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Ken Saro-Wiwa Biography

(1941–95), The Transistor Radio, Bride by Return, Four Farcical Plays

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: William Sansom (William Norman Trevor Sansom) Biography to Dr Seuss [Theodor Giesel] Biography

Nigerian novelist, dramatist, and political writer, born in Bori, Nigeria, educated at the University of Ibadan. He lectured at the University of Lagos and held government office before founding Saros International Publishers in 1973. In 1994 he was arrested for his leading role in the violent campaign against the dispossession of the Ogoni people by the development of Nigeria's oil resources. The following year he was sentenced to death and executed with eight other activists amid protests from governments throughout the world. Saro-Wiwa's early works include the radio plays The Transistor Radio (1972) and Bride by Return (1973). His best-known dramatic writings are contained in Four Farcical Plays (1989). These exuberantly humorous satires on the unscrupulous materialism pervading modern Nigerian culture are derived from the ‘Basi and Company’ television series he scripted from 1985 to 1990. The Basi series also gave rise to numerous children's books and the novel Basi and Company: A Modern African Folktale (1987). His first novel, Sozaboy: a Novel in Rotten English (1985), deals with the Nigerian Civil War and forms a passionate denunciation of the cultural myths sustaining militarism. The novels, Prisoners of Jebs (1988) and Pita Dumbrok's Prison (1991), are outspoken satires on the corruption and ineffectuality of African politics. The short-stories in Forest of Flowers (1987) and Adaku (1989) deal with the everyday life of Nigerian people. His political writings, which sustain an uncompromising critique of post-Civil War Nigeria, include On a Darkling Plain: an Account of the Nigerian Civil War (1989), Nigeria: the Brink of Disaster (1991), and Genocide in Nigeria: the Ogoni Tragedy (1992). Among Saro-Wiwa's other works are the poems of Songs in a Time of War (1985), Similia: Essays on Anomic Nigeria (1991), and The Singing Anthill: Ogoni Folk Tales (1991).

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