In his latest book, The Burden of Memory, The Muse of Forgive-ness-a set of three Harvard lectures-Wole Soyinka offers philosophical commentary on literature and politics with a breadth reminiscent of his earliest works. In 1986, Soyinka's plays about political turmoil in post-colonial Africa won him the Nobel Prize for Literature. Now, with Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha dead and democratic elections finally around the corner, he has quite literally come home to the country he's been exiled from for years.
Soyinka's latest work transcends the eloquent but focused political analysis of his previous pieces and focuses on three core themes: reconciliation between oppressor and oppressed, the duty of memory versus the ideal of forgiveness and the line between magnanimity and impunity.
In this short collection, Soyinka proves that his reputation as Africa's foremost man of letters is not undeserved. His commentary is incisive, eloquent and thought-provoking. Here is a man steeped in the western canon, but with a trenchant critical eye toward its flaws. His prose walks the line between gripping and dense with incredible adeptness, leaving the reader invigorated from grappling with ideas that are quite complex. It is an essential read for those interested in the connections between literature, philosophy and political regimes. -By Philip Tinari