Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature
Decolonising the Mind is a collection of essays about language and its constructive role in national culture, history, and identity. The book, which advocates for linguistic decolonization, is one of Ngũgĩ’s best-known and most-cited non-fiction publications, helping to cement him as a pre-eminent voice theorizing the “language debate” in post-colonial studies.
Ngũgĩ describes the book as “a summary of some of the issues in which I have been passionately involved for the last twenty years of my practice in fiction, theatre, criticism, and in teaching of literature…” Decolonising the Mind is split into four essays: “The Language of African Literature,” “The Language of African Theatre,” “The Language of African Fiction,” and “The Quest for Relevance.”
Many of the ideas are familiar from Ngugi’s earlier critical books, and earlier lectures, elsewhere. But the material here has a new context and the ideas a new focus. This leading African writer presents the arguments for using African language and forms after successfully using an African language himself.
After 25 years of independence, there is beginning to emerge a generation of writers for whom colonialism is a matter of history and not of direct personal experience. In retrospect that literature characterised by Ngugi as Afro-European – the literature written by Africans in European languages – will come to be seen as part and parcel of the uneasy period between colonialism and full independence, a period equally reflected in the continent’s political instability as it attempts to find its feet. Ngugi’s importance – and that of this book – lies in the courage with which he has confronted this most urgent of issues.
—The New Statesman