Defining and Constructing the Self in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Autobiography Detained: A Writers Prison Diary
This paper engages selected Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s autobiography, Detained: A Writer’s Prison Diary, with a view to establishing how the writer’s choices of form reconstruct his lived experiences as well as index Kenyan histories. From a range of conventional rhetorical styles to unique forms such as epistolary monologue, the paper nuances the autobiographer’s motivations to project his life in the ways he does. Ngugi’s diary goes beyond artistry as it privileges both history and culture and their relation to the freedom of the individual. Ngugi demonstrates that a diarist character can be perceived through the narrative strategies, formal choices as well as functioning as a vehicle for ideology, culture and history. Ngugi also uses African mythology, songs, and imitates the spoken in his written works in ways that suggest that he borrows heavily from an African orature. His inclusion of stories that reflect the culture of the people, songs proverbs, myths and parables reflect the oral in his personal writing which gives authenticity to his experiences. This underscored the reading of a personal story as part of the cultural imagination in the postcolonial discourses. Ngugi’s style of writing is peculiar as it is enriched by his ability to imagine and syncretize the narratives of himself, others as well as the nation. Ngugi’s explicit self-provides the reader with plenty of information about himself, unwittingly exposing many of his personal shortcomings: this context influences the process of writing the synthesized memory.
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