Maya Jaggi

Memories of a Makerere

Birth of a Dream Weaver: A Writer's Awakening


Harvill Secker 238pp £14.50 order from our bookshop

When Langston Hughes, icon of the Harlem Renaissance, asks the 24-year-old James Ngugi (as Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o was formerly known) to show him Kampala, the awestruck Kenyan student maps out an impressive tour of the Ugandan capital’s palaces and mosques. The two men walk down the hill from Makerere University but get no further than Wandegeya, a cacophonous slum of scrap-iron artisans, blaring radios and ragged-trousered clients frequenting matoke and waragi bars. ‘This milling crowd, its wails and shouts and ribald laughter, and the voice of Elly Wamala rising above them, seemed to fascinate Langston Hughes, and no talk of monuments would dislodge him from there,’ Ngũgĩ writes. Moreover, ‘in his casual wear, he blended into the scene more than I did, with my gray gabardine trousers and black blazer.’

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • He weeps by the side of the ocean, He weeps on the top of the hill; He purchases pancakes and lotion, And chocolate… ,
    • 'Half-way through The Conquest of Water I felt as if I had been subjected to the literary equivalent of excessive c… ,
    • 'Volume five, then, but still no end in sight. Sandbrook is clearly enjoying himself so much he can’t bear the seri… ,
    • 'By the end of the book something so weighty, stylish and impressive has been built up that one feels far nearer to… ,
    • 'Her ensuing psychotic episode is described so convincingly ... that the reader will wonder if Dobrakovová did not… ,
    • 'The perspectives complement and contest one another, amounting to a glorious, atmospheric set of ventriloquisms.'… ,
    • RT : I reviewed The Testaments for . I will not be taking any questions at this time. ,