Reading Room > Literature > Hugh Webb, African Literature > Chapter 12

Passionate Spaces:
African Literature and the Post-Colonial Context

Chapter 12
The novelistic autobiography
Actions alone

At the beginning of September 1967 the Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka attended an African-Scandinavian Writers' Conference held at Hasselby Castle, outside Stockholm.1 In fact, he gave the keynote speech entitled "The writer in a modern African state". Within a general survey of the position of writers in modern Africa, he spoke of "the stage at which we find ourselves ... the stage of disillusionment". He spoke not of isolated human failures but of what he called "the very collapse of humanity". In this situation, he maintained,

... the African writer has done nothing to vindicate his existence, nothing to indicate that he is even aware that this awful collapse has taken place. For he has been generally without vision.2

In the face of this lack of vision, this lack of vindication, he said that the time had come "when the African writer must have the courage to determine what alone can be salvaged from the recurrent cycle of human stupidity".3 Less than seven months later,4 Soyinka was arrested and imprisoned (without trial) by the Nigerian Federal authorities, after the outbreak of civil war. Imprisoned, much of the time in solitary confinement, he had ample opportunity to reflect on his call for vision and for a 'salvage' operation of human values. The Man Died,5 finally published (after his release) in 1972, is the fruit of that experience. The book is an autobiographical account of his arrest, interrogation and imprisonment, as well as a first-hand witness to the events leading up to, and following, the civil war period. It is sub-titled "Prison Notes of Wole Soyinka". Yet the work transcends the literary form one would normally associate with a collection of notes or pages from a prison diary. The Man Died will be referred to, here, as a novelistic autobiography.

In order to make clear what is intended by the term novelistic autobiography, it is necessary to establish, first, a cogent definition of the autobiography in generic terms. B.J. Mandel's classification of the autobiography as

a retrospective account of a man's whole life (or a significant part of a life) written as avowed truth and for a specific purpose by the man who lived the life6

stands as a concise, satisfactory definition of the overall nature of such works. The autobiography is expected, then, to have recaptured "a significant segment of a life, a formidable portion of an experience",7 as Karl Weintraub puts it. One can detect, however, striking differences in the manner in which a life (or a significant portion of experience) is presented in literature. For example, the autobiography of an African politician, such as Oginga Odinga's Not Yet Uhuru,8 can be seen as a memoir of people and events, based on a temporal progression of the subject's life from birth to the point of writing. Here, the emphasis is not so much on the author's developing self but on the events he has witnessed, the people he has known. Odinga consciously eschews any interpenetration of past and present experience. His emphasis is on honesty and an attempted objectivity - towards a truthful record or memoir:

I have told frankly the story of my life and political activity, admitting my mistakes and miscalculations, and trying to write about the early days without too much hindsight - though this might be difficult for anyone to shed completely.9

The focus of the memoir is on the importance of events and on the significance of various achievements or disasters, rather than on what Weintraub defines as "the inner coherence of experience".10

While the memoir-autobiography may attempt to establish the pattern or direction of a life, it works from an essentially unilinear approach, with the events of the author's life narrated in accordance with the actual temporal progression of these events (as they are verifiable in diaries, letters, documents or other memorials). Elechi Amadi's autobiography, Sunset in Biafra,11 although written by a novelist12 rather than a politician, follows a similar pattern. This work shows evidence of the author's experience as a novelist, apart from his central role (within the work) as an officer closely engaged in the civil-war events that he records. His description of events, from the standpoint of Amadi the participant, is enlivened by variations of pace, passages of dialogue, close characterisation, and other devices characteristic of the novel form. Nevertheless, Amadi's work is essentially an artistic variation on the memoir-reporting style of approach that is evident in Odinga's autobiography. There is the same lack of contrivance here, in the sense that the linear progression of events conforms to the actual order of happenings. There is no significant attempt, within the narrative, to project or examine any possible coherence that may be inherent in the experience (apart from some general comments on the nature of war and suffering). Amadi's personal experiences are always in the foreground. The particular interest is always tied to the question: what happens next? Sunset in Biafra carries the sub-title of "A Civil War Diary", while the author writes of "an intimate, personal story, told for its own sake".13 The stress on a story told for its own sake sharply differentiates Amadi's work from The Man Died. A closer examination of the possibilities of the autobiographic form will illuminate the difference.

Karl Weintraub has described autobiography as "a weave in which self-consciousness is delicately threaded throughout interrelated experience."14 This approach suggests the possibility of a moving, changing relationship between the author as narrating-self and the author as experiencing-self. For, of course, the autobiographer is at once both narrator and narrative subject. An interrelation of these two roles, in the quest for an inner coherence of meaning (both for the experience and the literary work), provides an interesting area for artistic experimentation. It is possible, for instance, to give the autobiographic story a direct impact, as lived experience, rather than an impression of a closed record of past experience. Despite the temporal distance between the author-as-narrator and the author-as-narrative subject, there can exist a dynamic interpenetration of roles. While past experience can determine the author's autobiographic approach, it is equally true to say that an author's approach to his experience can reshape and modify the details presented from the past. This results in a process where "the fact once in the making can now be seen together with the fact in result,"15 where the past experience can attain a degree of symbolic relevance that was not obvious at the time it happened. A situation such as this has been described by James Olney in his study of autobiography:16

... even as the autobiographer fixes limits in the past, a new experiment in living, a new experience in consciousness ... and a new projection or metaphor of a new self is under way.17

That process, the creation of a new metaphor of self (and implicitly, a new socio-political stance), is at the centre of Wole Soyinka's handling of the autobiographic form in The Man Died.

The use of the term novelistic, in connection with Soyinka's work, implies the artistic exploitation of possibilities that are inherent in the handling of past and present experience as an investigation of the value and meaning of that experience. What, particularly, can one expect from the imaginative writer in his approach to autobiographic form? Apart from a constant, dialectical approach to the meanings of his experience, which novelistic features could one expect to be present? Roy Pascal has suggested these qualities:

... an unusual skill in the evocation of scenes and characters, and more delicate self-observation, especially in respect to obscure inner urges, imaginings, to modes of perception and apprehension; one can expect too an artistic arrangement of the whole.18

It will be seen that novelistic features such as these are strongly present in The Man Died. Soyinka also makes wide use of other devices that are to be found in the novel form. Characterisation by thought and action, the description of external action as representative of inner conflict, the use of satire, the juxtaposition of incidents, the address to the reader, the use of image chains, the compression or extension of narrative time, the careful ordering of episodes: these are examples of typical novelistic devices that dominate Soyinka's presentational process.

In the first short section of The Man Died, Soyinka both opens his 'salvage' operation of values and emphasises the central thematic focus of his work: "The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny" (p. 13). The vision, the lesson from his experience, is proclaimed from the start. The whole work is organised as evidence to the truth of that call. Soyinka is careful in his clarification of those for whom the work is intended. He deliberately dissociates himself from certain groups, at the same time affirming his identity with 'the people'. This is to be no elitist testament of stoic suffering:

I address this book to the people to whom I belong, not to the new elite, not to that broad stratum of privileged slaves who prop up the marble palaces of today's tyrants. (p. 15)

He writes of those whom he sees as power-profiteers, those whose excesses and condonement of crime have made necessary the uncompromising nature of the book. He claims that the first step in the overthrow of terror is "the deflation of its hypocritical self-righteousness" (p. 16). It is apparent, from this first section, that The Man Died is to be strongly directed, ideologically, and the possibility of a significant ordering of experience (to support the didactic intent) is artistically foreshadowed by the heightened nature of Soyinka's preface.

From the authorial statement in the preface, it becomes clear that the artistic-ideological thrust of The Man Died is one of protest and affirmation. When one examines the manner in which this thrust is translated into literary form, the question of Soyinka's handling of the time-differential between past and present experience (and future possibilities) assumes a critical importance. The variations in the time-tense (in regard to the writing of the work) are intimately linked to Soyinka's attempted projection of past 'meanings' as guides to future action. The reader learns, from the preliminary authorial comment under the heading of "the unacknowledged",19 that a considerable portion of this work is based on notes that Soyinka scribbled (while in prison) between the lines of books that he was finally allowed to receive in his various cells. Then there is a further preliminary section headed A Letter to Compatriots and dated 14th December 1971. This section is followed by what one must regard as the core of the autobiography - Sections II to XLI (under general headings that localise the place of original experience: Ibadan-Lagos, Kaduna 68, and Kaduna 69) - based, to a greater or lesser extent, on material actually written during the prison experience. Even within these main sections there are digressions on various subjects, seemingly written, in outline at least, at some distance from the temporal locations of their relevance.

As an example, one could point to Section XV - A Digression on the theme of ATROCITIES and COMMISSIONS and the LACUNAE in the mind of POWER (p. 17) - that is itself followed by Notes added some days later (p. 120). So it can be seen that, even at the level of the original prison notes, there is a considerable variation in the proximity of the writing to the experience, reflecting the author's continuing re-assessment and re-ordering of his reaction to certain features of that experience. These main sections are in turn followed by a Tailpiece (p. 287) recounting a meeting "after the war", then by various appendices that contribute documentation arranged after Soyinka's release; and finally by an author's postscript (dated 15th January, 1972) appearing to represent Soyinka's latest addition to the corpus of the work. These structural segments have been identified not only to establish the temporal status of the text, but to illustrate the way in which the autobiographer makes use of the formal possibilities of continued addition and (more importantly) accretion of relevance to create a sense of a continuum of topicality. There is ample indication, within the text, to show that Soyinka is using the variation of temporal reference to avoid the danger of his autobiographical account becoming merely a record of spent experience. He testifies to the fact that his book has taken many forms and shapes; that the question of what to suspend, what to totally erase, and what to include, have all been influenced "by problems of expediency, of my continuing capacity to effect events in my country, of effecting the revolutionary changes to which I have become more than ever dedicated" (p. 12). He stresses that "this book is now" (p. 13). The artistic compression and extension of narrative time that Soyinka employs in his record of the prison experience is clearly a response to these elements of the authorial intent. Section IV opens with an account of an interrogation by Mallam D. It begins in the present tense, preserving the impression of a contemporaneity of action:

I am seated in a spare office ... Mallam D my interrogator fusses nervously about: what I would like you to do for me Mr Soyinka is simply set down all the things you have told me, everything about your activities to stop the war, how it all began, how much you have done, the people you have talked to or still plan to contact ... .

Then the narrative voice moves a little away (in the temporal sense) from the action: "It was the first thought at that point, nothing in my handwriting. And no signatures on anything." This type of immediate response is then followed by a direct presentation of authorial consciousness that works to dramatise and internalise the experience:

Caution. Even breath is drawn cautiously, deliberately. From now on all is calculation. A quick glance round the room for hidden microphones, hidden spy-holes. Microphones! But you are by yourself man! (p. 37)

This procedure of a mixed presentation of experience, with shifting spatial and temporal focus, enlivens the narrative and allows Soyinka (by virtue of his use of this novelistic device) to emphasise or subdue various features of the autobiographic record. Nevertheless, the record of experience is also presented (at times) in what could be described as the straight diary style: "It is March, 1969. I have been in prison eighteen months ..." (p. 213), and so on. Thus the novelistic devices are married with a less experimental autobiographic style within the total process of narrative presentation.

In The Man Died, Soyinka exploits the unique potential of the autobiographical form, particularly that potential that resides in the position of the writer as both narrator and narrative subject, both narrating-self and experiencing-self. There is a constant impression, throughout the work, of an immediate exposure to experience leading to a short-term assessment of that experience, and then (by virtue of Soyinka as narrator, somewhat distanced from the events) to a longer-term, structured ordering of meanings. By this means, Soyinka retains the necessary reader-interest in himself as central character. More than that, it allows for an artistic rendition of a new metaphor of self in the process of creation. This creative process works, firstly, within the prison walls:

I create, I recreate in tune with that which shuts or opens all about me. Dawn or dusk. Darkness or light. Concrete bars and iron gates. (p. 258)

It works in the constant self-questioning: why do I fast? why do they persecute me? "What are these people? How are they made?" (p. 224). On this level, The Man Died operates as a private record of one survival.20 But Soyinka moves on from there. He realises the necessity to objectify his experience, to give it meaning. He writes that "the acquisition of experience in fording the pass does not lessen its overwhelming sadness" (pp. 86-87). By 'fording the pass', he refers to the process of giving his private suffering an outer, socio-political dimension. He sees his personal experience as being unique among the fifty million people of his country,21 but he also realises (with the novelist's skill for the detection of the typical within the general) that a unique opportunity exists for a symbolic representation of his suffering. The Man Died is a personal account of imprisonment. More importantly, it is an artistic creation centred on that thematic sentence - the man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.

Wole Soyinka achieves a generalisation of his prison experience by the creation of a world-view (Weltanschauung) that summarises the essential meaning of his account of suffering and, at the same time, enforces a particular view of the narrated situation. To understand the manner in which the author builds such a world-view (hinged on Soyinka the symbolic character), it is necessary to investigate his use of various other artistic devices. On close examination it will be seen that the use of these devices serves to illustrate Soyinka's basically novelistic approach to his material.

The creation of a Weltanschauung is an important integral feature of any literary work that attempts an artistic reproduction of reality. This would appear to be the case, especially, in an autobiography designed to answer the questions: what really happened? what does it all mean? Georg Lukacs has defined Weltanschauung as "the highest form of consciousness", and as

a profound personal experience of each and every person, an extremely characteristic expression of his inward nature ... it likewise reflects in a very significant fashion the general problems of his age.22

Wole Soyinka portrays the process of self-examination, the inner urges and wonderings of the imprisoned man, and from his account of past mental 'discussions' he creates such a world-view. It is a world-view that blends the private and public experience. It proceeds from his realisation, while in prison, that "the soul of the revolutionary dance is in the hands of the flutist" (p. 92). Early in his period of imprisonment Soyinka, the narrative-subject, sees that his predicament surely "cannot be a strictly personal experience" (p. 39). Then, in the timeless period of a hunger-strike, he assesses the alternatives: "A private quest? Stuff for the tragic stage and the ritual rounds of Passion" (p. 87). He is seen as remembering that he has quarrelled too often with the ego-centred interpretations to which the existentialist self gives rise. He rejects the role of martyr, the role of brave sacrificial victim. In one of the most striking passages of The Man Died, Soyinka (at some length) decides on a meaning for the prison experience:

Any faith that places the conscious quest for the inner self as goal, for which the context of forces are merebattle aids, is ultimately destructive of the social potential of that self. Except as source of strength and vision keep inner self out of all expectation, let it remain unconscious beneficiary from experience. Suspect all conscious search for the self's authentic being ... Let actions alone be the manifestations of the authentic being in defence of its authentic visions. History is too full of failed prometheans bathing their wounded spirits in the tragic streams. (pp. 87-88)

In place of the role of failed promethean comes the commitment to social potential, action and authentic visions. This passage, apart from giving a philosophical depth to the autobiography not to be found in such works as Sunset in Biafra and Not Yet Uhuru, thematically supports Soyinka's call for a truly national, moral and socialist alternative.23

Only by such a view of his experience can "every individual share in the cataclysm and understand the purpose of the sacrifice" (p. 183). By portraying the process of self-examination, Soyinka provides (at once) the personal imperative and the formal direction of his autobiographic work.

The careful ordering and juxtapositioning of selected incidents provides a striking example of novelistic technique in the service of autobiography. Certain incidents are selected because they are perceived as being meaningful in relation to the whole pattern of the work. Combined with other, similarly important episodes, they tend to enforce a patterned ordering of past experience. Karl Weintraub has termed each of these significant events in a life an "incident with the drawbridge".24 Taken together, they constitute a line of experience that does not necessarily conform to a normal temporal progression of events. Each of the incidents provides a drawbridge to an understanding of meanings. In The Man Died, Wole Soyinka orders his record of experience (giving it an extension of meaning, a direction) by means of this technique. An examination of certain of these incidents will clarify his approach.

Having written of what he calls "the colossal moral failure within the nation" (p. 19), Soyinka then includes the full text of a letter written in prison and headed In Durance Vile (Sept. 1967). He sees the content of the letter, in afterthought, to be a validation of the political stand which led to his arrest. His letter thus works as an explanatory device. The main thrust of the letter is contained in an appeal for the restoration of judicial impartiality. It deals with two soldiers who have been charged with murder and then released, by order of the army authorities. So the letter also works as a description of events and attitudes in the face of what Soyinka calls "the common exercise of butchery and bestiality" (p. 21). It is both the personal appeal of a political prisoner and, in general terms, an overview of the situation from which the autobiographic account proceeds. Soyinka's placing of the letter (at an early stage) releases the narrative potentialities that its discussion of values has created. One finds then a subsequent description of a meeting with a nameless woman, an Ibo. Soyinka is in the corner of a dark cell, chained and dozing. The woman is thrust into the small enclosure. When she first sees him she is shocked and afraid. Then she notices the chains, her body goes lax, and she becomes sympathetic. As she calms down, Soyinka sees a new change in her face. Then he notices, before she speaks, recognition:

Are you not ... are you not Wole Soyinka? I nodded. From my face to my legs, back to my face. A pause to take it in. Then she broke down in tears. (pp. 41-42)

The woman is then hurriedly led away. Soyinka sees her as being calmer and stronger. He, also, draws strength from the encounter. It represents a significant episode in his imprisonment for what it implies: human recognition, collective suffering, sympathetic understanding, and a light in the civil-war darkness. Soyinka's later passages of self-examination draw strongly on this seminal episode, building and extending the discussion of moral values that it releases.

In the context of a discussion of values, another incident with the drawbridge is the account of a conversation (held prior to his imprisonment) between Soyinka and Fajuyi.25 The talk revolves around the subject of Mercedes Benz and their use by government leaders. Soyinka attacks Fajuyi's use of Rolls Royce and Mercedes cars. The soldier sees his point: "It's disgraceful that we soldiers should take over the ostentation of those useless politicians" (p. 163). Soyinka advises the use of a jeep. Despite his desire to avoid a look of opulence, Fajuyi is somewhat shocked. However, he agrees to the sale of the prestige cars. By the close of this chapter of recorded conversation, Fajuyi is dead, murdered by less scrupulous military comrades. Apart from a certain descriptive function (Soyinka's degree of influence on events, characterisation of leading personalities), the episode works on the level of a discussion of values with the acceptance of status symbols, or their honest refusal, being foregrounded. It is a thematic strand that echoes throughout the work. The harsh words of indictment that Soyinka levels at the political motorcades of the subsequent leader (Gowon) - the "psychology of sirens" passage (pp. 228-29) - proceed logically from the earlier, meaningful episode. A coherence of narrative concerns is thus established, with one significant event lending force and direction to subsequent happenings. A process of gradual understanding is artistically foreshadowed and the sense of unfolding experience is retained. The use of the novelistic flash-back technique operates to connect the episodes of importance with the overall ideological concerns of Soyinka's personal record.

Wole Soyinka's flair for the satirical definition of character, so evident in The Interpreters,26 is retained in the autobiography. In his description of the blundering, arrogant prison Superintendent, he lashes out at the man and his pompous attitudes. Soyinka's satirical presentation of the scene, where this man confronts the prisoners, works to deflate the arrogance of all those who would persecute their fellows. This is the Superintendent:

Now! I want you all to pay attention. Yes, I am going. To talk seriously to you ... I can treat you like. Gentlemen but if you behave like a hooligan then I will show you that I am a great. Hooligans than yourself ... ". (pp. 101-102)

His service ribbons, worn especially for the occasion, swell up and he flattens them back on his chest with another huge thump. Soyinka reaches for his hidden pencil, tears off some toilet paper and records the scene in all its bizarre comedy. In The Man Died, Soyinka is very sure of his targets and he hits them hard. After a conversation with a laconic warder, a man disillusioned with the national leaders, he begins to clarify his vision of the civil-war happenings. He discovers that Gowon regards the fall of the Biafran capital (Umuahia) as a belated wedding-present, and the significance of these two events - the wedding and the fall of the city - does not escape him. All his outrage, all his sense of high moral concern, pours out into vitriolic prose:

But the inside of the man, the deadness of mind and sense was summed up in the final unedifying revelation: that the taking of a rebel stronghold ... was not to him the sum of lives on both sides, of mutilation and sacrifice, was not even the weighty dilemma and disquieting decisions of human sacrifice but - a wedding present! ... Nothing but a feudal dynastic mentality could have conceived such irreverance, nothing but power drunkenness could have bilged forth such grandiloquent vomit on the entire national sacrifice. (p. 232)

Then, reducing the rhetoric but preserving the anger, Soyinka presents the reader with the warder's conclusion when he says, "After that ... make the bloody baggas go fight den own war" (p. 235). One outburst reinforces the other. Both work to articulate the anger that resides in the prison experience.

There is always the risk that polemical anger can rip apart a work such as The Man Died. To reduce that risk, Soyinka controls his tone by varying his stance in the face of suffering. He introduces touches of personal whimsy: "I made a strange discovery this morning. I am pregnant" (p. 212). More significantly, he varies the linguistic response by using differing stylistic approaches in different narrative situations. In a description of the spitting habits of his gaolers, one finds this approach:

Hraagrh hraagrh hraagrh ... ptuh - splat!


Haraaagrh Hraaagrh hraagrh ... ptuh - splat!


Hraaaaaagrrrrh hraaaaagrrrhaaaarrh ... ptuh - splat!

Vile heathen pig! (p. 132)

For the sense of an immediately-rendered capsule of action and dialogue, the style changes again:

Good morning how's today kck good morning how's - Cold! I need an extra blanket. What? How many have you got? One. What! Only one? He turns to Polyphemus. Chief, do supply him with an extra blanket from the store. Store? Yes, I think we get some. I supply him today. (p. 139)

When Soyinka turns to a description of his prison surroundings, the emphasis is placed on a lyrical evocation of his crypt. These are tones far removed from the polemics of anger:

My crypt they turn into a cauldron, an inverted ball of faiths whose sonorities are gathered, stirred, skimmed, sieved in the warp and weft of sooty mildew on walls, of green velvet fungus woven by the rain's cunning fingers. (p. 153)

The description of the Ibo prisoners singing in their cells, the making of the Soy-ink and mobiles, the portrait of the prison compost-pit, and the vivid account of the lizards:

These blunt-ended conical heads blend with the cubist monsterland, a landscape of green gradations in the straight-edged cactus varieties, prismatic growths thrusting their jagged points to form a bristling skyline. A sudden wedge of orange and blue-steel makes angled runs between the dense-packed prisms. From this skyscrape comes the weirdest music of the vault, an oriental tinkle of hollow tubes as the scales of the lizard strike the glass keyboard ... (p. 267)

- these passages are representative of the accuracy and detail of an imaginative writer's evocation of experience, intensely portrayed. Only the term novelistic can encompass their use in the autobiographic form.

In an interview with Biodun Jeyifous, after the completion of The Man Died, Soyinka remarked that he "did not believe in futile, token twitches nor in that fabricated lather of sweat in which so many of our 'radicals' are lavishly coated."27 His autobiography is certainly no futile, token twitch of anger. It is a carefully constructed, future-orientated indictment of those who are seen as the makers of Nigeria's moral and political predicament. In a very crucial way, as Soyinka has pointed out, the work is intended as "a test of the people themselves, it is a test of those who claim to think on behalf of the people and a gauge of the potential for ... political action."28 It comes as no surprise, then, that Soyinka should complete the artistic arrangement of the whole work by the use of a Tailpiece that is an account of a conversation after the war, projecting a strong sense of judgement and (at the same time) more than a hint of potential attitudes for the future. The Tailpiece recounts a meeting between the 'victorious' Yakubu Gowon, on his first visit to Ibadan after the war, and Soyinka's friend, Bola Ige, at the local School of Agriculture. Gowon, in the role of peacemaker, asks - how is your friend Wole? Is he settling down? Ige replies yes, as far as he knows. Gowon tells him, "give him this message from me." The message is this: "Tell him I said, Bygones is bygones. Right? Use my exact words - Bygones is bygones." The account of the conversation ends there. Soyinka's final authorial retort is exact, short, and to the point: "My a**e!" (p. 287; asterisks in original). That deliberately crude remark, working as insult and affirmation, completes the design of the autobiography. It emphasises the defiance and lack of submission in Soyinka's stand. It projects the ideological experience of the work, the potential for authentic action, into the sphere of future reckoning.

Dealing with material provided by the experience of one man, yet with a clear recognition of the fact that real self-knowledge involves a responsibility to the community as well as to self, Soyinka achieves significant innovations in his use of the autobiographic form. Working as it does without the presence of fictional characters, without a created persona (other than self) or a fictive world, The Man Died is the result of substantial literary experimentation.29 By absorbing the account of his prison experience into a thoroughly novelistic structure, Soyinka has begun to close the generic gap between the autobiography and the realist novel form.


1. The proceedings of the conference have been published in The Writer in Modern Africa, Per Wastberg (Ed.) (New York: Africana Publishing Corporation, for Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, 1969).

2. Ibid., p. 16.

3. Ibid., p. 20.

4. Soyinka was arrested in mid-August, 1967.

5. Wole Soyinka, The Man Died: Prison Notes of Wole Soyinka (1972; rpt. London: Rex Collings, 1974). Subsequent pagination reference is to this edition.

6. B.J. Mandel, "The Autobiographer's Art", Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, XXVII (1968), 217.

7. Karl J. Weintraub, "Autobiography and Historical Consciousness", Critical Inquiry (University of Chicago), I, No.4 (June 1975), 822.

8. Oginga Odinga, Not Yet Uhuru (1967; rpt. London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1971).

9. Ibid., p. xii. The emphasis is mine.

10. Weintraub, op.cit., pp. 823-24.

11. Elechi Amadi, Sunset in Biafra: A Civil War Diary (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1973).

12. Amadi, previous to the autobiography, had written two novels: The Concubine (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1966); and The Great Ponds (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1969).

13. Op.cit., author's Foreword.

14. Weintraub, op.cit. p. 824.

15. Ibid., p. 826.

16. James Olney, Metaphors of Self: The Meaning of Autobiography (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972).

17. Ibid., p. 331.

18. Roy Pascal, Design and Truth in Autobiography (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1960), p. 133.

19. Op.cit., following the dedication. The authorial statement begins: "Between the lines of Paul Radin's Primitive Religion and my own Idanre are scribbled fragments of plays, poems, a novel and portions of the prison notes which make up this book. Six other volumes have been similarly defaced with my writing."

20. "It is not a textbook for survival but the private record of one survival" (Ibid., p. 25).

21. "My judgement alone must serve in such matters, and my experience which, it strikes me more and more, is unique among the fifty million people of my country" (Ibid., pp. 13-14).

22. Georg Lukacs, "The Intellectual Physiognomy of Literary Characters" (1936). In Radical Perspectives in the Arts, Lee Baxandall (Ed.) (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1972), p. 91.

23. One notes here, particularly, these two passages from The Man Died: "For there existed then, and exists now ... a truly national, moral and revolutionary alternative - Victor Banjo's Third Force" (p. 94); and, in conversation with friends, Soyinka states, "As for further hopes of building anything approaching a socialist state ... There is no alternative. The army must be returned to its status as part of the proletariat ... We need a Third Force which thinks in terms of a common denominator for the people" (pp. 177-78).

24. Weintraub, op.cit., p. 826.

25. Lt.Col. Adekunle Fajuyi, one of the 'ghosts' who haunt Soyinka's crypt (the other is Christopher Okigbo), was appointed Military Governor of the West Region by Major-General Ironsi on 17 January 1966. He was killed on 29 July 1966, during a counter-coup, when he refused to hand over his guest (Ironsi).

26. Wole Soyinka, The Interpreters (1965; rpt. London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1970).

27. Interview recorded in Transition, 8(v), No.42 (1973), 63.

28. Ibid.

29. For a comparative study of another transitional form, see N.W. Visser, "The Novelistic Documentary: A Study of the Non-Fiction Novel" (PhD dissertation, Rhodes University, 1972).

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