A sprawling allegory starring an African dictator who isn’t having the best of times.
As Kenyan novelist-in-exile Ngugi’s tale opens, the Ruler of Aburiria has come down with a curious illness. Some of the citizenry hold that a curse involving the anus of a “wronged he-goat” and hair stolen away by the Ruler’s barber is to blame; others maintain that the malady “was the sole work of the demons that the Ruler had housed in a special chamber in the State House.” Whatever the case, the Ruler is in dire straits. All his grand projects—including vaulting skyscrapers and a personal spaceship—are coming to naught, while the streets of the capital are “lined on either side with mountains of garbage.” Humiliated but ever proud, and now exhibiting some very strange symptoms, the Ruler enlists the aid of a sorcerer considered hostile to the regime. The Wizard of the Crow isn’t particular. A “first come, first served wizard,” a shape-shifter on the run one minute and in league with the secret police the next, he’s glad to get the gig. The Wizard has had some successes in the past, dispensing remedies such as “Wash each other, then take turns rubbing oil onto each other.” Question is, will the Ruler take his medicine? Meanwhile, there are other issues to confront, including dealing with the Global Bank representative who berates the Ruler for the odd fact that “Aburirian women have started beating up men” while Aburirians of all genders and ages spend most of their time standing in line. Not my fault, says the Ruler: “I am sure that the queuing nonsense is the work of a terrorist dissident movement.” Which, of course, is all he needs to say in a war-on-terror world.
A remarkable book, sure to be widely read. Suffice it to say that things don’t turn out as the dictator—or we—expected.