Author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o on how ‘all languages are treasuries of beauty and possibility’.

On being longlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o speaks to us about The Perfect Nine.

Publication date and time: Published

What has it been like to be longlisted? 

Very excited. It means a lot for a story so close to my heart and language to be shortlisted. 

How would you summarise The Perfect Nine in one sentence? 

It is a cerebration of feminist creative power and glory.  

You’re the first author to be longlisted for a novel originally written in an indigenous African language, do you think it’s important to have more of these works translated and recognised? 

This is important for the global visibility of African and all other marginalised languages of the Earth. I hope this is the first of many to come. All languages are treasuries of beauty and possibility. 

You have written books in English and now write in Kikuyu and translate your own work into English. What impact has this had on your creative process? 

I have come to appreciate the beauty of the musicality of all languages. When languages relate in terms of Hierarchy, they imprison the possibility inherent in each language; when they relate in terms of a network of equal give and take, they release the beauty and knowledge systems in each, to the benefit of all.  Translation becomes the common language of languages.  I embrace the beauty in English because I have embraced the beauty in Gĩkũyũ. 

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o