- Birthday, Books, Politics, Quotes, Reading, Writing

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o on Life, Language, Literature, and More


Happy birthday, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o! 83, today! Here are some quotes from the writer:


“Written words can also sing.”


“Words are the food, body, mirror, and sound of thought. Do you now see the danger of words that want to come out but are unable to do so?”


“Language, any language, has a dual character: it is both a means of communication and a carrier of culture.”


“Stories, like food, lose their flavor if cooked in a hurry.”


“For literature, all the world is a stage.”


“Luckily for me, I loved books. Books can enlighten but can also benight, but at least one can play one off against another.”


“Being is one thing; becoming aware of it is a point of arrival by an awakened consciousness and this involves a journey.”


“Belief in yourself is more important than endless worries of what others think of you. Value yourself and others will value you. Validation is best that comes from within.”


“Your own actions are a better mirror of your life than the actions of all your enemies put together.”


“The present is born of the power plays of the past.”


“There is a saying that when a bird in flight gets tired, it will land on any tree.”


“Our lives are a battlefield on which is fought a continuous war between the forces that are pledged to confirm our humanity and those determined to dismantle it; those who strive to build a protective wall around it, and those who wish to pull it down; those who seek to mould it and those committed to breaking it up; those who aim to open our eyes, to make us see the light and look to tomorrow […] and those who wish to lull us into closing our eyes”


“There are some people, be they black or white, who don’t want others to rise above them. They want to be the source of all knowledge and share it piecemeal to others less endowed.”


“The condition of women in a nation is the real measure of its progress.”


“I believe that black has been oppressed by white; female by male; peasant by landlord; and worker by lord of capital. It follows from this that the black female worker and peasant is the most oppressed. She is oppressed on account of her colour like all black people in the world; she is oppressed on account of her gender like all women in the world; and she is exploited and oppressed on account of her class like all workers and peasants in the world. Three burdens she has to carry.”


“He carried the Bible; the soldier carried the gun; the administrator and the settler carried the coin. Christianity, Commerce, civilization: the Bible, the Coin, the Gun: Holy Trinity.”


“Life, struggle, even amidst pain and blood and poverty, seemed beautiful…”


“The call for rediscovery and the resumption of our language is a call for a regenerative reconnection with the millions of revolutionary tongues in Africa and the world over demanding liberation. It is a call for the rediscovery of the real language of humankind: the language of struggle. It is the universal language underlying all speech and words of our history. Struggle. Struggle makes history. Struggle makes us. In struggle is our history, our language and our being. That struggle begins wherever we are; in whatever we do: then we become part of those millions whom Martin Carter once saw sleeping not to dream but dreaming to change the world.”


“How does a writer, a novelist, shock his readers by telling them that these are neo-slaves when they themselves, the neo-slaves, are openly announcing the fact on the rooftops? How do you shock your readers by pointing out that these are mass murderers, looters, robbers, thieves, when they, the perpetrators of these anti-people crimes, aren’t even attempting to hide the fact? When in some cases they are actually and proudly celebrating their massacre of children, and the theft and robbery of the nation? How do you satirize their utterances and claims when their own words beat all fictional exaggerations?”


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