African Literature as Political Philosophy (Africa in the by M.S.C. Okolo

By M.S.C. Okolo

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Alan Ryan (1998: 372) asserts that Aristotle’s permanent legacy is ‘the defence of politics against critics who wanted to smooth over social conflict and to tidy up the world by handing over absolute power to some superior person or persons’. For the political community to realize its highest good it is important that legitimate interests, however diverse, be encouraged. It is the duty of those who govern to harmonize these differences to achieve a common good. ‘A state exists for the sake of a good life, and not for the sake of life only’ (quoted in Ayer 1946: 159).

The role of women is shown in their protest march from Thies to Dakar in support of the workers’ strike. The management of the railway company is forced not only to negotiate Two on equal terms with the workers, but also to agree to meet their demands. The eventual success of the workers underscores the role of the people in transforming their condition. Ousmane, in his prefatory note to the novel, observes: ‘The men and women who, from the tenth of October, 1947, to the nineteenth of March, 1948, took part in this struggle for a better way of life owe nothing to anyone: neither to any “civilizing mission” nor to any parliament or parliamentarian.

He is currently Professor of English and Comparative Literature and the director of the International Center for Writing and Translation at the University of California. A member of the Gikuyu ethnic group, Ngugi was born in Limuru on the edge of the Rift Valley, near Kamiriithu, in 1938. After attending a mission-run school at Kamaandura in Limuru, Karinga School in Maanguu, he became the only student from the whole of Limuru to get into the prestigious Alliance High School in 1955. When Ngugi went up to Makerere University College in Kampala (Uganda) in 1959, the syllabus and critical approach adopted by the English department were based on acknowledged Western classics and did not reflect emergent African literatures and local cultures, but at Leeds University (where he went to pursue graduate studies in 1964), his critical interaction with eminent socialist scholars and his reading of Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth and Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists reoriented him and turned him into a socialist.

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