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Our Credulous Grammarian

Adewale Maja-Pearce: Soyinka’s Dubious Friendships, 2 August 2007

You Must Set Forth at Dawn: A Memoir 
by Wole Soyinka.
Methuen, 626 pp., £18.99, May 2007, 978 0 413 77628 0
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... the period from independence in 1960 to the death of General Sani Abacha in 1998, the 64-year-old Wole Soyinka is preparing to infiltrate himself back into his native Nigeria to confront the latest manifestation of military adventurism. By 1998 he had been in exile for three years and was impatient with the failure of the opposition to mount a decent ...

Kenya’s Dissident

Victoria Brittain, 3 June 1982

Devil on the Cross 
by Ngugi wa Thiongo.
Heinemann, 224 pp., £7.50, June 1982, 0 435 90200 8
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Detained: A Writer’s Prison Diary 
by Ngugi wa Thiongo.
Heinemann, 232 pp., £7.50, June 1981, 9780435906504
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Writers in Politics 
by Ngugi wa Thiongo.
Heinemann, 320 pp., £6.95, June 1981, 0 435 91752 8
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Ake: The Years of Childhood 
by Wole Soyinka.
Rex Collings, 230 pp., £7.50, August 1981, 0 86036 155 1
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... the prisoner to the Government. The book stands beside that other great African prison testimony, Wole Soyinka’s The man died. Soyinka’s Ake is a retreat from politics and present-day African reality to a lyrical description of a vanished childhood. Mr Soyinka writes as well as ...


Michael Peel: In Abuja, 25 July 2002

... among Presidential candidates of General Muhammadu Buhari, a military ruler in the mid-1980s. Wole Soyinka memorably satirised the authoritarian ‘war against indiscipline’ launched by the General, supposedly in an attempt to improve civic standards; and an article published in April in Vanguard, one of Nigeria’s leading newspapers, reflected a ...

A Nation of Collaborators

Adewale Maja-Pearce, 19 June 1997

... that preaches an aggressive Afrocentricism. (Chinweizu has been unrelenting in his hatred of Wole Soyinka, the Nobel laureate, whom he never tires of calling a Negrophobe – Soyinka, an English-language dramatist, admires the racist author of Othello and any writer who admires Shakespeare is also a ...

Offered to the Gods

Frank Kermode: Sacrifice, 5 June 2008

Culture and Sacrifice: Ritual Death in Literature and Opera 
by Derek Hughes.
Cambridge, 313 pp., £45, October 2007, 978 0 521 86733 7
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... turned out to be of particular interest in the 20th century (to Thomas Mann, Hans Werner Henze and Wole Soyinka, along with a good many others cited here). The Bacchae, in effect, came to replace the Iphigenia tragedies because of a new emphasis on the chaotic, orgiastic violence of the period. Hughes is at his most powerful in his discussions of this ...

Passage to Africa

D.A.N. Jones, 7 July 1983

Africa Dances 
by Geoffrey Gorer.
Penguin, 218 pp., £2.95, January 1983, 0 14 009502 0
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Nigerian Kaleidoscope 
by Rex Niven.
Hurst/Archon, 278 pp., £13.50, January 1983, 0 905838 59 9
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by Sylvia Leith-Ross, edited by Michael Crowder.
Peter Owen, 191 pp., £10.95, February 1983, 0 7206 0600 4
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Female and Male in West Africa 
edited by Christine Oppong.
Allen and Unwin, 402 pp., £18.50, April 1983, 0 04 301158 6
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Memories of Our Recent Boom 
by Kole Omotoso.
Longman, 232 pp., £1.50, May 1983, 0 582 78572 3
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... of Seven’s childhood in the magical, demon-haunted bush: the epigraph is a Jonsonian quatrain by Wole Soyinka about ‘the mind of hungered innocence’. The second tells of the boy’s English-style grammar-school education: the epigraph is a mournful verse by Ayi Kwei Armah about selective education, ‘a series of jumps through increasingly narrower ...

Sing like Parrots

Adewale Maja-Pearce: Ngugi wa Thiong’o, 15 December 2016

Birth of a Dream Weaver: A Writer’s Awakening 
by Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
Harvill Secker, 256 pp., £14.99, November 2016, 978 1 84655 989 1
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... policies. (His response was to write a new play in Yoruba, Otito Koro: ‘Truth Is Bitter’.) Wole Soyinka​ was another young luminary at the conference at Makerere, and by then an established dramatist. The Yoruba revival had set him on his path as a playwright. Not long after he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986 he was asked whether he ...

At the Crossroads Hour

Lewis Nkosi: Chinua Achebe, 12 November 1998

Chinua Achebe: A Biography 
by Ezenwa-Ohaeto.
Curry, 326 pp., £25, November 1997, 0 253 33342 3
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... Achebe’s stature is now greater even than that of his fellow Nigerian, the Nobel Prize-winner Wole Soyinka. In fact, a tacit rivalry between the two is suggested in the mischievous title of a critical study by anoth er Nigerian, Kole Omotoso – Achebe or Soyinka? – which is bound to remind the read er of George ...

Boss of the Plains

D.A.N. Jones, 19 May 1983

The Boy Scout Handbook and Other Observations 
by Paul Fussell.
Oxford, 284 pp., £9.95, January 1983, 0 19 503102 4
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... great god was Baden-Powell and the principal recreation soccer’; the African playwright, Wole Soyinka, served under a Scoutmaster nicknamed ‘Activity’. So those Scout-like writers of the Commonwealth are not quite so exotic as they might seem to Little Englanders. But the Boy Scouts of America, by Paul Fussell’s account, represent more ...

On Octavio Paz and Marie-José Tramini

Homero Aridjis, translated by Chloe Aridjis, 21 November 2019

... spite her. After a minute’s silence in Helena’s memory, nine poets, including Derek Walcott, Wole Soyinka and me, each read a poem by Paz and one of our own.Almost immediately after Marie-José died, bureaucrats and pettifoggers appeared, brandishing permits and credentials, anxious to rummage through the couple’s papers and possessions, to draw ...

The African University

Mahmood Mamdani, 19 July 2018

... of scholarship and letters. Contributors included James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and Ngugi wa Thiong’o, as well as a cohort of South African writers who were wrestling with apartheid, among them Nadine Gordimer, Ezekiel Mphelele, Dennis Brutus and Lewis Nkosi.From the start, Transition had commissioned work from political ...

Army Arrangement

Adewale Maja-Pearce: Nigeria’s march away from democracy, 1 April 1999

... and a great deal of its resources, is effectively a disaster after four decades of misrule. Wole Soyinka said recently that he sometimes wished he had been born into a tiny, impoverished African country of no strategic value to anyone. At the heart of the problem are the generals and their civilian collaborators who have run the country for all but ...

The Partisan

Jeremy Harding, 23 June 1994

The Search for Africa: A History in the Making 
by Basil Davidson.
Currey, 373 pp., £25, March 1994, 0 85255 719 1
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... many young African intellectuals today, while the work of an older generation of writers – Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Chinua Achebe and the novelist and film director, Sembène Ousmane – is never without some strong descriptive trace of the dispossession Davidson has in mind. And though there are problems with this sense of a disabling ...

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