How Achebe rescued ‘Weep Not, Child’

Keith Sambrook, 95, edited Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Weep Not, Child. He now lives in the United Kingdom. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH

What you need to know:

  • Pioneer novel’s editor reflects on Ngugi’s troubled beginnings which saw him overcome initial rejection from the short list of fame that then comprised Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi and Peter Abrahams.
  • Initially, in August 1962, Van Milne had told Ngugi that Weep Not, Child ‘‘was not quite up to the standard for the AWS.’’ However, with some intervention and encouragement from Achebe, Heinemann accepted it for inclusion in the Series ‘‘subject to some alteration.’’
  • But then began negotiations, which delayed immediate further progress on publication in Weep Not, Child. Weep Not, Child was to be number 7 in the Series. The previous six titles included re-prints (in paperback) of novels by Achebe.

The unedited manuscript of Weep Not, Child by James Ngugi was handed over to me in January 1963, when I joined Heinemann Educational Books after 10 years at Thomas and Nelson, by my predecessor, Van Milne. It was destined for publication in the African Writers Series, recently launched by HEB with four titles, two by Chinua Achebe, who was also the Series general editor and adviser.

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