Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth: Wole Soyinka with Farah Jasmine Griffin

Thu. Oct 7, 2021 7:30pm - 8:30pm EDT
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Event Description

The Nobel Prize–winning author joins PEN Out Loud and LIVE from NYPL to discuss his first novel in almost 50 years.

Book jacket for Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on EarthGlobal literary giant Wole Soyinka last published a novel in 1973. Now he returns to the form with Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth. Set in an imaginary Nigeria and following a wild array of curious characters, Soyinka examines the complexities of Nigerian politics and asks whether his country’s success is real, or a facade built on corruption and lies. Part whodunit and part broadside, Chronicles is a satiric meditation on power and greed corrupting the soul of a nation.

Wole Soyinka speaks about his brand new novel with Farah Jasmine Griffin, Chair of Columbia University’s Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies and the author of this year’s Read Until You Understand: the Profound Wisdom of Black Life and Literature.

PEN America LogoProduced in partnership with PEN Out Loud. 

This program will be streamed live on the NYPL event page.

Captions and ASL interpretation will be provided. Any media will be accompanied by alt text to reference before the program or by audio description.

Wole Soyinka was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986. Born in Abeokuta, Nigeria, in 1934, he is an author, playwright, poet, and political activist whose prolific body of work includes The Interpreters, his debut novel that was published in 1965, and Death and the King’s Horseman, a play that was first performed in 1976. Soyinka was twice jailed in Nigeria for his criticism of the Nigerian government, and he destroyed his U.S. Green Card in 2016 when Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.

Farah Jasmine Griffin

Farah Jasmine Griffin is the William B. Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, where she also served as the inaugural Chair of the African American and African Diaspora Studies Department. She is a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow and an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Scholar-in-Residence. Professor Griffin received her BA in history & literature from Harvard University and her Ph.D. in American studies from Yale University. She is the author or editor of eight books, including Who Set You Flowin?: The African American Migration Narrative, If You Can’t Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday, and Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II. Griffin collaborated with composer/pianist Geri Allen and director/actor S. Epatha Merkerson on two theatrical projects, Great Jazz Women of the Apollo (2013) and A Conversation with Mary Lou (2014), for which she wrote the book . The first theatrical project, “Geri Allen and Friends Celebrate the Great Jazz Women of the Apollo”—with Lizz Wright, Dianne Reeves, Terri Lyne Carrington and others—premiered on the main stage of the Apollo Theater in May 2013. The second project, “A Conversation with Mary Lou”—featuring vocalist Carmen Lundy—premiered at Harlem Stage in March 2014 and was performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in May 2016. Her most recent book is Read Until You Understand: The Profound Wisdom of Black Life and Literature.   


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Wole Soyinka photo © Glen Gratty

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