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About the book
  • Published: 8 November 2012
  • ISBN: 9781448113156
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 256

In the House of the Interpreter

A Memoir

A first-hand insight into a fascinating period - the Mau Mau uprising and battle for Kenyan independence - by a key figure in international literature

Ngugi wa Thiong'o is a writer who has lived through extraordinary times. In the House of the Interpreter tells the story of his schooldays in Kenya against the backdrop of the intensification of the struggle for independence.

During the early fifties, Kenya was a country in turmoil. While Ngugi enjoys scouting trips, chess tournaments and reading about Biggles at the prestigious Alliance School near Nairobi, things are changing at home. He arrives back for his first visit since starting school to find his house razed to the ground and the entire village moved up the road closer to a guard checkpoint. Later, his brother, Good Wallace, who fights for the rebels, is captured by the British and taken to a concentration camp. Finally, Ngugi himself comes into conflict with the forces of colonialism when he is victimised by a police officer on a bus journey and thrown in prison for six days.

This fascinating memoir charts the development of a significant voice in international literature, as well as standing as a record of the struggles of a nation to free itself.

  • Pub date: 8 November 2012
  • ISBN: 9781448113156
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 256

About the Author

Ngugi wa Thiong'o

Ngugi wa Thiong’o is one of the leading writers and scholars at work in the world today. His books include the novels Petals of Blood, for which he was imprisoned by the Kenyan government in 1977, A Grain of Wheat and Wizard of the Crow; the memoirs, Dreams in a Time of War, In the House of the Interpreter and Birth of a Dream Weaver; and the essays, Decolonizing the Mind, Something Torn and New and Globalectics. Recipient of many honours, among them ten honorary doctorates, he is currently Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine.

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Praise for In the House of the Interpreter

“Growing up in Kenya in the 1950s, the future novelist went to an elite school run by a Briton just as the Mau Mau uprising swept his family into the revolt against colonial rule. This powerful memoir depicts a youth torn between these separate worlds”


“This is a book about a young boy’s fear, not just of letting his mother down or failing to fulfill his potential, but some of the worst political violence that Africa endured in the colonial period”

Tim Butcher, Mail on Sunday

“No writer alive today has more complex experience to draw upon or greater resource to convey it”

Brian Morton, Glasgow Herald

“The only thing more amazing than identifying the themes of your life is using them to create deceptively simple literature about it. Such labor is child’s play for the Kenyan novelist and playwright Ngugi wa Thiong'o... [With] echoes of Barack Obama’s own Dreams... [Thiong’o] easily keeps the balance between the whimsical, political, spiritual and personal”

Todd Steven Burroughs, Ebony

“Eloquently telegraphs the complicated experience of being simultaneously oppressed and enlightened at the hands of a colonial regime”

New York Times Book Review

“This is a compelling memoir and an interesting companion to his novels… a fine and fiery book”

Stuart Kelly, The Scotsman

“Ngugi has an admirable lightness of touch even …. This book is also a brave and vivid take on decline of British colonialism – a document of a remarkable writer’s coming-of-age that makes all the more poignant reading knowing ‘the memories of pain’ for him that are yet to come”


“It's 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... Ngugi wa Thiong'o's Kenya endures. And it comes alive in the pages of his brilliant and essential memoir”

LA Times

“Many incidents in In the House of the Interpreter will remind readers of the great novels of the African American canon, particularly Richard Wright’s Black Boy and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man . . . . Considering the scope of Ngugi’s life, when completed his extraordinary memoirs encompassing colonialism, post-colonialism, English racism, African despotism, exile and fame may well belong among the major works of history and literature of our time”

Washington Post

“Beautifully crafted... A story for all time”

Irish Examiner

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