Ken Saro-Wiwa Criticism - Essay

Graham Hough (review date 3 July 1986)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Afro-Fictions," in London Review of Books, Vol. 8, No. 12, July 3, 1986, pp. 22-3.

[Hough is an English author and educator. In the following review, he praises Saro-Wiwa's ability to capture the peculiarities of Nigerian life in A Forest of Flowers.]

Ken Saro-Wiwa's extremely accomplished collection of short stories [A Forest of Flowers] stands to Nigeria in something of the same relation as Joyce's Dubliners to Ireland. They are brief epiphanies, each crystallising a moment, a way of living, the whole course of a life. When as a youngster I first read Dubliners I remember being baffled by the way eerie characters and their bizarre...

(The entire section is 659 words.)

Ken Goodwin (review date Autumn 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Review of Songs in a Time of War by Ken Saro-Wiwa, in World Literature Written in English, Vol. 27, No. 2, Autumn 1987, pp. 232-33.

[Goodwin is an Australian author and educator. In the following review, he praises Saro-Wiwa's evocation of war-time Nigeria in Songs in a Time of War.]

In this modest contribution to Nigerian poetry in English [Songs in a Time of War], Ken Saro-Wiwa writes chiefly about the political manipulation and human waste of warfare. The war references are to the Biafran war, during which Saro-Wiwa served as a Federal administrator. Though these poems lack the immediacy and vivid particularity of J. P. Clark's war poems, they...

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Adewale Maja-Pearce (review date 22 July 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Nigeria Laughs at Itself," in New Statesman and Society, Vol. I, No. 7, July 22, 1988, pp. 44.

[Maja-Pearce is a Nigerian-born author, editor, and educator. In the following review, she finds that while its subject matter is worthy of satire, Prisoners of Jebs is not entirely successful.]

Prisoners of Jebs is a collection of 53 sketches, first published as a weekly column between January 1986 and January 1987 in the Nigerian Vanguard newspaper. In the "Author's Note", Ken Saro-Wiwa tells us that he wanted his column to "examine weekly events in Nigeria", and to the extent that a knowledge of Nigerian politics of this period is helpful for...

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Ken Saro-Wiwa (essay date Spring 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Language of African Literature: A Writer's Testimony," in Research in African Studies, Vol. 23, No. I, Spring 1992, pp. 153-57.

[In the following essay, Saro-Wiwa justifies his choice of writing in English rather than any of the various Nigerian languages.]

I was born to Ogoni parents at Bori on the northern fringes of the delta of the Niger during the Second World War. I grew up speaking one of the three Ogoni languages—Khana, my mother-tongue—and listening to and telling folk tales in that language.

When I went to primary school in 1947, I was taught in my mother-tongue during the first two years. During the other six years of the...

(The entire section is 2471 words.)

William Boyd (essay date 27 November 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Death of a Writer," in The New Yorker, Vol. LXXI, No. 38, November 27, 1995, pp. 51-5.

[Boyd is an acclaimed English novelist. In the following essay, he eulogizes his friend Saro-Wiwa and describes events that led up to his execution.]

Ken Saro-Wiwa was a friend of mine. At eleven-thirty in the morning on November 10th, he was hanged in a prison in Port Harcourt, in eastern Nigeria, on the orders of General Sani Abacha, the military leader of Nigeria. Ken Saro-Wiwa was fifty-four years old, and an innocent man.

I first met Ken in the summer of 1986 at a British Council seminar at Cambridge University. He had come to England from Nigeria in...

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Rob Nixon (review date 4 April 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Pipe Dreams," in London Review of Books, Vol. 18, No. 7, April 4, 1996, pp. 18-19.

[Nixon is an English author and educator. In the following review of Saro-Wiwa's detention diary, A Month and a Day, he describes conditions in Nigeria after the encroachment of transnational companies—such as Shell Oil—into developing countries.]

Ken Saro-Wiwa squints at us from the cover of his detention diary, the posthumous A Month and a Day. His moustache looks precise and trim; his eyes are alight; the distinctive gash scrawls across his temple. But the picture is governed by his pipe. It's an intellectual's accessory, a good pipe to suck and clench, to...

(The entire section is 3291 words.)

Joshua Hammer (essay date June 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Nigeria Crude: A Hanged Man and an Oil-Fouled Landscape," in Harper's Magazine, Vol. 292, No. 1753, pp. 58-68.

[Hammer is a journalist working in Africa. In the following essay, he covers the trial and execution of Saro-Wiwa and examines conditions in the Nigerian government and Shell Oil.]

The Commissioner went away, taking three or four of the soldiers with him. In the many years in which he had toiled to bring civilization to different parts of Africa he had learned a number of things. One of them was that a District Commissioner must never attend to such undignified details as cutting a hanged man from the tree. Such attention would give...

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David Rieff (review date 16 June 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Ruin of Nigeria, the Ruin of Africa. The Threat of Death," in The New Republic, Vol. 216, No. 24, June 16, 1997, pp. 33-41.

[Rieff is an American political writer. In the following review of A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary and Wole Soyinka's The Open Sore of a Continent: A Personal Narrative of the Nigerian Crisis, he examines the current political, social, and economic state of Nigeria in particular and Africa overall.]


The hangmen who, on November 10, 1995, carried out the execution of the Nigerian writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight of his colleagues from MOSOP, or the Movement for the Salvation of the...

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