Nobel Prize Winners discussion

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1981-1990 > 1986: Wole Soyinka

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message 1: by Cl. (last edited Jan 30, 2011 11:08AM) (new)

Cl. | 44 comments Wole Soyinka was my introduction to Nigeria.

I read You Must Set Forth at Dawn
and Mandela's Earth and Other Poems.

W.S. (as he refers to himself) is a man of opposites. At once a bad boy (he once held up a radio station at gun point--but for a good cause) and a hedonist (he loves his dinners, wine and spirits); he has fought for justice in what appears to be a lawless land.

He is arrogant, brilliant, international--and at the same time tribal.

You Must Set Forth at Dawn
is an autobiographical book, which starts out, if I recall correctly, with his student years in the U.K., ending with a narrow escape from his own country and subsequent welcome home.

I feel Soyinka blames colonialism rather too much for the problems in Africa. That may have served as an explanation or an excuse early on in their independence; but the fact that the killings and lawlessness has continued for so many, many years now has something to do with the African people themselves.

I happened to be reading Elias Canetti's Crowds & Power (Nobel laureate 1981)
around the same time as Wole Soyinka's memoir. In Canetti's book, there is a chapter on the African kings and tribal practices, remarkably uniform throughout Africa, regarding the killing of the old king and massacres of his associates each time there is a change in power/leadership.

I feel this explains more what has happened in Nigeria than colonial influences. However, I do recognize that the arbitrary drawing of lines which carved up Africa disregarding tribal lines has contributed to the tensions in Nigeria and other countries. But couldn't this have been sorted out somehow by now? Is it impossible for the tribes to accommodate each other?

It seems an impossible and hopeless situation, which Soyinka, by virtue of being international, could draw attention to and write about.


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

Soyinka's fictionalised memoir of childhood, Ake, is a wonderfully tender reflection on a time of innocence and joy that evokes the tight embrace of a loving family and community.


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