The journey of Kenyan literary giant Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o continues in the French language, courtesy of the equally legendary Présence Africaine publishing house. This month marks the release of the French translation of his masterpiece, Les Neuf Parfaites (The Perfect Nine) translated from the English by Laurent Vanini and introduced by the great Souleymane Bachir Diagne. The book delves into the fascinating history of the foundation of the Gĩkũyu people of Kenya.
The Mythical World of “Les Neuf Parfaites”
In this captivating narrative, Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o transports us into the mythical world of the Gĩkũyu, the founding people of Kenya. The story commences with Gĩkũyu and Mũmbi, the first couple of human beings created by God and placed at the foot of the majestic Mount Kenya. Their tranquility is soon disrupted by the arrival of ninety-nine young men seeking the hand of their daughters, “The Perfect Nine.”
However, these suitors quickly realize that it is impossible for all the Neuf Parfaites to become their wives. Instead of resorting to violence to resolve this dilemma, Gĩkũyu and Mũmbi offer an extraordinary alternative. They ask their daughters to choose their future husbands themselves. Thus begins a series of missions, challenges, and a strenuous ascent of the mountain, during which the Neuf Parfaites accompany these men from afar.
An Allegorical and Mythological Epic
Les Neuf Parfaites is an allegorical and mythological epic that has been passed down from generation to generation within Gĩkũyu culture. This beautifully presented narrative by Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o is much more than a mere story. It is an ode to beauty, courage, and unity. It provides a fascinating insight into how the Gĩkũyu people were founded and how these fundamental values were woven into the very fabric of their society.
Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o’s Les Neuf Parfaites has garnered admiration from numerous influential figures, including former U.S. President Barack Obama and the renowned author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The English media has also praised this epic, considering Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o one of the greatest contemporary writers. He is regularly mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
An Exceptional Collaboration
It is worth noting that the French translation of Les Neuf Parfaites is published by the legendary Présence Africaine publishing house. This work is also the result of a collaboration between Présence Africaine and the Marsh Literary Agency, which brought this unforgettable epic to life in French. It continues a long-standing partnership between Présence Africaine and the author.
The Book on Présence Africaine: here
The Perfect Nine on The New Press: here