Ìsarà, a voyage around "Essay" /
Wole Soyinka.
1st ed. --
New York : Random House, c1989.
vi, 262 p. ; 25 cm.
0394540778 :
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New York : Random House, c1989.
0394540778 :
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A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1990-06:
Soyinka's second book of memoirs, whose narrative predates that of his first autobiographical volume (Ake: The Years of Childhood, CH, Feb'83), is an evocative journey into his father's native Yoruba village at the beginning of the 20th century. (The title refers to a mythical Nigerian village; the subtitle characterizes Soyinka's father as a creative spirit, who made an "essay" at living a life committed to tribal ideals.) The author's vantage point of human tension--that shimmering bridge between what has happened and what can still happen--is much in evidence here, both in its tribute to the ideals of his father and as a record of change in the fabric of Nigerian society. Soyinka's "given" is the annual return of those young men who have left their native village of Isara for opportunity in Lagos and other urban centers. He calls such men "ex-Iles" (exiles); the implications of the name-tag become clearer as the painful but enriching gulf between the world of the past, made coherent by the ordering of memory, and the chaos of present impressions and stimuli. Through his tale of two young protagonists--the idealistic schoolteacher and the clever, success-minded businessman--and their counterparts in two resolute tribal elders, Soyinka refocuses attention on those who attempt to negate the tribal past in their assumption of modern Western identity. The book is both thrilling lyricism and a reverberating consciousness of the conflicts of temporal behavior spread against unchanging spiritual need. Highly recommended. -M. Tucker, Long Island University/C. W. Post Campus
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 1989-08-18:
Like his evocative memoir Ake: The Years of Childhood , this semi-fictionalized, multigenerational family saga by the Nigerian novelist-poet-dramatist Nobel laureate is rich with the sights, sounds and textures of his native land under colonial rule. At the center is his schoolteacher father (``Essay''), unflappable, philosophical, given to browsing in exotic journals; we also meet Soyinka's grandparents locked in a sometimes tempestuous marriage, and a large cast of secondary characters, among them merchant adventurer Sipe (``Resolute Rooster''), a cripple named Node, and Ray Gunnar, a Trinidadian stowaway turned huckster. In musical, quicksilver prose, Soyinka magically re-creates a world in which local healers compete with pharmacists, and Yoruba religion vies with Christianity; African customs, rituals and traditional social relations are reshaped as Nigerians struggle to find their place in a modernizing society. After Mussolini attacked Ethiopia, the British whipped up patriotism in the Nigerian protectorate; Soyinka probes his father's generation's uneasy love-hate relationship with the British. (Oct.)
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Publishers Weekly, August 1989
Booklist, January 1990
Choice, June 1990
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