n English in Africa - Writing from the periphery : the case of Ngugi and Conrad

Volume 30, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



The juxtaposition of Joseph Conrad (1854-1924) and Ngugi wa Thiongo (b. 1938) might seem like an aberration at first sight. After all, what can an African novelist have in common with a European writer whom the redoubtable F. R. Leavis placed within the fellowship of the great tradition of English literature? That Conrad has had a considerable influence on Ngugi is well known. Simon Gikandi, in his most recent work on Ngugi, has described Conrad's influence on the Kenyan writer as "substantive" (Gikandi 2000, 106). Parallel readings of Conrad and Ngugi have been done before, notably by Ponnuthurai Sarvan in 1976 (reprinted in Hamner, 1990) and Jacqueline Bardolphe in 1987. Bardolphe posited that Ngugi's and were readings of Conrad's Under Western Eyes and Victory respectively (1987, 32-49). In this article I propose to explore the relationship between Conrad and Ngugi as author-intellectuals and linguistic exiles through an intertextual reading of (1911) and (1967). My excursion into these texts will reveal that they are not simply parallel studies on the theme of betrayal, confession and repentance, but dialectical readings on the continuum of literary intertextuality.

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