2021-09-25 10:59:08 Wole Soyinka Is Not Going Anywhere
Wole Soyinka Is Not Going Anywhere
The firebrand temperament can sometimes detract from the writing. They coexist, according to his longtime editor, Erroll McDonald. “They feed off of each other,” he explained. “It’s impossible to think of one without thinking of the other.” And Soyinka the activist appears to be continuing to provide material for Soyinka the writer.
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Not least for his most recent work, “Chronicles From the Land of the Happiest People on Earth,” his first novel in nearly 50 years, which Pantheon will publish in the US on Tuesday. Its daring plot twists, lively cast of characters, and sinister themes — a corporation that sells human body parts, a false prophet who uses elements from various religions to suit his purposes — may appear unlikely, but they are less so for someone who has a personal relationship with Nigeria.
Intimate and tumultuous.
Soyinka was raised in Ibadan by loving Christian parents and a grandfather who, according to Soyinka, confirmed that he was a child of Ogun, the Yoruba deity of poetry, blacksmiths, and palm wine. Soyinka’s muse is Ogun.
He studied in Britain, the country that colonized Nigeria, and when he returned on January 1, 1960, the country was on the verge of independence. He threw himself into discovering and developing his newly liberated home.
It wasn’t long, however, before its new politicians let him down, and he learned of electoral fraud in western Nigeria. Forcing a radio announcer to read a message condemning fraud at gunpoint was his first dramatic attempt to hold the country’s politicians accountable, but it was only the start of a lifelong struggle.
“He’s almost untouchable because he’s paid his dues, and he’s also internationally recognized,” Austen-Peters said. “He has a lot of positive things going for him.”
Soyinka has had to flee Nigeria and go into exile several times because he spoke out against the politicians of the day. (At one point, he snuck into Nigeria from neighboring Benin.)