Excerpt from Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth by Wole Soyinka, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth

A Novel

by Wole Soyinka

Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth by Wole Soyinka X
Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth by Wole Soyinka
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2021, 464 pages

    Aug 2022, 464 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Grace Graham-Taylor
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

1. Oke Konran-Imoran

Papa Davina, also known as Teribogo, preferred to craft his own words of wisdom. Such, for instance, was his famous "Perspective is all."

The early-morning Seeker, his first and only client on that day and a very special, indeed dedicated session, looked up and nodded agreement. Papa D. pointed: "Move to that window. Draw back the curtain and look through."

It was somewhat gloomy in the audience chamber, and it took a while for the Seeker to grope her way along the wide folds to find the middle parting. She took the heavy drapes between both hands and waited. Papa Davina signaled to her to complete the motion, continuing in his soothing, near-meditative tone: "When you step into these grounds, it is essential that you forget what you are, who you were. Think of yourself only as the Seeker. I shall be your guide. I do not belong to the vulgar traders in the prophetic mission. The days of the great prophets are gone. I am with you only as Prescience. Only the Almighty God, the Inscrutable Allah, is Presence Itself, and who dares come into the Presence of the One and Only? Impossible! But we can come into His Prescience, such as I. We are few. We are chosen. We labour to read his plans. You are the Seeker. I am the Guide. Our thoughts can only lead to revelation. Please—pull the curtain apart. Completely."

The Seeker moved along with the other half. Daylight flooded the room. Papa D.'s voice pursued her.

"Yes, look out and tell me what you see."

The Seeker had come up on the opposite incline, which was total, unrelieved squalor. On this face of the hill, however, what leapt instantly to her gaze was a far more eclectic jumble. Far down below were scattered ledges of iron sheets, clay tiles, and rusted corrugated tin rooftops, pocked here and there, however, with some isolated but neat rows of ultramodern high-rise buildings. Threading these zones of contrasts were snarling lines of motor vehicles of every manufac­ture. And the city was just getting into its morning stride, so there were pulsating beehives of humanity, workers on pillions of the motorcycle taxis meandering between puddles from the night rain and overflow­ing gutters. A sheet of the lagoon shimmered in the distance. The Seeker turned and described her findings to the apostle.

"Now I want you to bring your gaze closer up to the level at which we are in this room. Let your gaze rise upwards from that city where it festers, bringing it closer to our level. Between where you stand and that scene of frenzy, what else is there?"

The Seeker did not hesitate. "Garbage. Piles of waste. Just like the other route—it was an obstacle track, threading my way here. Just mounds of the city's waste deposit."

Davina seemed satisfied. "Yes, a dung heap. You did come through it. But now here you are, and would you say you are standing in a dung heap?"

The woman shook her head. "Not in the least, Papa D."

The apostle nodded, again seemingly satisfied. "Close back the curtains, please."

The Seeker obeyed. The room interior should have returned to its earlier gloom and she expected to half grope her way back, but no. Multicoloured arrows, rather like the emergency exit lights on the floor of an aircraft, directed her feet towards a different section of the chamber. She did not require the safety recital of an air hostess to inform her of their purpose—she followed the lights. They stopped at a stool, exquisitely carved. It reminded her of an Ashanti royal stool that she had seen in pictures.

"Sit on that stool. I have to take you on a journey, so make yourself comfortable."

Now it was the preacher who stood up. "There are many, includ­ing our fellow citizens, who describe this nation as one vast dung heap. But you see, those who do, they mean to be disparaging. I, by contrast, find happiness in that. If the world produces dung, the dung must pile up somewhere. So if our nation is indeed the dung heap of the world, it means we are performing a service to humanity. Now that is ... perspective. Shall I point out yet another?"

Excerpted from Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth by Wole Soyinka. Copyright © 2021 by Wole Soyinka. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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