Wole Soyinka, 1986 Winner of the Nobel Prize

Your Webmaster is trying to tie up a few loose ends from our 2014-15 season on Nobel Prize Winners before our next year begins in October 2015! Thanks to our good listener and Secretary, Flora, for capturing the essence of this presentation by Dorothy Little on November 4, 2014.

Wole Soyinka 2008 by Chidi Anthony Opara [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Mr. Soyinka was the first black African to receive the Nobel Prize. He was born in Nigeria in 1934. He is an extremely prolific writer of various genres:  Plays, poetry, novels, an autobiography, a collection of essays, translations of novels and a book of prison notes. He is the ultimate Renaissance man:  He has been an actor, director, composer and has been a professor of African comparative literature at Yale and Harvard in the USA and at Cambridge in England.

Mr. Soyinka was born to Christian parents, started school at age three, graduated from university in Nigeria, received another degree from England and later an honorary PhD. His return to Nigeria in 1960 coincided with Nigeria’s break from British rule. As an activist, he went to prison for over two years for trying to keep the Biafran war from tearing his country apart. He was considered an irritant to the government.

We had the opportunity to hear several selections from Mr. Soyinka’s writings. Of particulate interest was the personal account Dorothy had of meeting Wole Soyinka when she was a member of the University of Calgary Senate and Mr. Soyinka was invited to speak to the students in the 1990’s as part of the Distinguished Writers Program. Over 2000 students attended the lecture. When Dorothy spoke to him about receiving the Nobel Prize, Mr. Soyinka humbly told her, “It was not for me, it was for the black people, the people of Africa.”

Wole Soyinka is now 80 and is still writing passionately. Though a political activist, he is most well-known for his prolific and accomplished writing.

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