Wole Soyinka at 86: Top 10 quotes from the snowy-haired laureate

Literary enigma, Playwright, essayist, poet, and novelist, Wole Soyinka was born eighty-six years ago on 13 July 1934 in the rocky city of Abeokuta, southwest Nigeria.

Some of his well-known works are The Man Died: Prison Notes, Aké: The Years of Childhood, The Lion and the JewelThe Trials of Brother JeroKongi’s HarvestThe Interpreters, You Must Set Forth at Dawn, and Mandela’s Earth and other poems.

Soyinka was awarded the Noble Prize in Literature in 1986, making him the first black African to receive the award in that category.

Today, July 13, in commemoration of his 86th birthday, we bring you ten selected quotes from the literary enigma.

1. And I believe that the best learning process of any kind of craft is just to look at the work of others.

2. The greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism.

3. And gradually they’re beginning to recognize the fact that there’s nothing more secure than a democratic, accountable, and participatory form of government. But it’s sunk in only theoretically, it has not yet sunk in completely in practical terms.

4. I think that feeling that if one believed absolutely in any cause, then one must have the confidence, the self-certainty, to go through with that particular course of action.

5. I consider the process of gestation just as important as when you’re actually sitting down putting words to the paper.

6. Well, the first thing is that truth and power for me form an antithesis, an antagonism, which will hardly ever be resolved. I can define in fact, can simplify the history of human society, the evolution of human society, as a contest between power and freedom.

7. Even when I’m writing plays I enjoy having company and mentally I think of that company as the company I’m writing for.

8. Books and all forms of writing are a terror to those who wish to suppress the truth.

9. If African filmmakers had one-tenth the amount commanded by filmmakers the world over – even the amount used by so-called shoestring filmmakers – I think we would see quite an explosion of African films on the world scene.

10. One’s own self-worth is tied to the worth of the community to which one belongs, which is intimately connected to humanity in general. What happens in Darfur becomes an assault on my own community, and on me as an individual. That’s what the human family is all about.

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