Wole Soyinka at 82: See 82 Famous Quotes of the Nobel Laureate


On July 13, 1934, a Literary giant was born and his name is Professor Wole Soyinka. The Nobel Prize winner and   Nigerian vocal human rights activist marks 82-years on earth, today July 13, 2016.

See Also: Nobel Laureate Fires Buhari Over Fulani Herdsmen Killings

The Abeokuta, Ogun State-born icon won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986. He got married in 1989 and has six children.

The literary works of Wole Soyinka include; The Lion and the Jewel, Death and the King’s Horseman, Mad Men and Specialists, A Play of Giants, A Dance of the Forests among others. In celebration of his 82nd birthday, here are 82 famous quotes of Wole Soyinka the Nobel Laureate.

  1. Writing in certain environments carries with it an occupational risk.
  2. I don’t know any other way to live but to wake up every day armed with my convictions, not yielding them to the threat of danger and to the power and force of people who might despise me.
  3. Under a dictatorship, a nation ceases to exist; all that remains is a fiefdom, a planet of slaves regimented by aliens from outer space.
  4. The greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticisms.
  5. I cannot belong to a nation which permits such barbarities as stoning to death and amputation – I don’t care what religion it is.
  6. I’m against liquor, completely against liquor. Wine is not liquor, a good brandy is not liquor, single malt whiskey is not liquor, palm wine is not liquor. All the rest is liquor.
  7. The hand that dips into the bottom of the pot will eat the biggest snail.
  8. A tiger does not proclaim its tigritude, it pounces.
  9. Being the first black Nobel laureate, and the first African, the African world considered me personal property. I lost the remaining shreds of my anonymity, even to walk a few yards in London, Paris or Frankfurt without being stopped.
  10. You are not a complete human being if you are not educated, schooled or cultured.
  11. Don’t take shadows too seriously; reality is our only safety; continue to reject illusions.
  12. Human life has meaning only to that degree and as long as it is lived in the service of humanity.
  13. There is something really horrific for any human being who feels he is being consumed by other people. I’m talking about a writer’s critics, who don’t address what you’ve written, but want to probe into your existence and magnify the trivia of your life without any sense of humor, without any sense of context.
  14. Power is domination, control, and therefore a very selective form of truth which is a lie.
  15. And I believe that the best learning process of any kind of craft is just to look at the work of others.
  16. And gradually they’re beginning to recognize the fact that there’s nothing more secure than a democratic, accountable, and participatory form of government. But it’s sunk in only theoretically, it has not yet sunk in completely in practical terms.
  17. The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.
  18. Books and all forms of writing are terror to those who wish to suppress the truth.
  19. Looking at faces of people, one gets the feeling there’s a lot of work to be done.
  20. I am convinced that Nigeria would have been a more highly developed country without the oil. I wished we’d never smelled the fumes of petroleum.Wole Soyinka at 82
  21. I grew up in an atmosphere where words were an integral part of culture.
  22. My horizon on humanity is enlarged by reading the writers of poems, seeing a painting, listening to some music, some opera, which has nothing at all to do with a volatile human condition or struggle or whatever. It enriches me as a human being.
  23. But when you’re deprived of it for a lengthy period then you value human companionship. But you have to survive and so you devise all kinds of mental exercises and it’s amazing.
  24. But the ultimate lesson is just sit down and write. That’s all.
  25. We live in a materialist world, and materialism appeals so strongly to humanity, no matter where.
  26. History teaches us to beware of the excitation of the liberated and the injustices that often accompany their righteous thirst for justice.
  27. I consider the process of gestation just as important as when you’re actually sitting down putting words to the paper.
  28. I like my peace and quiet whenever I can grab it.
  29. Probably to me the greatest singer, female voice, is Billie Holiday. And one of the most moving for me, I don’t know why – maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe because my life is one of constant partying, whatever.
  30. There are different kinds of artists and very often, I’ll be very frank with you, I wish I were a different kind.
  31. I found, when I left, that there were others who felt the same way. We’d meet, they’d come and seek me out, we’d talk about the future. And I found that their depression and pessimism was every bit as acute as mine.
  32. I don’t really consider myself a novelist, it just came out purely by accident.
  33. I love beauty. But I like the beauty accidentally, not dished up, served up on a platter.
  34. The writer is the visionary of his people… He anticipates, he warns.
  35. The Lagos of my childhood was a well-laid-out maritime city.
  36. But theater, because of its nature, both text, images, multimedia effects, has a wider base of communication with an audience. That’s why I call it the most social of the various art forms.
  37. You cannot live a normal existence if you haven’t taken care of a problem that affects your life and affects the lives of others, values that you hold which in fact define your very existence.
  38. Nigeria has had the misfortune – no, the fortune – of seeing the worst face of capitalism anywhere in Africa. The masses have seen it, they are disgusted, and they want an alternative.
  39. I don’t know any other way to live but to wake up every day armed with my convictions, not yielding them to the threat of danger and to the power and force of people who might despise me.Wole Soyinka at 82
  40. I have a kind of magnetic attraction to situations of violence.
  41. Education is lacking in most of those who pontificate.
  42. See, even despite pious statements to the contrary, much of the industrialized world has not yet come to terms with the recognition of the fallacy of what I call the strong man syndrome.
  43. Military dictatorship, you can focus on it, you can fight it directly. It’s a band of power-driven people.
  44. No human is completely fearless.
  45. Art is solace; art is vision, and when I pick up a literary work, I am a consumer of literature for its own sake.
  46. For me, justice is the prime condition of humanity.
  47. All religions accept that there is something called ‘criminality.’ And criminality cannot be excused by religious fervour.
  48. Some people think the Nobel Prize makes you bullet-proof. I never had that illusion.
  49. I’m not one of those writers I learned about who get up in the morning, put a piece of paper in their typewriter machine and start writing. That I’ve never understood.
  50. The scales of reckoning with mortality are never evenly weighted, alas, and thus it is on the shoulders of the living that the burden of justice must continue to rest.
  51. I cannot belong to a nation which permits such barbarities as stoning to death and amputation – I don’t care what religion it is.
  52. I began writing early – very, very early… I was already writing short stories for the radio and selling poems to poetry and art festivals; I was involved in school plays; I wrote essays, so there was no definite moment when I said, ‘Now I’m a writer.’ I’ve always been a writer.
  53. After the death of the sadistic dictator Gen. Sanni Abacha in 1998, Nigeria underwent a one-year transitional military administration headed by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, who uncharacteristically bowed out precisely on the promised date for military disengagement. Did the military truly disengage, however? No.
  54. One has a responsibility to clean up one’s space and make it livable as far as one’s own resources go. That includes not only material resources, but psychological resources: the commitment of time and a portion of your mind to something when you’d rather be doing something else.
  55. One, a mass movement from within, which, as you know, is constantly being put down brutally but which, again, regroups and moves forward as is happening right now as we are speaking.
  56. A war, with its attendant human suffering, must, when that evil is unavoidable, be made to fragment more than buildings: It must shatter the foundations of thought and re-create. Only in this way does every individual share in the cataclysm and understand the purpose of sacrifice.
  57. The Sudanese government has been playing games with the world, with the Africa Union, in particular, have been playing for time in order to conclude its mission of ethnic cleansing in the Sudan.
  58. The Nation of Islam provides an antidote in the United States to fundamentalist Islam – which is why individuals from America have to go abroad to find radical teachings.
  59. Books and all forms of writing have always been objects of terror to those who seek to suppress the truth.

    Wole Soyinka at 82
    Wole Soyinka

  60. I think that feeling that if one believed absolutely in any cause, then one must have the confidence, the self-certainty, to go through with that particular course of action.
  61. I like to say, ‘I spend one-third of my time in Nigeria, one-third in Europe or America, and one-third on a plane.’
  62. I’m not fond of biographies. I don’t like writing about myself.
  63. In the world of literature, I see prizes as more of a duty to the craft itself, rather than as something for the individual.
  64. There’s something about the theater which makes my fingertips tingle.
  65. Trading and religion have always been aligned together in the history of the world, and
  66. We Nigerians must reclaim our sovereignty, our civic entitlements.
  67. Some African leaders actually dare to suggest that democracy is a concept alien to traditional African society. This is one of the most impudent political blasphemies I can think of.
  68. I don’t have the sort of temperament that submits to Christianity or Islam.
  69. I ceased using words like optimism and pessimism a long time ago.
  70. In Africa, those who have money – businessmen and banks – do not believe in film.
  71. Seven is the magic figure, because that’s a symbolic figure of my favorite deity, Ogun.
  72. I’m an Afro-realist. I take what comes, and I do my best to affect what is unacceptable in society.
  73. The problem with literature, with writing, is that it works sometimes in terms of correction of social ills. Other times, it just does not suffice.
  74. England is the breeding ground of fundamentalist Muslims. Its social logic is to allow all religions to preach openly. But this is illogic, because none of the other religions preach apocalyptic violence. And yet England allows it.
  75. I’ve always written plays for the purpose of getting something out of my system.
  76. Romance is the sweetening of the soul
  77. African film makers are scraping by on a mere pittance.
  78. One thing I can tell you is this, that I am not a methodical writer.
  79. An excessive amount of my time is taken with political involvement. It’s unavoidable; that’s my temperament.
  80. No writer has a right to make that much money. Indeed, without diabolical assistance, no writer can.
  81. The blatant aggressiveness of theocracies I find distressing because I grew up when Christians, Muslim and animists lived peacefully together.
  82. The hand that dips into the bottom of the pot will eat the biggest snail.Wole Soyinka at 82

Happy Birthday Sir Wole Soyinka!

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