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Revolutionary Magic:
Selected Comments on the Wizard of the Crow


Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o “mounts a nuanced but caustic political and social satire of African corruption of African society with a touch of magical realism – or, perhaps, realistic magic, as the Wizard’s tricks hung on holding a not-so-enchanted mirror to his client’s hidden delusions. The result is a sometimes lurid, sometimes lyrical reflection on Africa’s dysfunctions – and its possibilities." STARRED REVIEW Publishers Weekly, August, 2006.

"Magic realism drives this mammoth novel set in the imaginary African country of Aburiria, and exiled Kenyan writer wa Thiong'o roots the wild fantasy in the brutal horror of contemporary politics. His ridicule of the powerful knows no bounds as the novel chronicles greed and corruption in Aburiria and in the West, including the Global Bank's funding of the Aburirian ruler's Marching to Heaven Tower of Babel. But even more than the crazy plot of coup, countercoup, flattery, and betrayal, what holds the reader here is the intimate story of one couple. Quiet secretary Nyawira, secret leader of the people's resistance movement, persuades her intellectual lover, Kamiti, to give up his search for himself in the wild, and they embark on a plan to change the world, with Kamiti disguised as a sorcerer. Set off by the global farce, this unforgettable love story reveals the magic power of the ordinary in people and in politics." HAZEL ROCHMAN. Booklist.

"Ngugi has perfected in Wizard of the Crow an art of radical simplicity, of sharply defined conflicts that, paradoxically, is less reductive than ostensibly more nuanced accounts of Africa proffered by historians and political analysts. At once an epic burlesque of a sick lumbering state and a praise song to the manifold forms of African resistance, the phantasmagoric saga of Aburiria is as clear a view of Africa as we are likely to get for sometime." JAMES GIBBONS, Bookforum, Summer 2006.

"I have every expectation that his new novel, Wizard of the Crow, will be seen in years to come as the equal of Midnight's Children, The Tin Drum or One Hundred Years of Solitude; a magisterial magic realist account of 20th-century African history. It is unreservedly a masterpiece." STUART KELLEY, Scotland on Sunday, August 13, 2006.

“In its best scatological moments, it echoes the great Latin American novels of dictatorship by Miguel Angel Asturias, Carlos Fuentes, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez…. It now stands as a vivid portrait of postcolonialism and the banality of evil.” SIMON GIKANDI, in a review of the Gikuyu original in Foreign Policy.

"Ngugi writes with bite on contemporary African themes like corruption and sexual discrimination, but he isn’t caustic or heavy handed. It’s magical realism meets Africa, and it hits the mark." FLORENCE WILLIAMS, Outside, August, 2006.

"In his crowded career and eventful life, Ngugi 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 …The tale is fantastic and didactic, told in broad strokes . . . its principal actors wear physical distortions like large, firelit masks." JOHN UPDIKE, The New Yorker, July 31, 2006.

"The pull and promise of Wizard of the Crow … is evident in the labyrinthine wonders of its opening chapters, which involve the authors most raucus and ambitious combination to-date of satire, social realism and supernatural occurrence." RANDY BOYAGANDA, Harper’s Magazine, September, 2006.

"The effort to throw off the[se] shadow chains of the [colonia] past while establishing an authentically African continuum has been at the thematic center of much African literature, but in Ngugi Wa Thiong'o's epic novel, "Wizard of the Crow," this theme may well have found its ultimate expression….[I]t is essential reading for a world that only seems now to be finally waking up to its own reality, bathed in a vision of ever potential hope." DAVID HELLMAN, San Francisco Chronicle.

"For all the angry force of Mr. Ngugi's storytelling, his tale ends on a note of hope and, indeed, happiness. "Wizard of the Crow" is not a nostalgic celebration of folk-wizardry, as if quaint belief will solve the troubles brought on by Africa's encounter with the modern world. It is, though, a reminder that people can find within themselves redemptive resources." ROGER KAPLAN, The Wall Street Journal.

"This delirious comedy feeds on itself… At its deepest level … the novel is really about re-centering the author's discourse in Africa itself by a radical focus on multiple African voices. There are many tellers of tales in this saga, and each has an individual authenticity." KEITH GAREBIAN, Globe and Mail, August 19, 2006.

“Aburiria is recognisable as Africa in all its splendour, squalor, economic malaise and venality, but it comes with more than a touch of magical realism. (...) Despite the book's faults, it is hard not to be cheered by the spirit of gentle resistance that is at its core, in defiance of everyday greed." The Economist.

Wizard of the Crow is the most ambitious entry yet from a writer whose output feels essential for those hoping to understand contemporary Africa." GREGORY MILLER, The San Diego-Union Tribune, August 6, 2006.

"The shades of humour range from the caustic when lampooning a corrupt politician to affectionate when exposing the frailty of ordinary struggling to survive … it is also a love story that leaves lingering tenderness." RUTH WILDGUST, Post-IE, The Sunday Business Post.

"Wizard of the Crow … is an impish and hallucinatory satire on dictatorship — as though Saddam Hussein had won a coup d’état in Wonderland, then sent Alice and the rabbit to a Soviet labour camp." Sunday Times (London), August 26, 2006.

"This novel is restless, epic, allusive. Ngugi wa Thiong’o gives himself scope to tackle big themes, to explore the nature of political oppression and corruption. His book attempts to explode assumptions about the essence of reality. It blurs and frequently juxtaposes visions of everyday consciousness and visionary truth… This is a book about choosing sides. A book above all about the individual's responses to moral dilemmas... It’s a book of wonderful purple phases (the greatest lyrical description of making love I have ever read, a marvelous evocation of wilderness)." TOM ADAIR, The Scotsman, August 12, 2006.

"Why should a reader invest in Wizard of the Crow nearly 800-page bulk? Simply because this novel is a literary masterpiece, woven in the rich nuance of Africa’s oral tradition, as real as spilt blood, a mythical dance of great power." SKYE K. MOODY, The Seattle Times, August 27, 2006.

“ …a compelling novel… a first class masterpiece.” Aesthetica, Issue 14, 2006

"A remarkable book, sure to be widely read." Kirkus Reviews, starred review.

"One of the best reads of the year." Essence, August 2006.

Links to Articles:

Wizard of the Crow
By Laura Mitchell
sALON.COM

Odyssey of an African Sorcerer
By Stuart Kelly
Follow link, click on “Article Index”
Scroll to “Review” section

Festival Books
Ngugi wa Thiong'o; Doris Lessing
By Rosemary Goring

Inconstancy of Rain, Homes and Politics
By Lesley McDowell

UC Irvine Professor Ngugi Wa Thiong'o
Publishes Long-Awaited Novel


Allegory of Post-colonial Africa Takes Flight
Reviewed by David Hellman

Playing the Role of a Voice for Freedom

By John Freeman

Parable Land
By Tom Adair

The Homecoming

By Cornel Bonca

Fictionalized Africa, Ills Intact

Wall Street Journal

Thiong’o is Back
By Davina Morris

Kenyan novelist, 68, refuses to be silenced

By John Freman

Wizard of the Crow:
Rooted in reality, steeped in the supernatural

By Skye K. Moody

Wizard Of The Crow