Ngugi wa Thiong’o: Short Stories Background

Ngugi wa Thiong’o: Short Stories Background

At Makerere University College in 1960, while being in his second preliminary year, Ngugi wa Thiong'o approached Jonathan Kariara, who was in his final year as a student of English and involved in a university journal called Penpoint. Ngugi wa Thiong'o showed Kariara his short story The Fig Tree (also titled Mugumo in other editions) and felt encouraged to write more when Kariara thought the story was the work of D.H. Lawrence.

In the following three years, Ngugi wa Thiong'o wrote a range of short stories, including The Return, Gone with the Drought, The Village Priest, The Martyr, A Meeting in the Dark, And the Rain Came Down! as well as two novels and a play. In 1964, however, the muses seemed to have left Ngugi wa Thiong'o. While he did write stories about England, they were not as close to his heart as the ones about his homeland.

Only after coming back to Kenya in 1971, having taught African Literature at Northwestern University of Evanston, Illinois, for one year, did he find new inspiration. The tired and bewildered faces of the people struck him so much that he put their stories to paper.

Many of his stories are autobiographical, with characters closely resembling real people he encountered--including his family members with the violent outbursts of his father and the tireless work of his mother to make sure the family has enough to eat. He also says that his writing “is really an attempt to understand myself and my situation in society and in history.”

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