science and technology were developed by working people to free themselves from the tyranny of nature - are benefitting only the plutocratic class instead of the masses...discoveries and inventions, which are collective and social in origin, end up as private property." "Art should encourage people to bolder and higher resolves in all their struggles to free the human spirit." "intellectual slavery masquerading as sophistication is the worst form of slavery."

  14. 5 out of 5

    Stochita Radu

    Ngugi writes from his heart the entire time. He is not afraid of stripping himself off the shield of power that the others might want to see on him. Tears, insanity, resistance, honesty and a desire of change and improvement in the lives of the people at the bottom of the class system, make this novel a must-read for everyone, regardless of their age. As we are living some turbulent times, in which the rich are getting richer, the poor even poorer, being more oppressed and subjugated by the econo Ngugi writes from his heart the entire time. He is not afraid of stripping himself off the shield of power that the others might want to see on him. Tears, insanity, resistance, honesty and a desire of change and improvement in the lives of the people at the bottom of the class system, make this novel a must-read for everyone, regardless of their age. As we are living some turbulent times, in which the rich are getting richer, the poor even poorer, being more oppressed and subjugated by the economic conditions created by capitalism, this book could seem like that grain of hope that sometimes is needed for survival. It is a slap, a hard slap on the culture of #RiseAndGrind of today, calling for an awake call regarding the situation of the oppressed people. Give up and follow the oppressor with the promise of living a good life, according to their terms, under a system that continuously oppresses you, or fight against it, with the hope of seeing the results of your work one day. It is a manifesto. A manifesto of power. Not power coming from the top that we see in the books written about statesman and how they used the tools they have had to create state balance, but rather from the bottom. It is about survival, surviving the tough conditions created in prison, not to rehabilitate you and to let you reintegrate into society, but rather to destroy you, to push you down under the iron thumb of the system, until they have modelled out of you what they have wanted. In a nutshell, read the book. Fuck the system, fuck the ones telling you that under their rule our life will be better. We need emancipation of us, wage-labourers, intellectual slaves under a mechanism based on domination and expansion, of the people from the bottom.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Madi

    "The act of imprisoning Democrats, progressive intellectuals, and militant workers reveals many things. It is first an admission by the authorities that they know they have been seen. By signing the detention orders, they acknowledge that the people have seen through their official lies labeled as a new philosophy, their pretensions wrapped in three-piece suits and gold chains, their propaganda packed as religious truth, their plastic smiles ordered from abroad, their nationally televised charit "The act of imprisoning Democrats, progressive intellectuals, and militant workers reveals many things. It is first an admission by the authorities that they know they have been seen. By signing the detention orders, they acknowledge that the people have seen through their official lies labeled as a new philosophy, their pretensions wrapped in three-piece suits and gold chains, their propaganda packed as religious truth, their plastic smiles ordered from abroad, their nationally televised charitable handouts and breast-beatings before the high altar, their high-sounding phrases and ready-to-shed tears at the site of naked children fighting cats and dogs for a trash heap, that all have seen these performances of benign benevolence for what they truly are: a calculated sugar-coating of the immoral sale and mortgage of a whole country, it's people and resources, to Euro-American and Japanese capital for a few million dollars in Swiss banks and a few token shares in foreign companies."

  16. 5 out of 5

    Will Bell

    I love the way Thiong'o writes, its beautifully clear and he has a very distinctive and personal voice which suits this book. The book itself is a fascinating insight into life in a prison and its psychological impact on the author, but at the same time it feels like it could or should be something a little more. As if the author was interrupted in his flow one too many times due to the circumstances in which the book was written. Its stood the test of time though, as so much of what he wrote the I love the way Thiong'o writes, its beautifully clear and he has a very distinctive and personal voice which suits this book. The book itself is a fascinating insight into life in a prison and its psychological impact on the author, but at the same time it feels like it could or should be something a little more. As if the author was interrupted in his flow one too many times due to the circumstances in which the book was written. Its stood the test of time though, as so much of what he wrote then came to pass and his analysis of colonialism, neo-colonialism and what the role of the artist is in the social process is fascinating and very profoundly elucidated. Definitely worth reading if you are interested in Kenya, the prison experience, the mechanics of oppression or the legacy of colonialism. Or if you want to read the thoughts of a man who writes fucking great books.

  17. 5 out of 5

    John Benson

    This is the last of Ngugi Wa Thiong'o's memoirs that I have read but was the first one that he wrote. The other three memoirs take place in earlier time frames than this one, so I did read them chronologically. It has a much different feel than the other memoirs. Part of it details this thoughts on Kenya's colonial and postcolonial political history and his detention as a political prisoner from December 1977 through December 1978 at Kamiti Prison. Little of it reads like a diary, but nonetheles This is the last of Ngugi Wa Thiong'o's memoirs that I have read but was the first one that he wrote. The other three memoirs take place in earlier time frames than this one, so I did read them chronologically. It has a much different feel than the other memoirs. Part of it details this thoughts on Kenya's colonial and postcolonial political history and his detention as a political prisoner from December 1977 through December 1978 at Kamiti Prison. Little of it reads like a diary, but nonetheless, one gets a strong sense of the fears and frustrations of his stay there. The memoir was written only three years after the event. It is a powerful indictment against the Kenyan government of the time, and possibly still today.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Andres Eguiguren

    Thiong'o was imprisoned for year in 1977-1978 in a maximum security prison for political prisoners in Kenya. During his time there, he wrote the novel that would become Devil on the Cross on toilet paper. I found this fascinating and hoped this was indeed "a prison memoir," but after reading the first 89 pages of 240 I realized that after the first chapter it becomes less a memoir and more a history lesson on the horrors of British colonialism and the post-independence leaders (Kenyatta, Moi) wh Thiong'o was imprisoned for year in 1977-1978 in a maximum security prison for political prisoners in Kenya. During his time there, he wrote the novel that would become Devil on the Cross on toilet paper. I found this fascinating and hoped this was indeed "a prison memoir," but after reading the first 89 pages of 240 I realized that after the first chapter it becomes less a memoir and more a history lesson on the horrors of British colonialism and the post-independence leaders (Kenyatta, Moi) who led with a heavy hand that trampled on basic democratic freedoms in the 1960s and 70s. The final two short chapters (taking up only ten pages) detail the discovery, confiscation, and return of his manuscript, as well as his eventual release.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Ngugi wa Thiong'o left it all the table with regards to the impact of colonialism on his country and the deplorable behavior of the colonizers and how they influenced the "independent" government set in place after their "exit". This was far more than a prison memoir. This is a deeply personal and intimate look into how colonialism still affects the continent of Africa and how it affected him personally. I am so appreciative that this was re-released. If you need further clarification on why Afr Ngugi wa Thiong'o left it all the table with regards to the impact of colonialism on his country and the deplorable behavior of the colonizers and how they influenced the "independent" government set in place after their "exit". This was far more than a prison memoir. This is a deeply personal and intimate look into how colonialism still affects the continent of Africa and how it affected him personally. I am so appreciative that this was re-released. If you need further clarification on why Africa is in the state it is in, read this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tyler Jones

    Interspersing the story of a year spent as a political prisoner in Kamiti Maximum Security Prison with the history of Kenya's colonial and neo-colonial oppression, Thiong'o succeeds in connecting the personal struggle to the broader social struggle. It is both prison memoir and a history book, but it also is a book about the importance of art, particularly literature and drama, as a tool for social change. Interspersing the story of a year spent as a political prisoner in Kamiti Maximum Security Prison with the history of Kenya's colonial and neo-colonial oppression, Thiong'o succeeds in connecting the personal struggle to the broader social struggle. It is both prison memoir and a history book, but it also is a book about the importance of art, particularly literature and drama, as a tool for social change.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Tsipouras

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Ngugi wa Thiong'o not only describes his life in prison as a political prisoner detained without trial in Kenya during the regime of Kenyatta, but also mentions historical facts and persons mostly unknown outside Africa. Sometimes this makes it difficult to follow as he assumes these facts and names are known by his readers. Ngugi wa Thiong'o not only describes his life in prison as a political prisoner detained without trial in Kenya during the regime of Kenyatta, but also mentions historical facts and persons mostly unknown outside Africa. Sometimes this makes it difficult to follow as he assumes these facts and names are known by his readers.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Star Nintcy

    Spent Friday some time skyping with Prof. Ngugi wa Thiongo a day after reading his book 'Detained' .... Several wise nuggets on a range of topics including how language is/was used to disempower societies and his views on social, cultural & economic growth/freedom. I'm incredibly inspired by this amazing 81 year old! Spent Friday some time skyping with Prof. Ngugi wa Thiongo a day after reading his book 'Detained' .... Several wise nuggets on a range of topics including how language is/was used to disempower societies and his views on social, cultural & economic growth/freedom. I'm incredibly inspired by this amazing 81 year old!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Stoy

    This was hard to get through because I don't know nearly enough colonial and postcolonial Kenyan history and the sheer injustice hit close to home. Beautifully written, amazing amount of anti-colonial theory and practice in the thing while also being this straightforward memoir of prison. Just fantastic. This was hard to get through because I don't know nearly enough colonial and postcolonial Kenyan history and the sheer injustice hit close to home. Beautifully written, amazing amount of anti-colonial theory and practice in the thing while also being this straightforward memoir of prison. Just fantastic.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Njatha Wanjiku

    In this book, Ngugi recounts the details of his arrest and subsequent detention in 1978.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    This book is more about Kenyan politics than anything else.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mark Laichena

    His dismissal of colonial culture has really stuck with me.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bure Kabisa

    “‘Wrestling With the Devil” is a powerful testament to the courage of Ngugi and his fellow prisoners and validation of the hope that an independent Kenya would eventually emerge.”

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kelly K

    I'm about to sound like a dick here but I just couldn't get into this one. It wasn't what I was expecting. I'm about to sound like a dick here but I just couldn't get into this one. It wasn't what I was expecting.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Ngūgī never disappoints Like in his other memoirs, Ngūgī does an excellent job of unapologetically taking readers through some very important historical times in Kenya.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Francis Bunch

    It has encouraged me to read 'Devil on the Cross'. It has encouraged me to read 'Devil on the Cross'.

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