Customer Review

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Children of the Despot, October 4, 2006
This review is from: Wizard of the Crow: A Novel (Hardcover)
Usually I read pretty fast, especially with a novel I enjoy, but sometimes a book compels you to put it down from time to time as you read to think about the story and the realities which the author is exploring. This was that kind of book, a tale to savour and think about. The style is african storytelling, full of fabulous events and characters and laugh out loud language and happenings including an explosive fart to end all farts, but it is also carefully plotted as a complicated political narrative. Ngugi Wa Thiongo is writing a satirical history of Kenya and similar African nations subjected for too long to corrupt "strong men" leaders, but on a larger scale he captures the Zeitgeist of our own time and the surrealistic language and machinations of those corrupted by power and violence. The Ruler of the imaginary country of Aburiria in the story is afflicted with a malaise which a bombastic Harvard doctor calls SIE, Self induced Expansion, he is physically expanding in sync with his seemingly bottomless megalomania. The hero is a character called the Wizard of the Crow who stumbles into awareness of his own powerful gifts when he needs to save his skin in a tight spot; he takes up the role of a modern day wizard and uses common sense spirituality and an ability to see hidden truths via mirrors to heal the sick. But while he seeks only to heal even the most vicious of men, his ministry has the side effect of disrupting the complacency of the greedy Ruler and his ministers, and bringing all the muddled forces of the state against him and his friends. The Wizard, his politically motivated lover and the women of Aburiria respond with imagiative pranks and the relentless demand to be heard. While some aspects of the story are handled with a comical magic realism, this fabulism is rooted in and constrained by a profound inner realism, and it allows for insight into the choices of characters and the resulting effects on society . The plot never relies on magic but shows the role of imagination in a community. His atunement to the distortions of political language and the excesses of global capitalism cut to the quick of current American and neo-colonial politics and are nothing less than brilliant. At times Thiongo may give the reader more of the mechanics of the plot than are needed but I think the writer's purpose was to make the choices of the characters more credible and to show the cumulative effect of those choices. All in all I found the Wizard of the Crow a really rich and engaging story from a writer with a unique perspective because of his confrontations with Kenyan despotism. Anyone who can be funny and hopeful after what he has been through is a remarkable person. ( I thought John Updike's review was off the mark, but don't care for Updike's recent work anyway)
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