Nigerian playwright and novelist Wole Soyinka is profiled in the Sunday Observer* by Ken Wiwa. Soyinka is due to deliver the BBC’s 2004 Reith Lectures. The theme of the lecture is “The Climate of Fear.” (The first four lectures have already been recorded, the last will take place tomorrow at Emory University here in the States.) This last lecture is supposed to be about George Bush and Osama Bin Laden, whom the Nobel prize winner considers fanatics “of the same spore.” That isn’t going over so well with some people, and so Soyinka finds himself once again in the middle of a controversy. Yet, Wiwa says,
when Professor Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka speaks of fear we should listen. In a ‘Letter to Compatriots’ introducing his classic prison memoir, The Man Died, Soyinka wrote of ‘power profiteering from the common disaster and mutual sacrifice of war’. The war in question was the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-1970. Soyinka spent most of that conflict in a Nigerian gaol and although his recollections of the period are parochial, they contain universal reflections on the nature of fear. ‘The first step towards the dethronement of terror,’ Soyinka concluded in his letter, ‘is the deflation of its hypocritical self-righteousness.’
Soyinka was again in the news a few months ago, when he staged the play Ubu Roi (King Baabu) as a way of protesting Robert Mugabe’s reign in Zimbabwe.