Know Your Laureate of African Origin Part II - Wole Soyinka

Blogging is going to be difficult for this season. I don't know the end of the season but its beginning I know of. Work is piling up in a certain geometric progression I cannot explain.

Less of the excuses. We continue with what was started last week concerning the profiling of the Laureates of African Literature. Today we profile Wole Soyinka, full name Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka.

Soyinka, born on 13th July 1934, is a Nigerian Writer, Poet and Playwright. After preparatory university studies in 1954 at Government College in Ibadan, he continued at the University of Leeds, where later in 1973, he took his doctorate.

Soyinka has played an active role in Nigeria's political history. In 1965, he made a broadcast demanding the cancellation of the rigged Western Nigeria Regional Elections following his seizure of the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service studio. He was arrested, arraigned but freed on a technicality. In 1967, during the Nigerian Civil War, he was arrested by the Federal Government of General Yakubu Gowon and put in solitary confinement for his attempts at brokering peace between the warring Nigerian and Biafran parties. While in prison he wrote poetry on tissue paper which was published  in a collection titled Poems from Prison. He was released 22 months later after international attention was drawn to his unwarranted imprisonment. His experiences are recounted in his book The Man Died: Prison Notes of Wole Soyinka (1972).

As a dramatist Soyinka bases his writings on the mythology of his own tribe - the Yoruba - with Ogun, the god of iron and war, at the centre. He wrote his first plays during his time in London, The Swamp Dwellers and The Lion and the Jewel (a light comedy), which were performed at Ibadan in 1958 and 1959. Later, satirical comedies are The Trial of Brother Jero with its sequel, Jero's Metamorphosis (1973), A Dance of the Forests (1960), Kongi's Harvest (1965) and Madmen and Specialists.

Wole Soyinka, was awarded the Nobel Laureate in 1986.

  • The Swamp Dwellers
  • The Lion and the Jewel
  • The Trials of Brother Jero
  • A Dance of the Forests
  • The Strong Breed
  • Before the Blackout
  • Kongi's Harvest
  • The Road
  • The Bacchae of Euripides
  • Madmen and Specialists
  • Camwood on the Leaves
  • Jero's Metamorphosis
  • Death and the King's Horseman
  • Opera Wonyosi
  • Requiem for a Futurologist
  • A Play of Giants
  • A Scourge of Hyacinths (radio play)
  • The Beatification of Area Boy
  • King Baabu
  • Etiki Revu Wetin
  • The Interpreters
  • Seasons of Anomie

  • The Man Died: Prison Notes
  • Ake: The Years of Childhood
  • Isara: A Voyage around Essay
  • Ibadan: The Penkelemes Years: a Memoir 1946-1965
  • You Must Set Forth at Dawn
Poetry Collection
  • A Big Airplane Crashed into The Earth
  • Idanre and other Poems
  • Ogun Abibiman
  • Samark and Other Markets I have known
  • Abiku
  • "After the Deluge"
  • "Telephone Conversation"
  • "Prisonnettes"
  • Neo-Tarzanism: The Poetics of Pseudo-Transition
  • Art, Dialogue, and Outrage: Essays on Literature and Culture
  • Myth, Literature and the African World
  • "From Drama and the African World View"
  • The Burden of Memory, The Muse of Forgiveness
  • "The Credo of Being and Nothingness"
  • Culture in Transition
  • Blues For a Prodigal
Read about Soyinka here and there.
Note: I just saw that Chinua Achebe is 45/1 of winning the Nobel, whilst Ngugi wa Thiong'o is 6/1. 


  1. This is insightful. I think I like Wole Soyinka more for his plays rather than his novels. I started with his novel, 'The Interpreters' but had to abandon it b'cus of it's complexity. I admire him for his active role in Nigerian politics unlike other writers.

  2. Try his memoirs, they are accessible. I have not yet read any of his novels. But I have a few on my top 100 list.

  3. I really enjoyed the one book of Soyinka's that I read, and am looking forward to reading more by him!

  4. Have also read only one of his books and that was a memoir


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