Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Pantheon, 2012

In the House of the Interpreter

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o was a student at a prestigious, British-run boarding school near Nairobi when the tumultuous Mau Mau Uprising for independence and Kenyan sovereignty gripped his country. While he enjoyed scouting trips and chess tournaments, his family home was razed to the ground and his brother, a member of the insurgency, was captured by the British and taken to a concentration camp. But Ngũgĩ could not escape history, and eventually found himself jailed after a run in with the forces of colonialism.

Ngũgĩ richly and poignantly evokes the experiences that would transform him into a world-class writer and, as a political dissident, a moral compass to us all. A winning celebration of the implacable determination of youth and the power of hope, here is a searing account of the history of a man—and the story of a nation


“Brilliant and essential. . . . A work of understated and heartfelt prose that relates one man’s intimate view of the epic cultural and political shifts that created modern Africa.”
Los Angeles Times

“Extraordinary. . . . Among the major works of history and literature of our time.”
The Washington Post

“Elegantly written . . . a testament to the power of education.”
Chicago Tribune

“Ngũgĩ’s memoir eloquently telegraphs the complicated experience of being simultaneously oppressed and enlightened at the hands of a colonial regime.”
The New York Times Book Review

“More than 60 years later, Ngũgĩ continues to wrestle with the greater significance of each event in his formative years, searching for resolution but often only discovering more questions. . . . A useful firsthand look at circumstances which have played out, and continue to play out, on countless stages around the world.”
The Boston Globe

“Richly moving. . . . [Ngũgĩ’s] reconstruction of the era is lucid, the incidents he records from these years are vividly recorded; it’s very easy to see the young man slowly changing directions as he becomes one of Africa’s great writers and thinkers.”

“Strong and memorable. . . . Ngũgĩ has a remarkable lightness of touch. . . . A document of a remarkable writer’s political coming-of-age.”
The Independent

“Luckily there was such a sharp mind present at this time and place to record with such perspicacity the confluence of race, politics, war, and literature.”
The Daily Beast

”Amazing. . . . The author easily keeps the balance between the whimsical, political, spiritual and personal.”

“A particularly powerful indictment of British colonialism and a lasting testament to the healing power of literature. Never bitter or one-sided, tempered throughout by a love of language that cuts across deep cultural divisions, including inter-tribal rivalry. . . . There’s much to ponder here.”
Times Higher Education

“A fine and fiery book. . . . A compelling memoir.”
The Scotsman

“An inspiring story of a young man determined to excel and escape.”

“Alternately youthfully innocent and politically savvy, this is a first-rate telling of that African revolutionary elite who determined the future of their continent.”
Publishers Weekly