Wole Soyinka

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Wole Soyinka (2015)

Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka (born July 13, 1934 in Abeokuta , Nigeria ) is a Nigerian writer and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature (1986). In the reason for the award of the prize, which was the first time to go to a representative of African literature , it was said that he created "the drama of human existence in a broad cultural perspective and with poetic overtones". Since 1994, Soyinka is Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO .


Soyinka was born in 1934 in Abeokuta, Nigeria into a poor Yoruba family. His father was the principal of an elementary school. Both parents were staunch Christians. After further education at the government college in Ibadan , he studied from 1952 to 1954 at the university there and from 1954 to 1957 at the University of Leeds (Great Britain). There he received an honors degree in English literature . Soyinka worked as a dramaturge and actor at the Royal Court Theater in London. There he also took influences from the Irish folk revival , the movement around the authors of the Abbey Theater , before returning to Nigeria to study African drama. He taught at the Universities of Lagos , Ibadan and Ife , where he became Professor of Comparative Literature in 1975 .

Soyinka has played an active role in Nigeria's political history. In 1967 he was arrested by the Nigerian Federal Government under General Yakubu Gowon during the Nigerian Civil War (see Biafra War ) for his attempts to achieve peace between the warring parties and sentenced to two years in solitary confinement. During his stay in prison he wrote poems which he published under the name Poems from Prison . He was released 22 months later after international attention was drawn to his detention. He processed his experiences in prison in his book The Man is Dead: Prison Notes .

Soyinka is an outspoken critic of many Nigerian governments and various dictatorships around the world, for example the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe . In numerous writings he refers to the "pressing boot and the irrelevance of the color of the foot that wears it". Through this activism he has often exposed himself to great personal risk, for example during the rule of the Nigerian dictator General Sani Abacha (1993 to 1998). Soyinka voluntarily went into exile during Abacha's dictatorship. He lived mainly in the USA , where he was visiting professor at several universities. In 1998 he returned to Nigeria, but continued to work in the USA. In 2004 he was appointed professor of comparative literature at Emory University in Atlanta . Soyinka held the Elias Ghanem Professorship for Creative Writing at the English Department of the University of Nevada in Las Vegas and now teaches at the University of Johannesburg .

In 2005 he became one of the spearheads of PRONACO , an association of Nigerian organizations that set itself the goal of drafting a new constitution for Nigeria.

In 2017, Soyinka destroyed his green card in protest against the appointment of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America . He described this as a personal decision that he did not want to encourage anyone else to make. On his 85th birthday in 2019, Arno Widmann wrote in the Frankfurter Rundschau that Wole Soyinka was "with all wisdom and kindness ... but also one of the angry old men."


The opera Scourge of Hyacinths by the Cuban composer Tania León , which she wrote in parts in 1994 and completed in 1999, is based on Wole Soyinka's radio play A Scourge of Hyacinths .


Dramas - plays - radio plays
  • 1954 Keffi's Birthday Treat
  • 1957 The Invention
  • 1958 The Swamp Dwellers
  • 1959 An Evening without Décor
  • 1959 A Quality of Violence
  • 1959 The Lion an the Jewel . German: The lion and the pearl , Verlag Volk und Welt , Berlin 1973
  • 1960 The Trials of Brother Jero
  • 1960 My Father's Burden
  • 1963 A dance of the forests
  • 1964 The Strong Breed
  • 1964 Before the Blackout
  • 1965 Kongi's Harvest
  • 1965 The Road . German Die Strasse (radio play 1988)
  • 1965 The Detainee (radio play)
  • 1971 Madmen and specialists (tragedy)
  • 1973 The Bacchae of Euripides
  • 1973 Camwood on the Leaves (radio play, adapted for the stage by Kenneth Uphopho's Performing Arts Workshop & Studios)
  • 1973 Jero's Metamorphosis
  • 1976 Death and the King's horseman (Drama)
  • 1977 Opera Wonyosi (an adaptation of Brecht's Threepenny Opera)
  • 1985 Requiem for a Futurologist , London, Rex Collings
  • 1984 Sixty-Six (short piece)
  • 1984 A Play of Giants
  • 1987 Childe international
  • 1987 Six Plays , German pieces , Henschelverlag, Berlin 1987, ISBN 3-362-00162-9
  • 1991 A Scourge of Hyacinths (radio play, BBC Radio July 4th)
  • 1992 From Zia with Love
  • 1996 The Beatification of Area Boy
  • 1999 Document of Identity (radio play)
  • 2001 King Baabu
  • 1965 The interpreters . German: Die Ausleger , Freiburg 1983, new edition: Ammann Verlag , Zurich 2002, ISBN 3-250-30006-3
  • 1973 Season of anomy . German: Time of lawlessness , Verlag Volk und Welt, Berlin 1977, new edition Ullstein Verlag, Berlin 1986, and as The Plage of the Rabid Dogs Walter-Verlag, Olten 1979, ISBN 3-548-20811-8
  • 1981 Aké
  • 1989 Isarà . German 1994, Amman Verlag Zurich, and 1996 Fischer paperback
  • 1972 A shuttle in the crypt , London, Rex Collings / Metheun
  • 1972 Ogun Abibiman poetry cycle, London, Rex Collings, German: with drawings by Thomas Rug, Verlag Thomas Reche, Neumarkt 2006, ISBN 978-3-929566-71-0
  • 1967 Idanre, and other poems , London, Methuen
  • 1969 Poems from Prison , London, Rex Collings
  • 1988 Mandela's Earth and Other Poems , New York, Random House
  • 1998 Early Poems . German: Abiku. Early poems. Photographs by Barbara Klemm and Robert Lebeck. Edition of 535 signed copies. 2012 Verlag Thomas Reche, Neumarkt ISBN 978-3-929566-89-5
  • 1999 Outsiders , Canton, GA, Wisteria Press
  • 2001 Selected Poems
  • 2002 Samarkand and other Markets I have Known , London, Methuen. German: Samarkand and other markets. Poems . English and German. Ammann Verlag 2004, Zurich, ISBN 3-250-30016-0 *
Short stories
  • 1958 A Tale of Two
  • 1960 Egbe's Sworn Enemy
  • 1960 Madame Etienne's establishment
  • 1989 The Search. With Fountain Notes and Exercises , Ibadan, Nigeria, Fountain Publications
Essays and speeches
  • 1962 Towards a True Theater
  • 1963 Culture in Transition
  • 1967 The Writer in a Modern African State
  • 1975 Neo-Tarzanism: The Poetics of Pseudo-Transition
  • 1986 This Past Must Address Its Present . Speech given on December 8, 1986 at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm. As this past must face its present , Ammann Verlag 1988, Zurich, ISBN 3-250-01030-8
  • 1988 Art, Dialogue, and Outrage: Essays on Literature and Culture , Ibadan, New Horn Press, African Books Collective, Oxford. And New York, Pantheon Books, 1993
  • 1976 From Drama and the African World View
  • 1975 Wole Soyinka et al .: In Person. Achebe, Awoonor, and Soyinka at the University of Washington , African Studies Program, Seattle, African Studies Program
  • 1976 Myth, Literature, and the African World , New York, Cambridge University Press
  • 1981 The Critic and Society: Barthes, Leftocracy, and Other Mythologies , Ife, University of Ife Press, 1982
  • 1982 Cross Currents: The 'New African' after Cultural Encounters
  • 1983 Shakespeare and the Living dramatist
  • 1985 Climates of Art
  • 1986 The External Encounter: Ambivalence in African Arts and Literature
  • 1988 Wolw Soyinka et al .: Development and Culture , New York, Africa Leadership Forum
  • 1990 The Blackman and the Veil. A Century on and Beyond the Berlin wall , Lectures Delivered by Wole Soyinka on August 31 and September 1, 1990, Accra, WEB Du Bois-Padmore-Nkrumah Pan-African Lectures Series / WEB Du Bois Memorial Center for Pan-African Culture, Sedco Publishing , Ghana 1993. ISBN 978-9964-721-21-3
  • 1991 The Credo of Being and Nothingness , Ibadan, Spectrum Books Limited
  • 1995 Wole Soyinka and Ken Saro-Wiwa: A Month and a Day & Letters , Banbury, UK, Ayebia
  • 1996 The Open Sore of a Continent. A Personal Narrative of the Nigerian Crisis , New York, Oxford University Press
  • 1996 Democracy and the University Idea. The Student Factor , Lagos, Obafemi Awolowo Foundation
  • 1999 The Burden of Memory - The Muse of Forgiveness , New York, Oxford University Press. German: The burden of remembering. What Europe owes Africa and what Africa owes itself , essay, Patmos Verlag, Düsseldorf 2001, ISBN 3-491-72444-9
  • 1999 Arms and the Arts. A Continent's Unequal Dialogue
  • 2000 The Seven Signposts of Existence: Knowledge, Honor, Justice and Other Virtues , Ibadan Pocket Gifts
  • 2002 Tradition and Vectors of Expression , The Hague, Institute of Social Studies
  • 2002 Nigeria's Transition to Democracy. Illusions and Realities
  • 2002 Salutation to the Gut , Ibadan, Nigeria, Bookcraft Ltd, Pocket gifts 2002
  • 2003 The Deceptive Silence of Stolen Voices , Ibadan, Spectrum Books Ltd.
  • 2004 A Climate of Fear (delivered as BBC Reith Lectures, audio and transcripts). German: Climate of fear. Political essays , Ammann Verlag, Zurich 2005, ISBN 3-250-30017-9 and Climate of Fear. The Quest for Dignity in a Dehumanized World , New York, Random House Trade Paperbacks 2005
  • 2005 The Invention & the Detainee , Pretoria, University of South Africa
  • 2006 Interventions IV. In a Lighter Vein , Ibadan, Bookcraft
  • 2009 The first exile. The First Exile. English and German. With offset lithographs by Jürgen Brodwolf. Publishing house Thomas Reche, Neumarkt, ISBN 978-3-929566-84-0
  • 2009 New Imperialism , Dar es Salaam, University of Dar es Salaam
  • 2012 Of Africa
Autobiographical Materials
  • 1981 Aké, the years of childhood , London Collings. German: Aké, years of childhood , Ammann Verlag, Zurich 1986, new edition 2003, ISBN 3-250-30012-8
  • 1972 The Man Died - Prison Notes of Wole Soyinka , New York, Harper & Row. English: The man is dead. Records from prison (autobiography 1968–1969). Ammann Verlag, Zurich 1987, ISBN 3-250-10085-4
  • 1989 Ìsarà. A Voyage around Essay , New York, Random House. Autobiography. German: Ìsarà. A journey around the father Fischer paperback 1996
  • 1998 Ibadan. The Penkelemes Years - A Memoir 1946-1965 , London, Methuen. German: Ibadan. Stray years 1946–1965 - memories . Ammann Verlag, Zurich, ISBN 3-250-10315-2 , 1994.
  • 2006 You must set forth at dawn. A Memoir , New York, Random House. English: Set off in early dawn. Memoirs 1960–1999 . Ammann Verlag, Zurich 2008, ISBN 978-3-250-60121-0
  • 1968 The Forest of a Thousand Demons: A Hunter's Saga . (A translation by DO Fagunwas Ògbójú Ọdẹ nínú Igbó Irúnmalẹ̀ )
  • 2010 In the Forest of Olodumare (A translation by DO Fagunwas Igbo Olodumare )
Film adaptations
  • Kongi's Harvest
  • Culture in Transition
  • Blues for a Prodigal

Awards (selection)


  • Bernth Lindfors: Early Soyinka , Trenton, NJ [u. a.]: Africa World, 2008, ISBN 1-59221-652-8
  • Gerd Meuer: Journeys around and with Kongi - half a century on the road with Wole Soyinka: a pan-afropean or pan-eurafrican book , Neumarkt: Reche, 2008, ISBN 978-3-929566-73-4

Web links and other sources

Commons : Wole Soyinka  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Interviews and newspaper articles


Individual evidence

  1. a b c Arno Widmann: Wisdom and Anger: For Wole Soyinka's birthday. In: Frankfurter Rundschau. July 13, 2019, accessed July 14, 2019 .
  2. ^ Uri Friedman: A Nigerian Nobel Winner Exits Trump's America. The Atlantic , January 17, 2017, accessed January 19, 2017 .
  3. Honorary Members: Wole Soyinka. American Academy of Arts and Letters, accessed March 23, 2019 .