World Exclusive: Wole Soyinka publishes new novel – Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

It is cool by me to let out this news item as a World Exclusive: Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka will publish his long-awaited third novel this year.

Let’s not forget that Soyinka published his last novel, Season of Anomy, way back in 1973, that is 48 long years ago, if my arithmetic is any good.

Remember that many ladies born in 1973 are now grandmothers, but that is by the way – and I do not want any distractions whatsoever.

Soyinka’s first novel, The Interpreters, was published in 1965, and it eventually took pride of place in the famed African Writers Series (AWS) when it was published as a paperback.

The release of the new novel therefore deserves consummate celebration by the literati and sundry aesthetes at large.

My strategic sources disclosed to me that the new novel will first come out in Nigeria this year. It will be published first by Bookcraft this year before being published overseas, to wit, America and Britain and the whole wide world from next year.

Most people have experienced and relished Soyinka’s many plays and have cherished reading his rich memoirs, but his two novels have largely been seen by some readers as being difficult.

There is no denying that it is with bated breath that the new novel is being awaited given the background of the demands of the two earlier novels.

The Interpreters, for starters, told the riveting stories of five major characters: Egbo – the foreign ministry clerk; Bandele – the university professor; Sagoe – the journalist; Sekoni – the engineer-turned-sculptor; and Kola – the artist.

It’s an avant-garde tale of middle-class life in post-independence Nigeria of the high school friends who came back to help build a nation only to lapse into disillusionment.

The insightfully prolific new Nigerian novelist, Aoiri Obaigbo, author of The Wretched Billionaire, ranks The Interpreters as “my all-time favourite Nigerian novel.”

According to Aoiri, “Sekoni remains the perfect allegory for the wasted technological talents in Africa.”

Soyinka’s second novel, Season of Anomy, featured the protagonist Ofeyi in the spirited role of deploying the individual will as a veritable agent of social transformation.

The four major characters of the novel got engaged in finding ethical and moral solutions to the multiform problems and inequalities bedeviling the Nigerian society.

With the novel as his spur, Soyinka frowns at the penchant of foreign critics reducing all literary works coming out of Africa as depicting the so-called “clash of cultures”, as he writes in his “Author’s Note” in Death and the King’s Horseman: “In the area of misapplication, the overseas prize for illiteracy and mental conditioning undoubtedly goes to the blurb-writer for the American edition of my novel Season of Anomy who unblushingly declares that the work portrays the ‘clash between old values and new ways, between western methods and African traditions.’”

The perennial relevance of the “season of anomy” idea was borne out recently when Soyinka was a guest at Goethe Institut, Accra, Ghana, on September 26, 2020 at the literary soiree tagged “A Season of Anomy – COVID-19 and the Creative Muse.”

In a one-on-one encounter with Ivor Agyeman-Duah, Soyinka revealed that the five-month Corona lockdown was somewhat a blessing in disguise for his writing life as all he had to do was move from the writing desk to the dining table and the bedroom, and back again.

It was a process that was quite “blissful” for the writer in the Nobel Laureate, and the new novel being anxiously awaited is remarkably a triumph over COVID-19.

Under the cover of the Corona lockdown, Soyinka was also able to discover some “lost poems” that will be featured in a forthcoming anthology.

Even his favourite forte, theatre, benefitted from the lockdown, as Soyinka said: “You just find yourself literally rolling from your desk to your bed to the dining table, back to the desk for five months of continuous writing. At the end of that exercise, when you finish that book, you will want to stretch your mind in a different direction. So, with a combination of circumstances, it occurred to me that, wait a minute, it might not be a bad idea to do a production. I haven’t done one for about three years since I directed Beatification of Area Boy at Freedom Park.”

Let’s let out the gist: Soyinka plans to co-direct Death and the King’s Horseman in Terra Kulture, Lagos this December.

But the real meat for me remains the world exclusive that Soyinka will publish his third novel this year. Remember you read it here for the first time.

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