Excerpt from You Must Set Forth at Dawn by Wole Soyinka, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

You Must Set Forth at Dawn

A Memoir

By Wole Soyinka

You Must Set Forth at Dawn
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Apr 2006,
    528 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2007,
    528 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


...



I cannot wait to repossess the bush, or maybe it is the other way around, let the bush repossess me. The bush and its furtive breath. Refuge and solace. The mere thought brings in its train the smells, and soon my seat is isolated and wreathed in nothing but the very smells of the bush! The thought of resuming my forays into those silent growths finally quickens my pulse, hesitantly, just perceptibly, sobered by the thought that Femi, whom I also taught to hunt, will no longer be a part of it. Yet there, perhaps, is where I would most painlessly recover his presence—in those swathes of isolation, that terrain of so many sensory ambiguities. Enfolded within the tropical bush, the effect is tranquilizing—until of course the moment of the approach of a quarry—not that the pulse quickens all that noticeably even then. It does not matter whether it is the Harmattan season of dry air with its parched or burnt vegetation— except in the early morning when the foliage is misted over and even the earth is deceptively damp—or the rainy season, which leaves you tangling with moist thickets, fording swollen gorges, sliding on treacherous rocks, and being sucked into mud gullies, day or night, at night with nothing but a few stars seen through branches or fireflies to test your patience and judgment as you wonder whether they are the eyes of a wildcat, a tree cyrax, or twin raindrops caught in the light of your night lamp.

All that matters is the escape into timelessness, interrupted by furtive pads of a four-footed quarry or the sudden burst of the brown bush fowl or gray-streaked guinea fowl soaring and screaming over trees. An instant only to decide whether or not the latter is worth the try—even if you downed it, how much time would it demand to plunge into the hostile fastness to retrieve your booty? In the process you become insensitive to the rank presence of a far larger quarry, the prized egbin* or igala,† or a patriarch or matriarch of the etu‡ family, the archsurvivor of the species—adimu—whose heavy meat could feed a fair-sized company of guerrillas long lost in the bush. . . . Definitely it is the bush, the bush alone—its smells, muted sounds, textures, and often impenetrable silence that finally bathe me in a glow of warm anticipation. It is that, that alone, not any other resumption of relationships or recovery of suspended voices. Is this some form of misanthropy?

Or perhaps it is the suppressed fear that my house is gone anyway, that I am returning to a conspicuous gap in the landscape at which I had hacked and quarried, years before my departure, to give expression to my appetite for space. News of the invasion had reached me, but the dimension of destruction had been vague and guarded, as if the kind couriers had agreed to hold back the worst. In truth, regarding the building itself, I had not planned to encase so much space within walls, just a small cottage, after my retirement from university service, but with as much ground as I could afford. Still, hovel or mansion, the soldiers’ violation hung over it, as it hung over many other homes that were owned by perceived enemies of the dictator, Sani Abacha. The house had been built almost entirely from the windfall of the Nobel Prize. I had expanded it from its original design only because I wanted to create a space for periodic retreat for writers and artists—typical of the fantasies of those who are suddenly bombarded with more money than generations before them ever laid eyes on! Thus was born the notion of the Essay Foundation for the Humanities, named after my father, whose initials, S.A., had coalesced in my childhood mind as one word: Essay.

* A quadruped of the deer/antelope family.

† Same as above.

‡ A large specimen of the rodent family.

Excerpted from You Must Set Forth at Dawn by Wole Soyinka Copyright © 2006 by Wole Soyinka. Excerpted by permission of Random House Trade Paperbacks, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Shotgun Lovesongs
    Shotgun Lovesongs
    by Nickolas Butler
    Nickolas Butler's debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, follows five life-long friends, now in their mid-...
  • Book Jacket: Gemini
    Gemini
    by Carol Cassella
    How good is Gemini, Carol Cassella's book about a Seattle intensive care physician who becomes ...
  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  143Happier at Home:
    Gretchen Rubin
  2.  170The Weight of Blood:
    Laura McHugh

All Discussions

Who Said...

We should have a great fewer disputes in the world if words were taken for what they are, the signs of our ideas ...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.