Dreams in a Time of War
Dreams in a Time of War
A Childhood Memoir
Pantheon Books, Hardcover, 9780307378835, 256pp.
Publication Date: March 9, 2010
By the world-renowned novelist, playwright, critic, and author of Wizard of the Crow, an evocative and affecting memoir of childhood.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o was born in 1938 in rural Kenya to a father whose four wives bore him more than a score of children. The man who would become one of Africa’s leading writers was the fifth child of the third wife. Even as World War II affected the lives of Africans under British colonial rule in particularly unexpected ways, Ngugi spent his childhood as very much the apple of his mother’s eye before attending school to slake what was then considered a bizarre thirst for learning.
In Dreams in a Time of War, Ngugi deftly etches a bygone era, capturing the landscape, the people, and their culture; the social and political vicissitudes of life under colonialism and war; and the troubled relationship between an emerging Christianized middle class and the rural poor. And he shows how the Mau Mau armed struggle for Kenya’s independence against the British informed not only his own life but also the lives of those closest to him.
Dreams in a Time of War speaks to the human right to dream even in the worst of times. It abounds in delicate and powerful subtleties and complexities that are movingly told.
“A testament to the resilience of youth and the strength of hope. . . . Vividly evokes the colonial era as experienced by Africans, and the resulting clash of cultures that produced one of the most significant African writers of our time. . . . Ngũgĩ’s greatest literary achievement in this book is to re-create, with almost uncanny success, how the world looked through mid-century African eyes.”
—The Boston Globe
“Eye-opening. . . . The work Ngũgĩ offers us here is like nothing that’s gone before. . . . There is a startling similarity between [Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father] and . . . Ngũgĩ’s eye-opening memoir. . . . It is admirably free of cant or sentimentality, and yet it is enough to make you weep.”
—The Washington Post
“Startling, vivid. . . . Inspiring. . . . Whether recalling joyful or challenging times, Ngũgĩ displays a plainspoken yet beautiful prose style. . . . Ngũgĩ’s inspiring story is a testament to his extraordinary resilience and stubborn refusal to surrender his dreams.”
—Christian Science Monitor
“Absorbing. . . . Infused with a child’s curiosity and wonder, this book is deeply touching in its revelation of a whole community’s stake in nurturing a writer.”
—The Guardian (London)
“Gives its readers an unforgettable sense of another time, a country and a continent in the middle of change. A small child learns to hold onto his dreams, even in a time of war.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Luminously evokes Kenya on the cusp of independence. . . . [This] memoir is suffused with affecting evocations of time and place, as well as a touching reminder that dreams can come true.”
—Richmond Times Dispatch
“Ngũgĩ has been a key figure in Kenya’s modern history, both as a writer and as a model for political engagement, and his three-volume memoir will serve as an important record of the country and the life.”
“Crisp, clearly told. . . . A fascinating look at twentieth-century African history, but also a moving intellectual odyssey in which Ngũgĩ learns to revere both modernity and tradition but to reserve a healthy skepticism of both.”
“Ngũgĩ has returned to his roots to produce something delicate, fresh and scrupulously honest.”
“Richly drawn. . . . A coming-of-age tale, gripping, endearing, shocking and funny by turns. . . . The surprise about Dreams in a Time of War is that, for all the provocation of history, and for all its clear-eyed evocation of an agonised time, it is not an angry book. . . . Ngũgĩ’s storyteller’s instinct for character and place, for recurring motifs and telling symbols, triumphs over the bleakness of background.”