cover image Of Africa

Of Africa

Wole Soyinka. Yale Univ., $24 (224p) ISBN 978-0-300-14046-0

The Nobel Prize–winning Nigerian writer and activist offers a fascinating, urgent appraisal of Africa’s relationship to the world, with Africa functioning as a conceptual construct as much as specific geopolitical, economic, or cultural realities. At a time of global crisis, Soyinka (Aké: The Years of Childhood) sees unique potential for Africa to act as a conduit for peace. Soyinka uses the 2001 Millennium Commission report on Africa spearheaded by former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan as a springboard to both assess critical problems and challenges—high-level corruption, interethnic fighting, famine, disease, religious and racial violence, and postcolonial economic dependency—and muse on a broader imperial discourse (“the past ‘fictioning’ of Africa”) that brings both Africa and, in particular, the West into a mutual, tenuous definition. If Africa’s contributions to history have been diminished in the cultural and intellectual valuations of outsiders, it remains an untapped resource of human material, intellectual, and spiritual energies capable of contributing to a world beset by violent binaries. Pitched to a general reader but with implications for specialists as well, this is necessarily big thinking laced with the subtle insights and analogies of a gifted writer, and a stirring defense of the “spiritual aspirations” of human beings for freedom and peace. Agent: Melanie Jackson Agency. (Nov.)