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Wizard of the Crow: A Novel Hardcover – August 8, 2006

4.6 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The fictional Republic of Aburiria chronicled in this sprawling, dazzling satirical fable is an exaggeration of sordid African despotism. At the top, a grandiose Ruler with "the power to declare any month in the year the seventh month" and his sycophantic cabinet plan to climb to heaven with a modern-day Tower of Babel funded by the Global Bank; beneath them, a cabal of venal officials and opportunistic businessmen jockey for a piece of the pie; at the bottom are the unemployed masses who wait in endless lines behind every help-wanted sign. Kamiti, an archetypal New Man with two university degrees and no job prospects, sets up shop as a wizard; with the help of Nyawira, member of both an underground dissident movement and a feminist dance troupe, he dispenses therapeutic sorcery to a citizenry that finds witchcraft less absurd than everyday life. Kenyan novelist Thiong'o (Petals of Blood) mounts a nuanced but caustic political and social satire of the corruption of African society, with a touch of magical realism—or, perhaps, realistic magic, as the wizard's tricks hinge on holding a not-so-enchanted mirror to his clients' hidden self-delusions. The result is a sometimes lurid, sometimes lyrical reflection on Africa's dysfunctions—and possibilities. (Aug.)
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From Booklist

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; Stated First Edition edition (August 8, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037542248X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375422485
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.9 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,121,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was first introduced to Ngugi's novels in my African literature class when I was an undergrad. My mentor, Peter Nazareth, who also teaches an incredible course on Elvis Presley, went to college with Ngugi in Uganda and postgraduate school in Leeds, England. The only writer from Africa I'd read up until that course was Achebe, but there are so many truly amazing novels by Africans out there that most Americans simply don't know about--a whole literature that goes far beyond Things Fall Apart: The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born by Armah, Maru by Bessie Head, A Season of Migration to the North by Salih, The Famished Road by Okri, The Palm-Wine Drunkard by Tutuola, The Book of Secrets by Vassanji, Nehanda by Vera, A Walk in the Night by La Guma, The General Is Up by my mentor Peter Nazareth, and on and on. The best storyteller among them all, however, I must say, in my own opinion, is Ngugi wa Thiong'o. From his first works on up, they've just been better and better. A Grain of Wheat was the first I read, all about England giving up colonial power over Kenya, the Mau Mau movement, and Gikuyu culture. Another of his novels I love and have read several times is Devil on the Cross. He was detained by the Kenyan government in the late seventies after his novel Petals of Blood sparked the popular imagination and made him a threat to the regime. While in detention, he wrote Devil on the Cross, I'm told partly on toilet paper as it was all there was to write upon. Soaring with magic realism, it gives a mythic, moral critique of the Kenya he was experiencing. It's one of the great books I've read. And until this summer, it was my favorite of his works.

His latest book is Wizard of the Crow and I literally don't have the skills to convey how great it is. It's been awhile since he published a novel.
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Format: 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.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Aburiria is a fictional country in Africa, ruled by The Ruler, a dictator unlike any other. For his birthday, his cabinet has decided to build a huge tower, tall enough to reach the Heaven, funded by loans from the Global Bank. Of course, not every citizen loves the idea, but all dissenting voices are crushed without mercy - if the international bankers get the idea that Aburiria is unstable, they won't loan the money!

Wizard of the Crow is a delicious satire, filled with outrageous characters. The African story-telling tradition is rich and colourful and Ngugi wa Thiong'o isn't saving words. The book is long and full of magic - magical realism is an excellent label for this book. The competing ministers Machokali and Sikiokuu are hilarious in their antics, yet almost painfully real, not to mention all the corrupt, power-hungry and superstitious businessmen, police and politicians.

I believe most people haven't read any books from African authors. If you wish to educate and entertain yourself, reading Wizard of the Crow is an excellent idea. Even though the book is over 700 pages long, I wouldn't have minded if it had been even longer - it was that good. Only the ending was somewhat flat, perhaps, but making a story this epic end in a satisfying way must be really, really hard. (Review based on the Finnish translation.)
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Format: Kindle Edition
I enjoyed this book when it was first published. A brilliant satire not only of African politics but of politics and power in general. Throw in consistently astute observations concerning religion, human nature and superstition and you had the making of an instant classic in 2006. I have not enjoyed a book in this vein so much since A Confederacy of Dunces.

That's the good. Now the bad. Worst formatting I have seen on the Kindle. There are three main spelling problems. The Country Aburiria is misspelled 90% of the time (Aburlria). One of the main characters - Kamiti - is misspelled 100% of the time (Kamltl). Before thinking that the problem only lies with a lower case 'i' being picked up as a lower case 'l', keep in mind that several times the country is properly spelled and other more complicated names are always spelled correctly. Ruler is spelled as Buler about 20% of the time, a lot considering the dictator in question does not have a proper name and is constantly referred to as The Ruler. Then there's the annoying habit of ending the occasional paragraph with a free-standing 'r' instead of a period.

I literally stopped counting errors at 100 and had yet to make it through 1/10 of the book. What a shame because the book in hardcover was a most enjoyable read. I simply wanted to point out the problems before you download. I guess the best recommendation I can give to Wizard of the Crow is that even with the overwhelming number of errors, it's still worthy of a buy. That's how much I loved this book. I hope the publisher takes the time to correct the Kindle errors. This modern masterpiece deserves better.
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