on 16 June 2015
Step into Africa and read Ngugiwa Thiong O's 'A Grain of Wheat' and experience historical and political change, as well as a love story, within the ridges, and Rift Valley, caused by a shift from the status-qou. The Native Africans rise up and an English man wants to commit suicide if Kenyatta is freed. A Greek and Indians are also part of the story. The Chinese and Russia, the latter as a name of a person and both as an indication of the future are included. Some African don't want change but to survive and not be detained, and some have already been assimilated into African culture and being on the edge of Settler life and/or do not have apt weapons. And all this in an Africa in general where all humans emerged centuries ago.
Other than being at least bilingual, Thiongo has a sense of humour that will make you laugh for a long time. The novel is deep enough to warrant a glossary to make very clear a person's name, a tribe, and village and to pass on some African language to readers. A speaker and reader of African language(s) may get a greater sense of rank (e.g. Chief, villager, elder, middle class, working class and so forth), and place, among the recent Native Africans, European Settlers, and Indian subjects of the British.
Land creation and land grabs of the past and today places the novel inside and outside of Africa. Today natural disasters on the globe affect a person's sense of place and home; and humans, and cultures survive and merge in subtle ways.
The overlap of some religions is evident in the novel and initiation practices that preceded colonialism is evident, among parents of boys, in not only Muslim Africa, but Judaism, and Muslim religions elsewhere. I accept that continents and countries have dominant boundaries and rules of their own that are not wholly static. The overlap between the value of the Bible to the merged groups via missionaries, a Greek Orthodox priest, for example, also links to the other groups mentioned in the novel.
Do read the novel to get a range of the African groups and places not all often mentioned today. The author also conveys his aesthetic appreciation of a beautiful African landscape, such as a snow covered peak, the forest, and the need for some, in 1967, to hunt with a dog for hare and antelope (p. 209) for food. He is also not afraid to depict poverty and/or basic life and practices, for example the poor Africans, and the non-European toilets of an Indian shop owner (something evident in Europe in an earlier time).
The range of women, from Tom boyish, to very feminine but firm and not cowering in front of her husband, in the novel, as well as their tender moments together, is an example, that goes beyond stereotype. A good writer, Thiongo has a character with negative thoughts toward his woman, and though a little graphic, like some of the love scenes, is all balanced somewhat by his narrator's written style and tone.