If you are looking for a book which uses humour to tell of the worst woes that can befall a country then Wizard of the Crow is that book. Renowned author, Ngugi wa Thiong’o delivers a compelling story of greed, love, corruption, sorcery, selfishness, betrayal, power and the urge to dominate others.
First published in 2007 by Anchor, Wizard of the Crow is about a fictional country, Aburiria which is ruled by an autocratic leader known as ‘The Ruler’. He lords his authority over his subjects and rules his cabinet with fear. He has a cabinet full of Ministers who are involved in a constant battle of ‘who is the favorite subject’ with the battle being fiercest between Machokali, the Minister for Foreign Affairs; and Sikiokuu the Minister of State. The two had to enlarge their eyes and ears respectively before they could be made Ministers. According to them this would make them better able to serve their Lord and King.
Aburiria is faced with many challenges ranging from unemployment, poverty to insecurity, fear amongst the citizenry, and hunger amongst others. The Ministers who could help solve most of these problems are self serving. They are more interested in the power and control that they can get than in solving the country’s problems. A coalition of people known as the Movement for the Voice of the People rises to speak out for the masses against the Ruler and his Ministers.
In this book, Ngugi shows women playing key roles in speaking out against oppression through the Movement for the Voice of the People, which has a female leader, Nyawira. The movement organizes various protests, marches, and dances that get the attention of the Ruler and his Ministers. They, in turn, declare the Movement an enemy of the nation.
Notwithstanding the country’s problems, Machokali proposes an elephantine project as a present in honor of The Ruler’s birthday. The project is tagged ‘Marching to Heaven’ since it involves construction of a building that reaches from earth to heaven. To get the loan for this project funds are sourced from a foreign bank known as the Global Bank and emissaries from this bank are sent to assess the feasibility of the project. This, in turn leads to a series of events which eventually culminate in a great disaster.
Meanwhile, a tussle for power ensues between Tajirika, the owner of a Construction company who later becomes the Chairman for Marching to Heaven and John Kaniuru, a lecturer who becomes the Deputy Chairman for Marching to Heaven. The two belong to different camps and are arch rivals; the only thing binding them is that they will do anything for fame and power.
Enter the “Wizard of the Crow, Kamiti, who. Despite being a University graduate with two degrees, has been unable to get a job. Instead, he finds himself scouring refuse dumps for food and has taken to begging at night. He starts on the path of being the “Wizard of the Crow one night when he and another beggar are running from the Police. The other beggar turns out to be Nyawira who he had met earlier when he went to seek for job at Tajirika’s company. His first client turns out to be the one of the policemen who chased him the previous night. His clientele later grow to include Tajirika who is brought there as a result of his greed.
Kaniuru, Sikiokuu, and eventually the Ruler are struck by a strange illness when they go on a loan seeking visit out of the Country. The Ministers turn to sorcery as a means to rid themselves of their rivals. The Ruler is eventually killed by Tajirika, who becomes the Emperor of Aburiria. He proceeds to get rid of his rivals, reshuffles the cabinet and Aburiria remains the same country with its old problems of unemployment, poverty, homelessness, hunger, and so on.
Wizard of the Crow is one of the best books I’ve read. It describes in vivid detail the woes befalling a nation whose leaders are only concerned about themselves and Ngugi shows his vast knowledge of African countries in this book.
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