In March 2022, we were honored to welcome Wole Soyinka, a Nigerian playwright, novelist, activist, and the 1986 Nobel Laureate. In advance of Mr. Soyinka's visit, the students read his play Death and the King's Horseman and discussed the themes of his literary works, including Yoruba traditions, colonial legacy and interactions between different cultures.As a result, the conversation turned into an enlightening and free-flowing exchange of ideas. The castle's atmosphere seemed to fit the grandeur of the occasion, yet the free spirit of Mr. Soyinka matched that of the school making the conversation lively and informal. There were many questions asked ranging from what was solitary confinement like (no drawing on the walls, just a stick to write on a muddy floor) to what is the writer's all-time favorite movie (Fellini's La Strada). Here is the rundown of the some of the most memorable answers
- On unexpected uses of school knowledge
I disliked my mathematics teachers because they tortured me. I hated mathematics, but I was a very curious child and I was frequently thinking about why I disliked it so much. In schools at the time, you couldn't matriculate if you failed either English or maths, even if you had passed all other subjects. The moment of truth came when I had to take my maths exams. I had studied a lot, but I still couldn't make heads or tails of it. Algebra came first and I failed it. So the evening before the next exam, I snuck out of my boarding room bedroom and studied all night to memorize all the geometry that I could master. I didn't sleep, I just studied. Thankfully, it paid off and I did well enough to compensate for algebra. I then promptly forgot everything I had learned.
Years later, I found myself in prison confinement for political reasons. I wasn't permitted to have any writing materials. I was in total isolation and even the warden wasn't allowed to speak to me. After a couple of days, I started remembering my school experience and my old hatred of mathematics. As a writer, all I need is paper and a pen, but even the toilet paper was scarce. So I thought what can I occupy my mind with. And I remembered about mathematics. I started working, trying to discover the laws of permutation and combination. I used a stick to write on the floor of my cell. This is how I was able to survive long weeks of solitary confinement, by focusing my mind on mathematics. So never throw anything you have learned away.
Reading has been a big part of my life since I was five. Books intrigue me, fascinate me, and by the age of six, I was into the heavy reading of everything around me. So my advice to you would be - grab books, enjoy them!
My favourite book right now is a difficult one to answer. I find myself frequently on the road and stuck in traffic jams. So I have this traveling library where there is a stack of books on one side and a drink or two on the other. Often I read several books at once. One of those that I read recently and really liked is Elif Shafak The Island of Missing Trees.
remarkable, unusual book. It's both historical and also human. In fact, you can almost say that it echoes what is going on now between Russia and Ukraine. It speaks about Cyprus divided between Greeks and Turks and the ongoing attempts to annex the parts of Cyprus. It is a beautiful book and if you manage to get a hold of it, make sure to read it. It's very much worth it.
But, in all, there are so many books around, that if you find yourself reading a book that doesn't stimulate you and doesn't give you any pleasure, you can simply stop reading and move on to the next one. This is what I do.