Tuesday, May 08, 2007

I'm off to London today - a party celebrating the UK launch of Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka's new memoir, YOU MUST SET FORTH A DAWN. I've never met him, so this is very exciting!

Soyinka is arguably Nigeria's greatest playwright, but he has also written literary criticism, fiction, plenty of poetry and several autobiographical volumes. He is the first African to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature (in 1986).

Civilian and Soldier - Wole Soyinka, Nigeria

My apparition rose from the fall of lead,
Declared, 'I'm a civilian.' It only served
To aggravate your fright. For how could I
Have risen, a being of this world, in that hour
Of impartial death! And I thought also: nor is
Your quarrel of this world.

You stood still
For both eternities, and oh I heard the lesson
Of your training sessions, cautioning -
Scorch earth behind you, do not leave
A dubious neutral to the rear. Reiteration
Of my civilian quandary, burrowing earth
From the lead festival of your more eager friends
Worked the worse on your confusion, and when
You brought the gun to bear on me, and death
Twitched me gently in the eye, your plight
And all of you came clear to me.

I hope some day
Intent upon my trade of living, to be checked
In stride by your apparition in a trench,
Signalling, I am a soldier. No hesitation then
But I shall shoot you clean and fair
With meat and bread, a gourd of wine
A bunch of breasts from either arm, and that
Lone question - do you friend, even now, know
What it is all about?

from THE PENGUIN BOOK OF MODERN AFRICAN POETRY edited by Gerald Moore and Ulli Beier



Anonymous Ann said...

I heard him interviewed on the radio yesterday afternoon and was really impressed. I would love to hear more after your visit.

8:54 am  
Blogger equiano said...

Ann, it was great (see next post). It was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it encounter with the great man himself, but a lovely evening spent with the writers Brian Chikwava (who I've known for some years now) and Hisham Matar (who I was pleased to recognise from publicity photos; he is delightful).

11:25 am  

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