The gendered politics of untranslated language and aporia in Ngugi wa Thiong'o's Petals of Blood

Evan Mwangi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Petals of Blood, the fourth and the last novel that Ngugi wa Thiong'o wrote in English and published in 1977, contains numerous moments of untranslated African expressions that presage his 1986 abandonment of English as a literary medium. The untranslated expressions are intensely gendered and argue for scrutiny because of their prominence and obtrusiveness in an Anglophone text. In figuring the untranslated desire from colonialism to independence, the novel also enacts narrative contradictions and silences that are equally sexualized. This essay attempts to analyze the gendered implications of these choices to show that Ngugi conflates untranslated language and women's status to concretize the narrative's frustration with the post-independence condition without transcending the patriarchal and colonial hegemonies that the text seeks to overthrow. Turning to Gikuyu in the text and in his later writing does not resolve the contradiction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-74
Number of pages9
JournalResearch in African Literatures
Volume35
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory

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