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Doris May, LESSING

Doris May Lessing was born of British parents in Persia (now Iran), in 1919 and moved with her family to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) when she was five. She grew up in Africa and travelled to England for the first time in 1949, carrying with her the manuscript of her first novel, The Grass is Singing, which was published a year later (Michael Joseph, 1950). In her work In Pursuit of Englishness, (1960) Lessing went on to put down her experiences as a new migrant in London of the Fifties, especially the duality of a colonial subject brought face to face with the reality of life at the centre of the Empire. A tireless campaigner against all forms of colonialism and oppression in general, Lessing became for a time a member of the British Communist Party. She was banned from returning to Rhodesia by Ian Simth's regime and came to be known as one of the White voices from Africa who most compassionately identified with the Black majority. She has written novels, essays and reviews, and her science-fiction has long become the focus of a cult following. In recent years Doris Lessing's relationship with the new Zimbabwe has remained somewhat troubled, with works such as her accounts of her travels in Africa reflecting a sense of disillusionment with the way the new post-colonial nation has turned out. Her work has been translated into a number of languages and is regularly re-issued or re-printed. Among her major works are:

  • The Golden Notebook(1962),
  • Martha Quest and a proper marriage,
  • The Four-Gated City (1969) and
  • The Fifth Child (1988)
  • Mara and Dann: An Adventure(1999).

    Sources: Michael Chapman, Tony Simoes da Silva.

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    NGUGI WA THIONG'O

    Ngugi wa Thiong'o is world-famous for his novels from Weep Not, Child to Matigari and for the political impact of his plays, which led to his detention in Kenya. He is presently Professor of Comparative Literature and Performance Studies at New York University.

    Matigari

    Translated from Kikuyu by Wangui wa Goro

    A moral fable, the novel centres on the character of Matigari, a freedom fighter, who emerges from the forest in the political dawn of post-independence Kenya. Searching for his family and a new future, he finds little has changed in the country: his house is not his house; his land is still being worked by peasants for other masters. His search for his wife and children becomes a quest for Truth and Justice. In this highly charged historical, political allegory, Ngugi has written a novel which makes compelling reading.

    A Grain of Wheat

    Mugo is asked to deliver the speech at the Uhuru celebrations. What people do not know is that during Mau Mau he was a traitor. The most ambitious and densely worked of Ngugi's novels.

    Weep Not, Child

    This is now the best established novel from East Africa. It is set before and during the Mau Mau emergency in Kenya. Njoroge finds himself relentlessly drawn into the tragedy.

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    Detained: A Writer's Prison Diary

    The international outcry over the detention of Ngugi without a trial by the Kenyan authorities even reached him in the prison. With great accomplishment he describes the purposeful degradation and humiliation. He builds up vivid portraits of his fellow political prisoners. An artfully integrated series of reflections enable him to reflect on his writing, the nature of imprisonment, and the way forward for the people of Kenya. There are moments of tension and drama, as when a warden discovers the almost completed manuscript of his new novel.


    NGUGI WA THIONG'O and Micere MUGO

    The Trial of Dedan Kimathi

    "The opening night of The Trial could well be described as a gala occasion with the house packed and a degree of audience participation and appreciation which one seldom sees in Nairobi ...culminating in many of the audience joining in the final triumphant dance down the central aisle and spilling out into the street."
    --The Sunday Nation, Nairobi

    Ngugi and Micere Mugo have built a powerful and challenging play out of the circumstances surrounding the trial of one of the celebrated leaders of the Mau Mau revolution.

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