Excerpt from Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong'o, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Wizard of the Crow

A Novel

by Ngugi wa Thiong'o

Wizard of the Crow
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2006, 784 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2007, 784 pages

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We can very well imagine the scene. Guiding his fork unerringly toward his lips, the Ruler was about to place a morsel of chicken into his mouth, when suddenly, at Rachael's words, the fork froze in midair; slowly, he lowered the fork to the plate, the piece of chicken still on it, took the napkin and wiped his lips with deliberation. Before replacing the napkin on the table, he turned to his wife and asked: Rachael, did I really hear you say that I have been forcing myself on schoolchildren? That I don't cry over our tomorrow? Have you ever heard of a Ruler who cries, except maybe, well, never mind him, and where did those daily tears of a grown man lead him? He lost his throne. Do you want me to end up as he did?

There is always a difference between a thought and its description: what the Ruler had been dwelling on when lowering the fork to the table and wiping his lips with a corner of the napkin was not the fate of a Ruler who wept and so lost his throne but rather what he would have to do to make Rachael understand that he, the Ruler, had power, real power over everything including . . . yes . . . Time. He shuddered at the thought. Even before the shuddering completed its course, he had made up his mind.

Speaking with studied calm, a faint smile on his face, he told Rachael that the unfinished meal would be their last supper together, that he would go away to give her time to think about the implications of her allegations, and since she would need space to think, he would bring to pass what had been written in the scriptures: In My Father's House Are Many Mansions. Even for sinners.

He built her a house on a seven-acre plot that he surrounded with a stone wall and an electric fence, and it was while contemplating the unbreachable walls that the idea of a building that reached . . . but we shall talk about that later, because the idea was given expression by one of his most faithful and adoring ministers. What was undisputedly the product of his own genius, in its conception and execution, was the construction of Rachael's mansion.

All the clocks in the house were frozen at the second, the minute, and the hour that she had raised the question of schoolgirls; the calendars pointed to the day and the year. The clocks tick-tocked but their hands did not move. The mechanical calendar always flipped to the same date. The food provided was the same as at the last supper, the clothes the same as she had worn that night. The bedding and curtains were identical to those where she had once lived. The television and radio kept repeating programs that were on during the last supper. Everything in the new mansion reproduced the exact same moment.

A record player was programmed to play only one hymn:

Our Lord will come back one day
He will take us to his home above
I will then know how much he loves me
Whenever he comes back
And when he comes back
You the wicked will be left behind
Moaning your wicked deeds
Whenever our Lord comes back

The idea of the endless repetition of this hymn pleased him so much that he had amplifiers placed at the four corners of the seven-acre plantation so that passersby and even others would benefit from the tune and the words.

Rachael would remain thus, awaiting his second coming, and on that day when he found that she had shed all the tears for all the tomorrows of all the children she had accused him of abusing, he would take her back to restart life exactly from where it had stopped, or rather Rachael would resume her life, which had been marking time, like a cinematic frame on pause. I am your beginning and your end.

What were you before I made you my wife? he asked, and answered himself, A primary school teacher. I am the past and the present you have been and I am your tomorrow take it or leave it, he added in English as he turned his back on her.

Excerpted from Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa'Thiong'o Copyright © 2006 by Ngugi wa'Thiong'o. Excerpted by permission of Pantheon, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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