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Authors: Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong'o

Weep Not Child


Africa is a huge continent with a diversity of cultures and languages. Africa is not simple – often people want to simplify it, generalize it, stereotype its people, but Africa is very complex. The world is just starting to get to know Africa. The last five hundred years of European contact with Africa produced a body of literature that presented Africa in a very bad light, and now the time has come for Africans to tell their own stories.

The Penguin African Writers Series will bring a new energy to the publication of African literature. Penguin Books is committed to publishing both established and new voices from all over the African continent to ensure African stories reach a wider global audience.

This is really what I personally want to see – writers from all over Africa contributing to a definition of themselves, writing ourselves and our stories into history. One of the greatest things literature does is allow us to imagine; to identify with situations and people who live in completely different circumstances, in countries all over the world. Through this series, the creative exploration of those issues and experiences that are unique to the African consciousness will be given a platform, not only throughout Africa, but also to the world beyond its shores.

Storytelling is a creative component of human experience and in order to share our experiences with the world, we as Africans need to recognize the importance of our own stories. By starting the series on the solid foundations laid by the renowned Heinemann African Writers Series, I am honored to join Penguin in inviting young and upcoming writers to accept the challenge passed down by celebrated African authors of earlier decades and to continue to explore, confront, and question the realities of life in Africa through their work; challenging Africa’s people to lift her to her rightful place among the nations of the world.



was born in Limuru, Kenya, in 1938. One of the leading African writers and scholars at work today, he is the author of
Weep Not, Child; The River Between; A Grain of Wheat; Homecoming; Petals of Blood; Devil on the Cross; Matigari; Decolonising the Mind; Moving the Centre; Writers in Politics;
Penpoints, Gunpoints, and Dreams,
among other works, which include novels, short stories, essays, a memoir, and plays. In 1977, the year he published
Petals of Blood
, Ngugi’s play
I Will Marry When I Want
(cowritten with Ngugi wa Mirii and harshly critical of the injustices of Kenyan society) was performed, and at the end of the year Ngugi was arrested. He was detained for a year without trial at a maximum-security prison in Kenya. The theater where the play was performed was razed by police 1982.

Ngugi’s numerous honors include the East African Novel Prize; UNESCO First Prize; the Lotus Prize for Literature; the Paul Robeson Award for Artistic Excellence, Political Conscience and Integrity; the Zora Neale Hurston-Paul Robeson Award for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement; the Fonlon-Nichols Prize for Artistic Excellence and Human Rights; the Distinguished Africanist Award; the Gwendolyn Brooks Center Contributors Award for significant contribution to the black literary arts; and the Nonino International Literary Prize for the Italian translation of his book
Moving the Centre
. Ngugi has given many distinguished lectures including the 1984 Robb Lectures at Auckland University, New Zealand, and the 1996 Clarendon Lectures in English at Oxford University. He received the Medal of the Presidency of the Italian Cabinet for “his uncompromising efforts to assert the values implicit in the multicultural approach embracing the experience and aspirations of all the world’s minorities.” He has taught in many universities including Nairobi, Northwestern, and Yale. He was named New York University’s Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Languages and was professor of Comparative Literature and Performance Studies. In 2003 Ngugi was elected as an honorary member in the
American Academy of Arts and Letters. Currently he is Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine.

won the Man Booker Prize in 1991 for his novel
The Famished Road
. He was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and lives in London.


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First published by Heinemann Education Publishers 1964

Published by Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd 2009

This edition with a new introduction published in Penguin Books 2012

Copyright © Ngugi wa Thiong'o, 1964

All rights reserved. No part of this product may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.


Ngugi wa Thiong'o, 1938–

Weep not, child / Ngugi wa Thiong'o.

p. cm.—(Penguin classics)

ISBN: 978-1-101-58484-2

1.  Brothers—Fiction.    2.  Kenya—History—Mau Mau Emergency, 1952–1960—Fiction.    3.  Domestic fiction.    I.  Title.

PR9381.9.N45W44 2012




This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.



Introduction by


Part 1: The Waning Light









Part 2: Darkness Falls













The literature of Africa is fed by three great rivers: the invisible, the visible, and the oral—or myth, reality, and the oral tradition. It could be said that the invisible is the chief source of African literature, which is defined by the presence of myth, and by how myth plays against social reality. This mysterious source runs at the back of Amos Tutuola’s
The Palm-Wine Drinkard
, Chinua Achebe’s
Things Fall Apart
, Wole Soyinka’s
Death and the King’s Horseman
, Camara Laye’s
The African Child
, and is found, of course, in all the tales and myths, the legends and songs that shape the African consciousness.

The writers who were active in the fifties and sixties had their ears tuned to two kinds of music: a vanishing world of tradition and myth, and the harsh world of colonialism. When times are good, man sings the songs of the spirit. Modern African literature did not emerge as a protest against colonialism. Rather, colonialism brought a certain inflection, a certain emphasis, to the natural progression of the literature from one mode to another. When times are bad, man sings of the bad times. But the songs of the bad times should not be taken as representative. For in the bad times, the self—its celebration, its joys, its freedom, its aesthetic—is still present.

Both the songs of the bad times and the songs of the spirit are evident in
Weep Not, Child
, one of the signal novels to emerge from an artist listening to both the well of tradition and the troubled oracles of his time.

A paradox underlies Ngugi wa Thiong'o’s beginnings as a writer. There is a perception that something emblematic attends the first novel in a writer’s canon, that the first novel contains, in embryo, the themes that will occupy him for the rest of his writing life. Jane Austen’s
Sense and Sensibility
orchestrates themes of dichotomy, of romance, of class, that would run through her work. Hemingway began with
The Sun Also Rises
, and its themes of stoicism, violence, and nature haunt his oeuvre. Achebe’s
Things Fall Apart
introduced the ideas of culture, family, and tradition that define his body of work. We look to beginnings for the seeds that become the tree or forest of themes. In Ngugi’s case, events managed a deception.

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