No. 2: WOLE SOYINKA (1934)
Wole Soyinka, as many Nigerians will tell you, is undoubtedly the hardest Nigerian author to read. Far from being quotidian, this master dramatist demands from his readers a certain measure of intellectual sagacity, and word mastery. Born at Ake in Abeokuta, Ogun State, in South West Nigeria, he was part of the icons who not only invented Nigerian Literature in English, but also preserved and decorated it. He attended University of Ibadan, and got his doctorate from the University of Leeds in the UK. He has taught drama at UI, OAU, and Lagos.
Referred to as the “conscience of a nation (Nigeria)” by Christiane Amanpour, Wole Soyinka, throughout his life, has served as a moral force for good, a beacon of artistic brilliance illuminating the essence of our culture and the purpose for which we ought to live. He stood up against what he perceived as the persecutions of the Igbos during the Nigerian Civil war, and was subsequently arrested by the Gowon administration who claimed he was supporting Biafra. He was inprisoned for 22 months. Whole Soyinka has taught in various foreign Universities, including Cambridge and Yale.
Wole Soyinka has over 20 works covering different genres for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1986. He identifies more with Ogun – the yoruba god of iron even though he was born into a Christian family.
Like most of the first generation of Nigerian writers, Wole Soyinka’s earlier works were partially preoccupied with the conflict between the traditional African culture and the “modernism” the British colonialists tried to impress on indigenes, and probably his best, albeit difficult play, ‘Death of the King’s Horseman’ is a great case study of that friction.
The Noble Foundation called him “a writer who in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence”
Books: The trials of Brother Jero (1963), The Strong Breed (1963), The interpreters(1965), The Road (1965), Madmen and Specialists (1971), The Man Died: Prison Notes (1972), Jero’s Metamorphosis (1973), Season of Anomy (1973), Ake: the years of my childhood (1981), A Play of Giants (1984)