I bought Weep Not, Child, about two years ago when I thought that perhaps Thiong’o was due to win the Nobel prize. He didn’t, but I like buying books, so there wasn’t much disappointment in my household when instead it went to Vargas Llosa.
Until now, though, I hadn’t read a single work by Thiong’o. Weep Not, Child deals with the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya and is shown through the eyes of Njoroge, who seems, I think, to be something of a stand-in for Thiong’o himself. At any rate, we follow Njoroge as he begins school (and excels), while at the same time blacks fight blacks, and blacks rise up against whites.
The book is not written in a child-like way to mirror Njoroge’s perspective, but it is mostly without colour, flair or personality. I suspect here that Thiong’o is attempting to show how Njoroge would himself write about his life if, at about age eighteen, he picked up his pen. So be it. It makes for a – how shall I put this? – novel that seems to takes its strengths almost entirely from its social message, which is strong and important and useful, but I have never really liked such works. Weep Not, Child was interesting and it showed me a Kenya that I do not know (and I know nothing about Kenya), but the books I prefer to read are avant-garde, stylistically dense, experimental, or, perhaps most importantly, introspective and engaged with historical thought.
The Books, Read page contains a list of all of the books I have read this year.