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10 Quotes By Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka

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In 1986, Soyinka was 52 years old and had just won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Today Africa’s first Nobel laureate turns 83. The playwright, poet, and prose writer whose works have many times been described as highly cerebral and meant for the elite is one of Africa’s most respected voices. TIA wishes him a happy birthday.

Wole-Soyinka. Source: Rex Features/AP

Africa’s first Nobel laureate Akinwande Oluwole “Wole” Babatunde Soyinka was on this day in 1934 born to Samuel Ayodele Soyinka (whom he called S.A or Essay) and Grace Eniola Soyinka (whom he called “Wild Christian). Toni Morrison in a Granta interview said of Soyinka, “Ah! Yeah, we used to go to Paris and have meetings and talk – elegant talk – and solve world problems. And Soyinka always knew how to solve everything.” Soyinka has been a consistent critique against the military and civilian governments in Nigeria.

In protest against Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president Soyinka said, “the moment they announce his (Trump’s) victory, I will cut my green card myself and start packing up. It is up to young people to stand against Ultranationalism,” an action he followed through.

Soyinka won the Nobel Prize in Literature “who in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence.” Today, we celebrate Soyinka’s existence by bringing you his quotes.

1. A tiger does not proclaim his tigritude, he pounces.

2. The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.

3. There is only one home to the life of a river-mussel; there is only one home to the life of a tortoise; there is only one shell to the soul of man: there is only one world to the spirit of our race. If that world leaves its course and smashes on boulders of the great void, whose world will give us shelter?

4. Books and all forms of writing are terror to those who wish to suppress the truth.

5. I am convinced that Nigeria would have been a more highly developed country without the oil. I wished we’d never smelled the fumes of petroleum.

“I think Nigerians got it wrong from independence as people became so conscious of the divisions because we wanted so much to satisfy the plurality of interests. I will say, we neglected the importance of real value, human value and the quality of potential in human beings and we contrived phrases like geographical spread, regional quota, etc and allowed mediocrity to reign. I think that is the problem that we are dealing with till today”.

6. See, even despite pious statements to the contrary, much of the industrialized world has not yet come to terms with the recognition of the fallacy of what I call the strong man syndrome.

7. Well, some people say I’m pessimistic because I recognize the eternal cycle of evil. All I say is, look at the history of mankind right up to this moment and what do you find?

8. I know there are writers who get up every morning and sit by their typewriter or word processor or pad of paper and wait to write. I don’t function that way. I go through a long period of gestation before I’m even ready to write.

9. Well, I think the Yoruba gods are truthful. Truthful in the sense that i consider religion and the construct of deities simply an extension of human qualities taken, if you like, to the nth degree. i mistrust gods who become so separated from humanity that enormous crimes can be committed in their names. i prefer gods who can be brought down to earth and judged, if you like.

10. My interest in culture generally is a comparative one, and I think that’s where the word joy, I think, can be applicable. There’s joy in actually seeing the relatedness, the connectedness of different cultures or recognising, for instance, your own culture in another or another culture in your own culture and feeling an air to all of them.


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