A Globalectical Imagination
Ngugi Wa Thiong’o
I have found the globalectical perspective useful in writing my memoirs, Dreams in a Time of War and In the House of the Interpreter. On looking back I can see that some events in our rural village were direct echoes of the world. I was born in 1938 and my early childhood was against the background of the Second World War: I was connected to the forests of Burma because my half brother fought there as a British soldier from colonial Kenya. I have cited an incident when he came home with a group of soldiers one rainy night and the army lorry got stuck in the mud. He and his fellow soldiers spent their entire homecoming trying to get it out of the mud but not before it had slid and hit my mother’s hut, which for months later leaned on one side. My mud walled grass-thatched hut may not have had the same significance as the leaning tower of Pisa, but it was my castle, and the Second World War had intruded into it. The 19th century colonial railway lines opened the interior of the African continent in the same way it had done in America and Russia. A course organized on the basis of railroad and capitalist expansion can bring together Tolstoy’s Anne Karenina, my own A Grain of Wheat, and the Western .
In writing my memoirs, I was surprised to find a connection between the Kenyan African independence school movement of which my primary school was part and the Garveyite politics in the streets of Harlem. The Booker T Washington idea of self reliance had migrated from his conservative conception of relations between whites and blacks in America to animate the idea of Africans and Caribbeans being able to manage their own affairs in politics, business and religion, and therefore doing away with the colonial state, school and church. My high school, around which In the House of the Interpreter is centered, was the most English and elitist of all African secondary schools in Colonial Kenya and founded on recommendations of the 1922 Phelps stoke Commission for Education in East Africa. The commission itself was molded on similar commissions for African American and Native American education. Many Kenyan readers of my memoir are surprised to find historical connections between the educational programs of the country and those of African-Americans and Native-Americans.
Globalectical reading is a matter of both quantity and quality. The quantity is in the spread of texts across cultures and histories. In this literature can learn from orature. The traveler of old, on foot, boat or horseback, was a carrier of tales from one location to another. The stories would of course be retold and acquire local color depending on the teller of tales. The tale was not confined to the national homeland or region. The translator is the modern traveler who brings in one language what he or she has gotten from another. The great tradition of literary intertexuality including recasting one story from one cultural context of one place and time into another place and time, the reinterpretation of Greek classics into modern non-European cultures for instance, is itself a form of translation.
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Essays in this Forum
Break out of the Prison House of Hierarchy!
by Mukoma Wa Ngugi
A Globalectical Imagination
by Ngugi wa Thiong'o
World Literature and the Postcolonial: Ngugi's Globalectics and Glissant's Poetics
by Duncan McEachern Yoon
“You Are the Prisoner, the Discoverer, the Founder, the Liberator”: Contextualizing Decolonial Paths of Afro-Hispanic Literature in Latin America, Equatorial Guinea and Spain
by Elisa Rizo
Globalectics Beyond Postcoloniality
by Carole Boyce Davies