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A Man And His Gods

“WHAT if V.S. Naipaul were a happy man? What if V.S. Pritchett had loved his parents? What if Vladimir Nabokov had grown up in a small town in western Nigeria and decided that politics were not unworthy of him?

I do not take, or drop, these names in vain. Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian novelist, playwright, critic and professor of comparative literature, belongs in their company. It is a company of children who grow up without forgetting anything, children who sing in a garden of too many cultures. Behind each shrub, there is an ambush of angel or demon.

Mr. Soyinka has already written one sort of autobiography, ”The Man Died,” and it was fine. But it was about adult life. ”Ake,” his account of his first decade, 1935 to 1945, is of another, higher order. It locates the lost child in all of us, underneath language, inside sound and smell, wide-eyed, brave and flummoxed. What Waugh made fun of and Proust felt bad about, Mr. Soyinka celebrates, by touching.” — From a 1982 NYT review of Ake: Years of Childhood. Read more

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.
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One Response to “What Proust Felt Sad About, Soyinka Celebrates” Subscribe

  1. WORLDbytes 2013/10/22 at 11:37 #

    Lovely. This reminds of the thinking of CLR James, the renowned historian and black activist.Unlike many black intellectuals growing up in the colonies, James was positive about his education and did not reject or scorn the contributions of classical and Western culture to world civilisation. ‘I denounce European colonialism’, wrote CLR James, ‘but I respect the learning and profound discoveries of Western civilisation.’ Today, James’ support for enlightenment universalism and defence of Western civilisation would probably be dismissed as Eurocentric, even racist, but are such criticisms valid? thought you may be interested in this – WORLDbytes is producing a documentary ‘Every Cook Can Govern: Documenting the life, impact & works of black activist and writer CLR James ‘. For more information visit http://www.worldbytes.org/every-cook-can-govern-documenting-the-life-impact-and-works-of-clr-james/

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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