Only one thing can be guaranteed and that is the principle of accepting the challenges of life, of society in the same way as nature does

sunset

we must all accept the negative potential of action and then transcend

Agetua: In your most recent works there co-exists philosophical pessimism and a certain confidence – not optimism; confidence in the spirit rather than in man, in nature rather than in universe, in action rather than in results. Do you think that this attitude – which is essentially that of the rebel – can be adopted by the majority of is it condemned to remain the privilege of a few wise men?

Soyinka: Another word for it as used by a certain critic is ambivalence. For me the word I prefer to use is the reality of nature. You must know of course about my fascination with the symbolic figure of my society – Ogun. He represents this duality of man; the creative, destructive aspect. And I think that this is the reality of society, the reality of man, and that one would be foolish not to recognise this. I cannot sentimentalize revolution. I recognize the fact that it very often represents loss. But at the same time I affirm that it is necessary to accept the confrontations which society creates, to anticipate them and try to plan a programme in advance before them. The realism which pervades some of my work and which has been branded pessimistic is nothing but a very square, sharp look. I have depicted scenes of devastation, I have depicted the depression in the minds even of those who are committed to these changes and who are actively engaged in these changes simply because it would be starry-eyed to do otherwise. I think one should not promise what is not there. Only one thing can be guaranteed and that is the principle of accepting the challenges of life, of society in the same way as nature does. Those who are expecting a one-dimensional statement from me as a writer are looking for a cheap injection of optimism in their nervous system. What I’m saying is that we must all accept the negative potential of action and then transcend this. And this is why I use Ogum as a representative symbol because it represents the Promethean reality of our existence.

Wole Soyinka (July 1934 – )
Interview by John Agetua
from Conversations with Wole Soyinka
edited by Biodun Jeyifo

Akinwande Oluwole “Wole” Soyinka is a Nigerian writer and campaigner for human rights. In 1986 he was the first African to win the Nobel Prize in literature. He’s also a very quotable guy, and you’ll be seeing more of him here in the future.

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