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April 13, 2006

   

First African Nobel Laureate in Literature,
Wole Soyinka, to Read at Bryn Mawr

Soyinka

Wole Soyinka, who in 1986 became the first African to be awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, will read from his just-released memoir You Must Set Forth at Dawn on Wednesday, April 19, at 7:30 p.m. in Thomas Great Hall.

Free and open to the public, Soyinka's appearance at Bryn Mawr is part of the College's yearlong Creative Writing Program Reading Series, which features award-winning poets, fiction and nonfiction writers, and playwrights. For further information, contact the Office for the Arts at 610-526-5210.

Soyinka's more than 40 works of drama, fiction and poetry include memoirs and several autobiographical works: The Interpreters; The Man Died: Prison Notes of Wole Soyinka; Aké: The Years of Childhood; Isarà: A Voyage Around "Essay;" Ibadan: The Penkelemes Years, A Memoir: 1946-1965; and The Open Sore of a Continent: A Personal Narrative of the Nigerian Crisis. His second novel, Season of Anomy, and his volume of poetry, Shuttle in the Crypt, are based on his experience as a political prisoner from 1967 to 1969 during Nigeria's civil war, when he appealed in an article for a cease-fire and was accused of conspiring with the Biafran rebels.

Born in Nigeria, Soyinka was educated at the Government College in Ibadan and continued his studies at the University of Leeds, where he later earned his doctorate. During his six years in England, he was a dramaturg at the Royal Court Theatre in London and developed his first plays, The Swamp Dwellers and The Lion and the Jewel, which were later performed at Ibadan.

His other plays include Madman and Specialists, written shortly after his prison release; Kongi's Harvest; The Trials of Brother Jero; A Play of Giants; Requiem for a Futurologist; Death and the King's Horseman and Beautification of Area Boy. His poems are collected in Idanre and Other Poems (1967); Poems from Prison (1969); and Mandela's Earth and Other Poems (1988).

Through the 1960s and 1970s, Soyinka taught literature and drama at African, European and American universities including Ibadan, Ife, Lagos, Ghana, Cambridge, Cornell and Harvard. An outspoken critic of totalitarian regimes in his native country, he was in voluntary exile in Europe from 1970 to 1975, during which time he served as editor of Transition, Africa's most important intellectual journal.

When his passport was confiscated by the Nigerian government in September 1994, he fled Nigeria and remained in voluntary exile until civilian rule returned to the country five years later. Since 1996, he has taught at Emory University in Atlanta, where he is currently the Robert W. Woodruff Professor Emeritus of the Arts.

Soyinka's reading at Bryn Mawr is sponsored by the Whitehill-Linn Fund.

 

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