Wole Soyinka

In You Must Set Forth at Dawn (2006), Wole Soyinka’s final volume of memoirs, the writer cites a piece of Yoruba wisdom: T’ágbà bá ńdé, à á yé ogun jà – as one approaches an elder’s status, one ceases to indulge in battles’. This was once the hope of a man who describes himself as a ‘closet glutton for tranquillity’. At one point, Soyinka even dared to think that he would assume the position of a serene elder at forty-nine: seven times seven, the sacred number of Ogun, his companion deity. But Ogun is wilful as protector and muse. The life the god carved for Soyinka took the image of his own restlessness. A poet, playwright, novelist, and Nobel Laureate, Soyinka remains an activist for democracy, his bona fides hard won as a political prisoner during the Nigerian Civil War (1967–70) and in exile during the dictatorship of General Sani Abacha (1993–98).

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