Nigerian novelist and playwright Wole Soyinka has a new memoir out, called You Must Set Forth At Dawn. I’m dying to check it out, though I have to finish a few others things first. Here’s Merle Rubin’s review in the Los Angeles Times:
“I am, contrary to all legitimately cited evidence … actually a closet glutton for tranquillity. An oft-quoted remark of mine — ‘Justice is the first condition of humanity’ — does, however, act constantly against the fulfillment of that craving for peace.”
There are many kinds of injustice that make Soyinka’s blood boil, and he describes them vividly in these pages: a resentful Nigerian soldier brutally whipping a civilian countryman for having the insolence to speak grammatical English; corrupt and bombastic leaders who betray their country’s trust; the political crime of electoral robbery. But Soyinka takes care to make sure that his blood never boils to the point of obscuring the dangers that come with resorting to aggressive, sometimes violent action. In 1965, outraged by a stolen election, he decides to make his way into a radio station to get them to substitute his own tape stating the real results for the prime minister’s tape claiming victory. “I tried to caution myself … about the dangers of unstructured violence, violence that comes to exist as a glorified end that loses all focus and control and no longer discriminates between its two principal clients positioned at either end of a living axis: Power and Freedom.” Should he take a gun? He does, for entirely pragmatic reasons, and is happy that he doesn’t have to fire it.
Rubin goes on to call the book “an indispensable document.”