Summary and book reviews of You Must Set Forth at Dawn by Wole Soyinka

You Must Set Forth at Dawn

A Memoir

by Wole Soyinka

You Must Set Forth at Dawn
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2006, 528 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2007, 528 pages

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Book Summary

Nobel Prize-winner Soyinka captures the spirit of Nigeria itself as he brings to life the friends and family who bolstered and inspired him. He describes his pioneering theater works that defied censure and tradition, and recounts his exile and the terrible reign of General Sani Abacha.

The first African to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, as well as a political activist of prodigious energies, Wole Soyinka now follows his modern classic Ake: The Years of Childhood with an equally important chronicle of his turbulent life as an adult in (and in exile from) his beloved, beleaguered homeland.

In the tough, humane, and lyrical language that has typified his plays and novels, Soyinka captures the indomitable spirit of Nigeria itself by bringing to life the friends and family who bolstered and inspired him, and by describing the pioneering theater works that defied censure and tradition. Soyinka not only recounts his exile and the terrible reign of General Sani Abacha, but shares vivid memories and playful anecdotes–including his improbable friendship with a prominent Nigerian businessman and the time he smuggled a frozen wildcat into America so that his students could experience a proper Nigerian barbecue.

More than a major figure in the world of literature, Wole Soyinka is a courageous voice for human rights, democracy, and freedom. You Must Set Forth at Dawn is an intimate chronicle of his thrilling public life, a meditation on justice and tyranny, and a mesmerizing testament to a ravaged yet hopeful land.

IBA—For Those Who Went Before

I hesitate a moment to check if it is truly a living me. Perhaps I am just a disembodied self usurping my body, strapped into a business-class seat in the plane, being borne to my designated burial ground—the cactus patch on the grounds of my home in Abeokuta, a mere hour’s escape by road from the raucous heart of Lagos. Perhaps I am not really within the cabin of the plane at all but lying in a coffin with the luggage, disguised as an innocent box to fool the superstitious, while my ghost persists in occupying a seat whose contours have grown familiar through five years of a restless exile that began in 1994. For my mind chooses this moment to travel twelve years backward when, drained of all emotion, I accom- panied the body of my friend Femi Johnson from Wiesbaden in Germany, bringing him home in defiance of the unfathomable conspiracy to leave him in that foreign land like a stray without ties of family and friends. And the...

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Reviews

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Soyinka, who describes himself as a "closet glutton for tranquility", has lived a life that is intricately linked with the history of Nigeria and therefore has been anything but tranquil. As such You Must Set Forth At Dawn is first and foremost a political memoir that also serves as a political history of contemporary Nigeria.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews

The Washington Post - Keith B. Richburg

This is not always an easy book to read.....the memoir jumps back and forth between dates and events.....Still, as a chronicle of modern Africa and its troubles from the continent's foremost literary giant, You Must Set Forth at Dawn triumphs.

The New York Times - Norman Rush

It is a substantial account, linear but not crushingly so, and lightened by a certain amount of thematic skipping around. You Must Set Forth at Dawn is a political memoir, and should probably have been subtitled that way.

San Francisco Chronicle

You Must Set Forth at Dawn is not always easy going, especially for those unfamiliar with African history. For those willing to take the journey, Soyinka's account breathes with the "fullness of an epic"

Booklist - Hazel Rochman

With the passionate close-up view of the past and the valuable insights, many of them highly critical, about today's leaders, this is a must for anyone concerned with human rights and the global web of oil, poverty, and corruption.

Kirkus Reviews

Humane, sensible and impeccably written; a fitting summation of a life interestingly lived, and one hopes with more reflections to come.

Library Journal

Soyinka's lyrical accounts of Africa's natural beauty, his eyewitness chronicle of political intrigue, and his forceful voice for human rights and democracy make this an important book for our time.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. By turns panoramic and intimate, ruminative and politically resolute, Soyinka's memoir is a dense but intriguing conversation between a writer and his times.

Reader Reviews

seyifunmi ojelade

perfectly updated nigerian history and impact of the author
I can confidently say that 'sobe' isn't just a literary icon and a calculated political activist but also a fine agent of the secret service. If not, I wonder how he did the things he said he did? It is of great intelligence; however I am still ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Akinwande Oluwole "Wole" Soyinka (pronounced wo-lay sho-enka), born 1934, is a Nigerian writer, poet and playwright, considered by many to be Africa's most distinguished playwright. He was also the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986 (since then, two others have won: Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz in 1988 and South-African Nadine Gordimer in 1991). He studied at both the University College, Ibadan (south-west Nigeria) and at the University of Leeds (UK) where he received a degree in English Literature.

After a time working as a playwright and a play reader for the Royal Court Theatre in London, he returned to Nigeria, where he taught in the Universities of Lagos, Ibadan, and Ife (becoming ...

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