Letting-be: Dwelling, Peace and Violence in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Petals of Blood


  • Grant Farred Cornell University




It is dwelling that allows mortals to initiate themselves in time and space. As such, dwelling constitutes the event of being. In his essay “Building Dwelling Thinking,” Martin Heidegger stipulates that dwelling can only be achieved through harmonious relations among the constituents, earth, sky, mortals and gods (“divinities”), of the “fourfold.” Heidegger writes, “To preserve the fourfold, to save the earth, to receive the sky, to await the divinities, to initiate mortals – this fourfold preserving is the simple essence of dwelling.” Initiating themselves in time and space is the great difficulty that the residents of Ilmorog, the remote village in postcolonial Kenya in which Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s novel Petals of Blood is set, experience; in Petals of Blood, dwelling is what defines mortals’ being.