Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o is Distinguished Professor of comparative literature and English at UCI. Steve Zylius / UCI

On the latest UCI Podcast, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o – Distinguished Professor of comparative literature and English at UCI – shares the amazing story of his captivity, which led to the writing of his influential novel Devil on the Cross. In 1977, armed police pulled the Kenyan writer from his home and jailed him in one of Africa’s largest maximum-security prisons. His crime? He had written a play about class struggle, poverty and the legacy of colonialism that offended the brutal Kenyan regime. Ngugi was held in a block with 18 other political prisoners and quarantined from the general prison population. To fight back against the humiliation and the intended degradation of the spirit, he chose to write a novel on the only material to which he had access: toilet paper. Ngugi left that prison on Dec. 12, 1978, with streams of paper on which was written one of his most memorable books. Today, Ngugi is considered one of the world’s greatest living writers, and he’s been at UCI since 2002. He has published more than two dozen novels, stories, essays and memoirs, and he remains a strong voice of freedom around the world.