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2013Lifetime Achievement

Wole Soyinka

  • Born: 1934

Wole Soyinka, winner of the 2013 Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award, is a Nigerian playwright, poet, essayist, and profile in courage. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, the first African to be so honored.

At 78, he still afflicts the political tyrannies in his path, as he has since he was a young man.

Born into a prominent Nigerian family in 1934, Soyinka wrote a detailed account of his early life in Ake: The Years of Childhood, which won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Nonfiction in 1983. Soyinka has consistently criticized Nigerian military dictators and political tyrannies worldwide since the mid-1960s. In 1967, Nigerian authorities arrested Soyinka and placed him in solitary confinement for 22 months for attempting to broker peace during the Biafran War. The prisoner wrote on scraps of paper, which contributed to “The Man Died: Prison Notes of Wole Soyinka.” In awarding him its literature prize in 1986, the Nobel Jury cited him as a writer “who in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence.”

Soyinka splits his time between his Nigerian home in Ogun state and teaching at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.


Class of 2013