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Aké: The Years of Childhood: Wole Soyinka’s Memoir

₦4,500.00
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Aké, the first volume of Nigerian Nobel prize winner Wole Soyinka's (possibly slightly fictionalized) autobiography, is the first book of his I've read. For most authors, an autobiography is probably not the best place to start; most of the time, I want a reason to care about what the author has done before getting into his life story.

In this case, though, it doesn't disappoint at all. Aké chronicles young Wole's childhood up to about 11 years of age, and given that he was born in 1934, that's a fairly tumultuous time. While the world war rages somewhere just beyond the horizon, Nigeria is somewhere in between the old ways and the new ones, stuck between old tribal kingdoms and the new world, the old religion and Christianity, the old language and English, still ruled by the British but beginning to find a new identity of its own - which isn't an easy process, as shown by the occasional sobering flash-forward to Nigeria in the early 80s.

Ake tells the story of Wole Soyinka's first eleven years as a child (1934–1945), a period that coincides with major historical events in Nigeria, and around the world – World War II and the famous Women's Uprising in Egbaland, an event in which the author played the role of a courier.

Told, of course, with the benefit of hindsight, the story of Ake is rich, and the wit is bold and blithe. His touching and vivid evocation of the colourful sights, sounds, and aromas of the world that shaped him is lyrical, laced with humour and adorned with the sheer delight of a child's-eye view.

This account contains invaluable and delightful vignettes of some of the individuals and events which were to shape the future political and human rights activist, and Nobel Laureate.

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