Bonus Material: Are African and Asian Writers Compromised by Writing in English?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka


In our profile of the international literary magazine Wasafiri, Kenyan novelist Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o suggests that Africans and Asian writers who want a global audience need to be published in English.

English does offers both a gateway to a broader international readership and a larger pool of potential translators. That said, it’s also a form of compromise for some:  “Obviously, for Africans and Asians, our base is our languages, and we want visibility without becoming invisible in our own languages,” said wa Thiong’o “At present we are visible by being invisible in our own languages.”

He then asks, “So, how can we be visible in such a way that becoming visible in English does not necessarily mean becoming invisible in one’s own language and culture?”

It appears to be an intractable problem: Write in English and make the compromise or write in your indigenous language for a smaller, and perhaps even more appreciative, audience.

Is Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o right? And what can be done?

Tells us what you think in the comments below or let us know via Twitter using the hashtag #ppbonus.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.