Wole Soyinka: Push for Nobel Prize for Achebe Is 'Obscene'

"You know damned well that the Nobel Committee doesn't engage in such tradition," he says of the call for a posthumous conferment. 

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Wole Soyinka (Getty Images)

Some in the literary world are pushing for the late Chinua Achebe to be awarded a posthumous Nobel Prize for literature, and fellow Nigerian author Wole Soyinka has had enough, The Guardian reports. He says the calls have "gone beyond 'sickening' " and become "obscene and irreverent."

To be clear, it's not that Soyinka -- himself a 1986 Nobel laureate who can nominate future candidates -- doesn't think Achebe is worth honoring. Rather, as he puts it, "You know damned well that the Nobel Committee doesn't engage in such tradition."

In other words, a posthumous conferment isn't going to happen, and an obsession with wishing that it would does a disservice to the late author. Soyinka didn't mince any words explaining why:

In a wide-ranging and passionate interview with SaharaReporters, ahead of Achebe's funeral this week, Soyinka urged Achebe's "cohorts" to cease in their attempts "to confine Chinua's achievement space into a bunker over which hangs an unlit lamp labelled 'Nobel'". As a winner of the prize, Soyinka can nominate future laureates to the Swedish Academy, and said he had been receiving a series of letters begging him to put Achebe forward.

"Let us quit this indecent exercise of fatuous plaints, including raising hopes, even now, with talk of 'posthumous' conferment, when you know damned well that the Nobel committee does not indulge in such tradition. It has gone beyond 'sickening'. It is obscene and irreverent. It desecrates memory," Soyinka told Sahara Reporters. "This conduct is gross disservice to Chinua Achebe and disrespectful of the life-engrossing occupation known as literature. How did creative valuation descend to such banality? Do these people know what they're doing – they are inscribing Chinua's epitaph in the negative mode of thwarted expectations. I find that disgusting."

Soyinka, whose own Nobel citation praises him as an author "who in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence", asked if the award was really "what the literary enterprise is about? Was it the Nobel that spurred a young writer, stung by Eurocentric portrayal of African reality, to put pen to paper and produce Things Fall Apart?"

Read more at The Guardian.

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