OpenStage's Splitting Infinity, which I review in the January 11 issue, made me think about the one Nobel laureate I have had the privilege of meeting: Nigeria's Wole Soyinka, a forceful critic of colonialism and winner of the prize for literature in 1986.
Soyinka was attending a conference on the novel at CU, and he was an impressive presence at lectures and on panels, tall and dignified, deliberate in his speech, tautly intelligent. Somehow I got invited to a dinner at the Flagstaff House with the conference organizer, an American novelist and Soyinka. The organizer left the table to deal with a phone call, and finding myself alone with the two others, I was literally tongue-tied; anything I could think of to say seemed juvenile and idiotic.
The novelist was less overawed. She talked happily about how she'd always found the work of African writers exotic, but perhaps her own work, set in the hardscrabble Appalachians, might seem equally exotic to them. Soyinka agreed that it would. There was a silence, and I tried to think of something -- anything -- to fill it. And then somehow London came up, and Soyinka said he'd lived there as a student and had acted in plays around town because he loved the theater and couldn't afford tickets. (Soyinka's Nobel Lecture begins with an incident at the Royal Court Theatre where he was supposed to appear in a play about British repression in Kenya.) I grew up in London, and we realized we had seen some of the same productions -- I wish I could remember now what they were.
But we stood on the patio of the Flagstaff House for several precious and extraordinary minutes, laughing and remembering long-ago performances together. It's a moment I've treasured ever since. -- Juliet Wittman
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.