Conversations with Wole Soyinka
by Biodun Jeyifo
About The Book
Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka is the most prominent writer from the African continent and one of the greatest living playwrights in the English language. His plays have been produced by the leading professional and repertory companies and stages in the English-speaking world including the National Theatre in Britain and the Lincoln Center in New York.
At the same time, Soyinka has been the most consistent campaigner against civil and human rights violations and abuses, on occasion using his drama, poetry, and essays to speak out powerfully and eloquently in defense of the freedom of ordinary citizens and of the conscience and autonomy of the African continent’s writers and intellectuals.
Featuring interviews with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Anthony Appiah, and the editor, among others, Conversations with Wole Soyinka is the first collection of Soyinka’s interviews. The volume helps to clarify the place of Soyinka in the canon of modern African literature and the international currents of world literature in English of the last half century.
Within the interviews, Soyinka is forthright, clear, and eloquent. He specifically addresses many facets of his writing and plumbs pressing issues of culture, society, and community in the present period of increasing globalization. With interviewers in Africa, America, and the United Kingdom he discusses the rise of extreme nationalist and fundamentalist movements and ideologies in his homeland.
In particular, the volume throws welcome light on many of the difficulties and obscurities of form and “message” that both academic and non-academic readers find in the most ambitious works of Soyinka. Soyinka says, “I never set out to be obscure. But complex subjects sometimes elicit from the writer complex treatments.”
Biodun Jeyifo is a professor of English at Cornell University, in Ithaca, NY. His previous books include The Popular Traveling Theatre of Nigeria (1984) and The Truthful Lie (1985). He has been published in such periodicals as Stanford Literature Review, Research in African Literatures, and Callaloo.
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