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Telephone Conversation by Wole Soyinka


Wole Soyinka was born in Nigeria in 1934, He moved to Great Britain to study English Literature at the University of Leed, then he worked at the Royal Court Thatre in London. In 1957 he went back to his home country and became
an active member of the Nigerian political life. In 1967 he was arrested and put in solitary confinement for his attempts to sinf a solution to the Nigerian - Niafran War. During the twenty-two months he spent in prison he wrote several
poems, published in the collection Poems from Prison and later recounted to memoirs in The Man Died: Prison Notes (1972).
Under General Abacha's dictatorial regime Soyinka was forced to leave Nigeria secretly because of his outspoken commitment to the cause of freedom and civil rights. While living abroad he never stopped advocating the imposition of sanctions against the brutal Nigerian government,, which greatly helped the country's return to democracy in 1999. Back in his native country, Soynika was greeted as a national hero and was offered a university teaching position. He presently works at the University of Nevada and the Loyola Marimount University in Los Angeles.

He is considered one of the finest contemporary African dramatists. In one of his most celebrated plays, A Dance of the Forest (1960) he sharply criticies the Nigerian ruling class and in the collection of essays Myth, Literature and
the African World he compares and contrasts European and African culture. He has written two novels and several collections of poems which the best known are Mandela's Earth and the Other Poems (1988) and Outsiders (1999). in
1986 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In its motivation, he is defined one "who in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence.

POEM

The price seemed reasonable, location
Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived
Off premises. Nothing remained
But self-confession. “Madam,” I warned,
“I hate a wasted journey—I am African.”
Silence. Silenced transmission of
Pressurized good-breeding. Voice, when it came,
Lipstick coated, long gold-rolled
Cigarette-holder pipped. Caught I was, foully.

“HOW DARK?” . . . I had not misheard . . . “ARE YOU LIGHT
OR VERY DARK?” Button B. Button A. Stench
Of rancid breath of public hide-and-speak.
Red booth. Red pillar-box. Red double-tiered
Omnibus squelching tar. It was real! Shamed
By ill-mannered silence, surrender
Pushed dumbfoundment to beg simplification.
Considerate she was, varying the emphasis—

“ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT?” Revelation came.
“You mean—like plain or milk chocolate?”
Her assent was clinical, crushing in its light

Impersonality. Rapidly, wavelength adjusted,
I chose. “West African sepia”—and as an afterthought,
“Down in my passport.” Silence for spectroscopic
Flight of fancy, till truthfulness clanged her accent
Hard on the mouthpiece. “WHAT’S THAT?” conceding,
“DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT IS.” “Like brunette.”

“THAT’S DARK, ISN’T IT?” “Not altogether.
Facially, I am brunette, but madam, you should see
The rest of me. Palm of my hand, soles of my feet
Are a peroxide blonde. Friction, caused—
Foolishly, madam—by sitting down, has turned
My bottom raven black—One moment madam!”—sensing
Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap
About my ears—“Madam,” I pleaded, “wouldn’t you rather
See for yourself?”

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