The Burden of Memory, the Muse of Forgiveness Paperback – Dec 15 1999
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When a book begins with a statement such as "In the 1992 presidential elections, it would appear that the United States stood a reasonable chance of acquiring a new president in the person of a certain Mr. David Duke," a reader must wonder if the author is being deliberately alarmist or has simply lost contact with reality. (After all, Duke had little national credibility, and even his campaigns in his home state of Louisiana could best be described as highly problematic.) On matters concerning his native Nigeria, and on the rest of the African nations, Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka is perhaps more reliable, albeit still somewhat longwinded. The Burden of Memory is based on a set of lectures Soyinka gave at the W.E.B. Dubois Institute and faithfully preserves their highly academic orality, whether he is advocating massive reparations for the people of Africa for the historical injustices to which they have been subject, or using literary criticism to explore the ways in which Africans have been willing to "forgive" Westerners in the hopes of assimilating into the culture that formerly treated them as vassals. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
In three essays, Nobel laureate Soyinka examines Africa's recent history and the ways African and other countries have dealt with horrendous crimes against humanity. Like his Open Sore of a Continent (1996), this work is based on lectures at Harvard University's W. E. B. DuBois Institute. The first essay, "Reparations, Truth, and Reconciliation," deals most directly with the issues Tina Rosenberg addressed in her prizewinning study of post-Communist Eastern Europe, The Haunted Land: "How on earth does one reconcile reparations, or recompense, with reconciliation, or remission of wrongs?" Although Soyinka respects the generosity of spirit behind South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he points out that failure to demand restitution may build an expectation of impunity that can only encourage further crimes. In the essays "L. S. Senghor and Negritude" and "Negritude and the Gods of Equity," Soyinka examines the response of writers with African roots to the effects of slavery and colonialism as well as to the cruelties imposed on Africans by many of their own postcolonial leaders. Mary Carroll --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
"The Burden of Memory, the Muse of Forgiveness," you must understand, is "in the obligatory [Soyinka] fashion," a compilation of oral lectures the learned professor gave at Harvard. You must understand too, that the writing is basically academic, and suited more to an oral lecture. And because we speak of Soyinka, the writing is characteristically difficult.
So then, his lectures-turn-books (including, of course, "The Burden of Memory, the Muse of Forgiveness") are not the best of works with which to appraise Soyinka's genius. For a true appreciation of Soyinka's literary prowess, you must read his plays and novels.
The flaw, of which I spoke earlier, is captured in the question a friend once posed to me (not Soyinka): "Is not the purpose of language to communicate?" Without a full-fledged dictionary, and the will to re-read whole paragraphs, one would struggle to keep up with Soyinka's writing.
In all, whether one likes it or not, the man is a literary giant, period!
Through all three lectures Soyinka employs a very dense style, one that might have worked well when speaking for an academic audience at Harvard but one that does not translate well onto the written page. Phrases like 'slaves into the twentieth-first century, mouthing the mangy mandates of mendacity, ineptitude, corruption and sadism' sound impressive but are merely a means for Soyinka to play around with words when he could be spending his time seriously addressing very important issues like reparations. When he does get down to business, he writes that 'reparations would involve the acceptance by Western nations of a moral obligation to repatriate the post-colonial loot salted away in their vaults, in real estate and business holdings' but never goes into detail exactly what this would involve. What is more disturbing is his frequent references to the U.S., which reveal his real ignorance about American life: examples include his belief that David Duke could have been elected President in 1992 and that the Ku Klux Klan held or holds a 'tentacular hold over power structures across the United States.Read more ›
For all I know, Wole Soyinka may be a very fine playwright; I've never seen nor read one of his plays. But after reading this collection of three lectures--The 1997 W.E.B. Du Bois Institute Macmillan lectures at Harvard University--I can say that as a moral philosopher he leaves much to be desired. In the most important and topical lecture here--Reparations, Truth, and Reconciliation--he argues that South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission can not serve a redemptive function, nor can any such process, because:
Where there has been inequity, especially of a singularly brutalizing kind, of a kind that robs one side of its most fundamental attribute -- its humanity -- it seems only appropriate that some form of atonement be made, in order to exorcise that past. Reparations, we repeat, serve as a cogent critique of history and thus a potent restraint on its repetition.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Let me start by acknowledging that I haven't read this particular work. I'm merely expressing my ire at an ignoramus of a reviewer from Philadelphia, who suggested that Soyinka's... Read morePublished on Sept. 3 2003 by Kwabena Osei
I was extremely impressed with Professor Soyinka's argument for reparations not only for Africa, but for all victims of enslavement, colonialism, and oppression. Read morePublished on April 4 2001 by Michael S. Moore
After learning that Soyinka received a Nobel Prize in Literature while perusing the back cover of this book at the bookstore, I was immediately interested. Read morePublished on Feb. 3 2001
This book was intelligently written -- too intelligently. In fact, I found it unintelligible the first time through. Read morePublished on March 14 1999
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