The Burden of Memory, the Muse of Forgiveness (The W.E.B. Du Bois Institute Series)

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9780195122053: The Burden of Memory, the Muse of Forgiveness (The W.E.B. Du Bois Institute Series)

When Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka's The Open Sore of a Continent appeared in 1996, it received rave reviews in the national media. Now comes Soyinka's powerful sequel to that fearless and passionate book, The Burden of Memory.
Where Open Sore offered a critique of African nationhood and a searing indictment of the Nigerian military and its repression of human and civil rights, The Burden of Memory considers all of Africa--indeed, all the world--as it poses the next logical question: Once repression stops, is reconciliation between oppressor and victim possible? In the face of centuries long devastations wrought on the African continent and her Diaspora by slavery, colonialism, Apartheid and the manifold faces of racism what form of recompense could possibly be adequate? In a voice as eloquent and humane as it is forceful, Soyinka examines this fundamental question as he illuminates the principle duty and "near intolerable burden" of memory to bear the record of injustice. In so doing, he challenges notions of simple forgiveness, of confession and absolution, as strategies for social healing. Ultimately, he turns to art--poetry, music, painting--as one source that may nourish the seed of reconciliation, art as the generous vessel that can hold together the burden of memory and the hope of forgiveness.
Based on Soyinka's Stewart-McMillan lectures delivered at the Du Bois Institute at Harvard, The Burden of Memory speaks not only to those concerned specifically with African politics, but also to anyone seeking the path to social justice through some of history's most inhospitable terrain.

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Review:

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.

About the Author:


Wole Soyinka won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986. He is Woodruff Professor of the Arts at Emory University, in Atlanta, and a Fellow of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute at Harvard.

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