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Wole Soyinka

Wole SoyinkaAKA Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka

Born: 13-Jul-1934
Birthplace: Abeokuta, Nigeria

Gender: Male
Religion: Agnostic
Race or Ethnicity: Black
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Playwright, Essayist, Activist

Nationality: Nigeria
Executive summary: Politically-charged Nigerian author

Nigerian playwright, poet, and peace activist Wole Soyinka was raised in relative upper-class surroundings in colonial Africa, and worked as a dramatist for Nigerian radio while still attending high school. He made the conscious decision to write in English while attending the University of Leeds, believing it would gain him a wider international audience. In 1965 he was charged with sedition for questioning the fraudulent results of a Nigerian election, but charges were eventually dismissed. In 1967 he called for a ceasefire in the Nigerian civil war, and for this he was charged with sedition and sympathy for secessionist Biafra, and jailed for 22 months. His Madmen and Specialists, written while imprisoned, described "a police state in which only madmen and spies can survive", and added to his literary and political stature.

Soyinka's poems, plays, novels, and essays are generally critical of the authoritarian nature of African government, opposing censorship with a recurring call for freedom for his people and all peoples. In 1986 he became the first African to be honored with the Nobel Prize in Literature, but he remains better known in his homeland as an activist than as an author. After military dictator Sani Abacha seized power in Nigeria in 1993, Soyinka fled the country. He was charged with treason in 1997 on trumped-up allegations of involvement with terrorist strikes against Nigeria's illegitimate government, and the charges were dropped after Abacha's death in 1998.

Father: Samuel Ayodele Soyinka (school headmaster)
Mother: Grace Eniola Soyinka (shopkeeper)
Wife: Barbara Skeath (college sweetheart, div., d. 2004)
Son: Ilemakin Soyinka (filmmaker)
Son: Olaokum Soyinka (physician)
Wife: Laide Idowu (m. 1950s, div. 1985)
Wife: Folake Doherty (m. 1989)

    High School: Government College, Ibadan, Nigeria (1954)
    University: University of Ibadan, Nigeria (attended, 1952-54)
    University: BS English Literature, University of Leeds (1958)
    Teacher: Drama, University of Ibadan (1965-67, 1969-72)
    Professor: Comparative Literature, Obafemi Awolowo University (1975-85)
    Professor: Robert W. Woodruff Professor of the Arts, Emory University (1996-)

    Nobel Prize for Literature 1986
    Royal Court Theatre Actor-Director (1957-59)
    International PEN
    Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship (1960-61)
    Anisfield-Wolf Book Award 1983
    Commander of the Federal (Nigerian) Republic 1986
    United Democratic Front of Nigeria Co-Founder
    Sedition Oct-1965 (mistrial)
    Sedition 1967 (convicted)
    Treason 1997 (charges dropped, 1998)
    Yorubaland ancestry

Author of books:
The Interpreters (1965, novel)
Idanre, and Other Poems (1967, poetry)
Poems from Prison (1969, poetry; alternate title A Shuttle in the Crypt)
The Man Died : Prison Notes (1972, memoir)
Season of Anomy (1973, novel)
Myth, Literature, and the African World (1976, essays)
Aké : The Years of Childhood (1981, memoir)
Mandela’s Earth and Other Poems (1988, poetry)
Art, Dialogue, and Outrage (1988, essays)
Ěsarŕ : A Voyage around Essay (1989, memoir)
Ibadan : The Penkelemes Years, A Memoir, 1946–1965 (1994, memoir)
The Open Sore of a Continent (1996, non-fiction)
Early Poems (1998, poetry)
The Burden of Memory, the Muse of Forgiveness (1999, non-fiction)
Samarkand and Other Markets I Have Known (2002, poetry)
Climate of Fear (2004, collected lectures)
You Must Set Forth at Dawn (2006, memoir)

Wrote plays:
The Swamp Dwellers (1958)
The Lion and the Jewel (1959)
A Dance of the Forests (1960)
The Trials of Brother Jero (1960)
The Strong Breed (1963)
The Road (1965)
Kongi’s Harvest (1966)
Madmen and Specialists (1970)
Jero’s Metamorphosis (1973)
The Bacchae of Euripides (1973)
Death and the King’s Horseman (1975)
Opera Wonyosi (1977)
A Play of Giants (1984)
Requiem for a Futurologist (1985)
From Zia, with Love (1992)
The Beatification of Area Boy (1995)
Document of Identity (1999)
King Baabu (2001)
Death and the King's Horseman (2003)

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