Ngugi wa Thiongo’s Short Story Translated Into 30 Languages


A fable by African author Ngugi wa Thiongo, titled The Upright Revolution has become the single most translated short story in African literature with translated versions in over 30 African languages.

Ngugi’s short story, The Upright Revolution: Or Why Humans Walk Upright is currently published in 30 different African languages. The literary work was originally done in his native language, Kikuyu. It is not surprising that the renowned Kenyan writer chose to publish this work first in his local language. He has always been an advocate for promoting African indigenous languages.

The latest edition of Jalada Africa Magazine- a pan-African writers’ collective, featured Ngugi’s Upright Revolution short story. The fable centered its point on the importance of unity (in diversity); a metaphorical representation of the African society, the world perhaps. Ngugi’s work is the first to be featured in the first Jalada’s periodic translation issue.

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He made symbolical use of the early man, believed to have shared a striking resemblance with the apes. Back then, humans also walked on all fours. The arms and the legs worked hand in hand- inseparable. This development angered the rest of the body that they envied and made plans to disrupt the existing harmony between the arms and the legs. Thus, the upright revolution of the body. In the end the body realized that “every organ had to function well for all to function well.” Nevertheless, the legs and arms will start to function independently.

Ngugi-Short story

Ngugi translated the original piece into English himself. For the other languages, he employed the services of translation experts. These translations were done in one publication. The short story is now available in such languages as Igbo, Lugbara, Afrikaans, Ibibio, Isizulu, Hausa, Giriama, Amharic, Dholuo, Kamba, amongst others. The Publication is also open to volunteers for yet non-translated African languages.

The moment we lost our languages was also the moment we lost our bodies, our gold, diamonds, copper, coffee, tea. The moment we accepted (or being made to accept) that we could not do things with our languages was the moment we accepted that we could not make things with our vast resources,”- Ngugi

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In line with Ngugi’s view on local languages, Jalada publications has a plan to publish more African short stories with the target of translating them into 2,000 African languages. This is geared towards the promotion of more write-ups and oratory in African languages.