By Agbonkhese Oboh
“Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth”. That’s the title of Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka’s new novel.
He was answering questions about the thematic preoccupations, and geographical, temporal and socio-political settings of the novel, when he said Nigeria was not a total disaster.
Soyinka spoke in an interview with CNN, monitored by Vanguard.
On why now, 48 years after his last novel, the legendary playwright said: “Only a prose form can handle things that have been bubbling up inside me.
“The title was plucked ironically from reality. A poll was taken and Nigeria put among the top four happiest nations of the world.
“I wondered ‘who are these people, what do they know, what have they seen and experienced about Nigerians to make such an attribution?’
“So that claim, really, had been waiting to be answered in many ways.
“And when you look at the surrounding, everything is the opposite, opposite.
“And yet, Nigeria is not a complete disaster.
“People still manage to eat; to some extent, a dignified and satisfied living.
“And I think it’s not surface appearance of contentment or making the best of a really bad job; insisting that no matter what life must go on by all kind of excessive, should we say, superficial means of demonstrating content.
“It’s that which needs to be ‘celebrated’ in addition, of course, to the bleak actualities.”
He also answered questions on the Tanzanian, Abdulrazak Gurnah, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
“Well, my immediate reaction was ‘Let the (African) tribe expand’. Wherever or however situated.
“The second is to use this opportunity to extend my sympathy for his baptism of fire.
“His account was hacked into and used to announced my death just when I was looking forward to celebrate with this new club member.
“See how wicked people are. They used his account to pronounce me dead.
“So, I’m saying yet again, welcome to the club. You’re about undergoing the mystery aspect of this recognition which seems to excite some people in all kind of strange ways.
“This is what we’ve been going through: having our identities stolen, words being put in our mouths, which we never said; positions being announced in our names, with our pictures attached.
“So welcome to the ‘wahala’, as we say in Nigeria.”
Wole Soyinka’s second novel is ‘Season of Anomy’ (1973), while the poet’s first is ‘The Interpreters’ (1965).