Nobelist Soyinka (Art, Dialogue, and Outrage, 1994; Ake, 1982;
etc.) takes on the despotic regime of his native Nigeria in this
series of scathing jeremiads. From its first days of nationhood,
Nigeria has been plagued by an almost endless succession of
violence, spectacular corruption (over $12 billion in oil revenues
from the Gulf War just disappeared), and ethnic rivalries. The
latest round of troubles began in June 1993, when national
elections were voided by a repressive military coup. Soyinka
himself went into exile, where he has served as a strong and
constant protesting voice (even if, as he admits, he failed to vote
in the elections). But the world took little note until the recent
trumped up trial and hasty execution of writer Ken Saro-Wiwa along
with eight other activists. But despite forceful protests and
threats by other countries, the tacit fact is that Africa has been
left to the Africans. Any solutions will have to be homegrown. So
as Soyinka traces the roots of what went wrong in 1993, he also
meditates on the meaning of nationalism and nationhood. This is a
vital issue for a country as divided as Nigeria, its arbitrary
borders enclosing innumerable tribes as well as three major
religions. Soyinka's vague, half-hearted solution is what he calls
an ethical "remapping." This is to be accomplished by a series of
regional conferences in troubled parts of the globe like Nigeria.
As Soyinka notes: "The history of many nations is so flawed that it
screams constantly for redress." But as Canada has shown, even
reasoned, ethical attempts at redress have proven difficult,
although at least not fratricidal. Unfortunately, Soyinka's
righteous, angry words are unevenly delivered. Often awkward, even
strained, his prose has a rushed journalistic feel to it, certainly
a far cry from the polish he displays as a playwright and
memoirist. (Kirkus Reviews)
From the moment, on November 10, 1995, that the Nigerian military government executed dissident writer Ken Saro-Wiwa along with eight other activists, Nigeria became an outcast in the global village. The events that led up to Saro-Wiwa's execution mark Nigeria's decline from a post-colonial success story to its current military dictatorship, and few writers have been more outspoken in decrying and lamenting this decline than Nobel Prize laureate and Nigerian exile Wole Soyinka. In The Open Sore of a Continent, Soyinka, whose own Nigerian passport was confiscated 1994, explores the history and future of Nigeria in a compelling jeremiad that is as intense as it is provocative, learned, and wide-ranging.
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