“The Happiest People in the World” is a novel by Wole Soyinka | NDR.de – Culture – Book

Status: 04/21/2022 2:41 PM

Nigerian Nobel Prize winner in literature Wole Soyinka has published a new novel. The book has already been hailed as a masterpiece in English-speaking countries. The novel is now available in German.

by Jan Ehlert

Even as a child, Wole Soyinka was suspicious of the affinity between God and the Mighty. At the beginning of his childhood memories, Aki asks why is the horse stable for the leader of his people on Mount Itokos, that is, where God lives, while the poor parsonage at the foot of the mountain had to stay. In his new account, the perspective is now reversed: The priest—and with him the self-proclaimed Prophet Davina—has reached the top of the mountain. But the road there was nothing but beautiful:

“Trash. Heaps of rubbish. Just like the other side – it was a road full of obstacles I climbed here. Nothing but rubbish piled up in the city.” Davina seemed satisfied. “Yes, a dung heap. You came here through him. But now you’re here. And do you say you’re standing on a dung heap?”
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additional information


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Garbage mountains of moral distortion

No, this is the obvious answer. Because perspective, according to Davina, is everything. He ignores the fact that the beautiful appearance of his Holy Empire is based on modern rubbish. He cannot and will not bear any scruples. Just like his political counterpart, Sir Goody, the fictional prime minister of Nigeria in which Soyinka’s novel is set. He, too, is only interested in staying in power, while violence escalates among his own citizens. Meaningless murders, brutal mutilation, and a thriving organ trade – under the semblance of civilisation, mountains of rubbish hide a dreamless mutilation:

“This is about something I’d better avoid calling it, but I can’t avoid the word here – it’s about soul. It’s a challenge to the collective concept of what is called soul. Something is broken. Beyond race, color, or history. Something has cracked and cannot be reassembled.”
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Cruel, sarcastic, hopeless – nonetheless: great

So all the sensational warnings are uttered here: “The happiest people in the world” is not a nice book. He’s cruel, sarcastic, and desperate – and yet: great. This is due to Soyinka’s ironic tone, in which he clearly emphasized the weaknesses of the strong. In the art of imaginative and colorful narration, he puts entertaining tales even in his deep sorrows. But also because of the appalling cruelty with which Soyinka showed how failed the idea of ​​civilized Nigeria had been. The abuse of power by African dictators has long been a topic for Chuenka. In his play “The Play of the Giants” he attacked the Ugandan Idi Amin, in “Opera Wonyosi” he attacked the Central African emperor Bokassa. But now he turns to people. Here, too, his judgment is devastating. Just four friends and their families, including Dr. Minka, try to stay true even in this corrupt system. But they are also doomed:

By now, the four had long since gone their separate ways, haunted or faced with the assumptions – and choices – of absolute survival that kept ballooning daily, hourly. Now, at 57 and celebrated globally, Minka finds himself in the most dangerous whirlpool of change, facing an uncertain future.
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An uncertain future also faced by many countries on the African continent – which Soyinka leaves no doubt, Europe also bears part of the blame. All friends of peace must make a decision, Soyinka warned in his speech at the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature: Either to help these nations in the modern world, for the sake of a rational existence in the spirit of human partnership — or they scornfully at forcing knees. Now, 35 years later, it seems the decision has been made. Soyinka’s account is a harrowing look at the consequences of this decision.

The happiest people in the world

by Wole Soyinka

page number:
656 pages
Type:
a novel
additional information:
From American Ingie Offelman
publisher:
pond
Order number:
978-3-89667-728-0
price:
24 EUR

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Culture NDR | New books | 04/22/2022 | 12:40 pm

Keywords for this article

Novels

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