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You Must Set Forth at Dawn

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  335 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
The first African to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, as well as a political activist of prodigious energies, Wole Soyinka now follows his modern classic Ake: The Years of Childhood with an equally important chronicle of his turbulent life as an adult in (and in exile from) his beloved, beleaguered homeland.
In the tough, humane, and lyrical language that has typified
Paperback, 528 pages
Published March 13th 2007 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2006)
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Jun 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
“Traveller, you must set forth
At dawn
I promise marvels of the holy hour…”

- Wole Soyinka

I knew a little bit about Soyinka, about the problems he'd encountered politically in Nigeria, which led to his exile. However, I had NO idea how crazy his experiences had actually been! Talk about intrigue! I'm actually quite surprised he survived all he experienced. And despite all his ordeals, he still managed to stay upbeat and witty.

The writing is very academic and challenging but it is well worth the pe
Mar 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017, africa
"Some of us - poets - are not exactly poets. We live sometimes - beyond the word."

Wole Soyinka is a Nigerian Nobel Prize-winning playwright and poet, and that's just the beginning. The Guardian describes him as "the conscience of the nation." He spent almost two years in solitary confinement as a political prisoner in the 60s. He once seized a radio station by armed force to broadcast a rebel transmission. He's been asked twice to run for President. (He refuses, because it would require compromi
Kasabiiti Ntambirweki
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Every African school needs to teach us more about our Pan-African heroes! What a man!
Apr 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: africa, nonfiction
Few figures in literary history have taken charge of their national development so bravely, so successfully and with such integrity. Wole Soyinka routinely risks his liberty and his life to oppose the decades-long tapestry of injustice in his home country of Nigeria. He does this while producing a well-respected body of dramatic works, moving and original poetry and seriously dense, generally autobiographical prose. Marvellously, amidst cruelly devised suffering and casualties, he moves away fro ...more
Jeff Brailey
May 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves Nigeria
I knew of Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986. The highly respected and prodigious poet, playwright, novelist and essayist was in self-exile when I first came to Nigeria in 1995. It wasn’t until the despotic dictator, Sani Abacha, who put a price on the professor’s head, died, and the nation was restored to the democracy it barely had an opportunity to foster since the colonial state became a sovereign country in 1960, that Soyinka dared s ...more
James F
Feb 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
Soyinka has written several autobiographical works, beginning with Aké about his childhood, which I read earlier this year. This book begins after he has finished his formal education and is beginning his career. There are two aspects of Soyinka, as a poet and playwright (the way he probably best known to the general public outside Nigeria, especially since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature) and as a political activist against the various military dictatorships. This is almost entirely about ...more
Mar 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Today at a friend's place, I found a signed copy of this book, I almost took! I love Wole Soyinka so much and can't wait to get the book. I'm reading it right after my friend because its a signed copy. Soyinka is a great man.
Lanre Ogundimu
Apr 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I expected a master piece from a mastermind in You Must Set Forth at Dawn, and I was not disappointed. Indeed, I got value for the money and time I spent on this engaging memoir by Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka.

The author has been one of the prominent actors in the political and socio-economic journey of Nigeria. He was a leading player in the western Nigeria uprising of 1964-65 in which he hijacked a radio station in Ibadan. He was active in the Nigerian civil war, for which he was imprisoned. An
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Eye-opening account of life in Nigeria.

"To all the fallen in our common cause,
and to the surviving, scars and all, clamorous or hidden.
. . . . .
To all my stoically resigned children.
. . . . .
And to my wife, Adefolake, who, during the
season of a deadly dictatorship, demoted me
from the designation of Visiting Professor to that
of Visiting Spouse, but was still left with only an
Invisible Spouse as I was swallowed by
my study even during visiting hours."

IBA -- For Those Who Went Before.
. . . . .
Wole Soyinka's memoirs have left me in an indifferent state. For the most part I felt his statements as too lengthy and wordy, his prose academically and intellectually. The facts from the history of Nigeria, as far as the author was directly involved, are certainly reproduced correctly, but I've never found a real connection to what was happening. Sometimes a little wit flashes through and you can feel the joy in telling stories, and at these points, I also noticed that this author can write, b ...more
Amaka Lily
Aug 01, 2014 rated it liked it
So, this is a wonderful book written by my countryman, Wole Soyinka, the brilliant, lyrical, and the first African to receive the Nobel prize in Literature.

This book is essentially a history of Nigeria. It was amazing to know that Wole Soyinka has been part of the changes Nigeria has experienced, pretty much from the beginning. He includes maps of Nigeria, from when it was made up of regions, then states, then even more states. It also details how he escaped death from the hands of our ex dicta
Apr 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Wole Soyinka is a Nobel Prize winner in Literature. Much of the book is about Nigerian political history and the author's part in it, but the part I enjoyed the most involved his cross cultural experiences in the USA. On roadkill: "The Chicago experience remained my introduction to the wastrel habit of American drivers after they have been victims of assault by rampaging game. A little more education, and such drivers would know that there was only one explanation for such 'accidents' -- they ar ...more
Jan 18, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: people who smell their own farts and smile
You Must Set Forth at Dawn: a crappy book. I admit... I read only the first 5 pages. But damnit! I read those 5 pages over and over and still never understood what the author was saying.

Wait wait wait wait... I just saw that I was the only a-hole who rated this one star. AND the author is a Nobel Prize winner for literature. Huh. Something to ponder.
Onyango Makagutu
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
One wants to sit with W.S (as he refers to himself in some of the pages of this book) to just talk to him, have a cold beer or something. He oozes humanity in this page turner but above all, it's a history trip. down the many presidents Nigeria has had and Wole's interactions, if any, with them.
It's a book about a person and a nation. Of death. Of love. Bust mostly of struggle for democratic space and for the soul of a nation.
Günter Wahl
Jan 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Biafra 1966 the worst famine in my early memories was a breakaway province of Nigeria with christian communities was the home province of Wole Soyinka. The the peace prize of the german booksellers he had seen his hometown destroyed and Africa behind him as he lived in upstate New York and Frankfurt for the lecture, Biafra is a nightmare.

I might suggest the text as preparatory lecture to princess Okojie-Fritz the lecturer on english on the Edo kingdom of Nigeria, she is a lecturer in communal co
Salem Lorot
Jul 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
In this Memoir, I love the way Professor Soyinka has deftly traversed his life to lay bare Nigeria's history and intrigues, opening an interesting debate on the role of a writer or a poet in society, of the tragedy of African leadership, of the betrayals and the killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the others, of friendship with Femi Johnson that goes beyond death.

That question: What would I do if I was in Rotimi's place?

That meeting with Abacha's daughter. I agree. How I wished Prof would have had dinn
Nadia Medina
Sep 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
¿Se puede ser realmente un poeta comprometido con la liberación de su pueblo? ¿Combinar política, literatura, humor, ironía, sarcasmo incluso, con la solidaridad, la diplomacia, el trabajo teatral y comunitario? ¿El Premio Nobel de literatura con el exilio? ¿La poesía con la militancia? Wole Solinya nos muestra en este texto la valentía, la denuncia, las estrategias de resistencia civil, el enfrentamiento con la dictadura, en busca siempre de poder disfrutar de su jardín de cactus. Gracias por e ...more
Jason Williams
Apr 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
It drags at times, and a bit at the beginning I admit, but I'm so glad I stuck with it. There are some really intense but also humorous points, the the spaces in between construct an enjoyable narrative and memoir.

To me, the only thing missing was a commentary on Nigeria's place as a neo-colonial territory in a post-Cold War scene (i.e. the role of global capital/finance in legitimizing dictatorships like those in Nigeria). I guess there's a backhanded shot at the US anytime he praises Canada :
Bookmarks Magazine

Just when it seems that the premise of the latest tell-all memoir can't get any thinner, this powerful exemplar of the genre arrives on bookshelves. Soyinka, winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize for literature, delivers a book that is as much a history of a country as it is the story of his life. That Soyinka's story so closely aligns with the history of Nigeria testifies to his ongoing commitment to the cause of democracy, but the focus on politics leaves a few reviewers wishing for more of the perso

Mar 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
My first WS book. Found his syntax challenging at first but as I stuck to it it 'softened' up.
Being a Nigerian I have always bemoaned the dearth of documentation concerning events and the lives of important personages on our historical landscape. This book was an eye opener as it is mostly an account of Nigeria's modern history as seen through the events the author was involved in.
Next stop: "Ibadan: The Penkelemes Years, 1946-1965"
Apr 12, 2008 rated it did not like it
I loved Soyinka's childhood memoir (Ake), but I'm finding this one deadly dull. I was looking forward to getting a glimpse of the ups and downs of Nigerian politics through Soyinka's life, but at 80 pages in, I'm not finding a narrative emerging. I can count on one hand the number of books I've put down unfinished, but I'm afraid I have to add this one to the list. Maybe I'll come back to it later.
I have to agree with other reviewers who said that the first 80 pages are rather unengaging, but then at that point--roughly the point at which Soyinka gives an account of his first imprisonment--it starts to become really interesting. In the end I had gotten so used to Soyinka's humane, reasonable, committed but playful voice I was sorry to reach the finish.
Oct 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful book, at times humorous, at times intense, and still at times moving. Reading it was like being taken through an emotional journary. Wole Soyinka is an extraoridinary human being, with so much passion and courage. One can't help but be inspired by his love of life, which really shines through his lyrical writing.
Good read

Enjoyed every bit of it. It was very instructional in the history of Nigeria under military dictatorship. However, the writer sometimes got carried away with his poetic self by diving into several paragraphs of word play before coming back to the meat of the book..... The story.
Dec 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Cordelia Person
Great historical viewpoint on the history of Nigerian dictatorships since independence from Britain and also a record of British complicity in the tragic post colonial history of that country. I wish he would have enlightened us on certain aspects of his priviate life a little more. He barely mentions his first wife.
Becky Snow
May 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Author is won the Nobel Prize for lit; memoir of his political life in Nigeria under a variety of dictators - reminder of how little we know of or understand life in countries in the developing world.
Sep 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
En la escala de 0 a 5, le doy 10 estrellas. Las memorias de un hombre de Letras valiente, activo e íntegro que, como Neruda, no se deja y vive para que su país, Nigeria, sea un lugar en el que su pueblo viva como se debe, con dignidad, justicia, seguridad y libertad. Un ejemplo a seguir. :D
Apr 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers of litereture
I have not read very far, but the exquisite writing fascinates me. I can see all of the images he paints with his words. My favorite excerpt so far. "Traveler, you must set forth At dawn I promise marvels of the holy hour..."
Nana Fredua-Agyeman
You must Set Forth at Dawn is perhaps the concluding part of Wole Soyinka's autobiography. It's very moving and sometimes I begin to think that it is a novel.

Click here to read my review

Oluseun Obikoya
May 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Insightful read into the journey of a literary great in a turbulent society.
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Awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature for his work that "in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence."
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