I was looking forward to this, my first time reading Ngũgĩ, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a version of the Gĩkũyũ people’s myth of origin: the story of Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi and their ten daughters (the tenth, Warigia, makes them a Perfect Nine).
In Ngũgĩ’s telling (translated from Gĩkũyũ by the author) , 99 suitors arrive seeking the hand of one of the Perfect Nine. Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi set them a quest: to go up the mountain in search of a hair from an ogre’s tongue, which will give Warigia the ability to walk. Not all of the men will return, but the Perfect Nine (minus Warigia) go with them, and are at least as capable, if not more so.
The Perfect Nine is written in verse, with rhythms of oral storytelling, and plenty of wonder and adventure. I enjoyed reading it very much.
Published by Harvill Secker.
Read my other posts on the 2021 International Booker Prize here.