Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka shared insights into how he has maintained his mental well-being over the years in an interview with Turkish journalist Aysegul Sert in Paris, as reported in an article on LitHub on October 19, 2023.
When asked about the secret to his youthful spirit at the age of 89, Soyinka admitted he was uncertain but acknowledged that he should be taking things slower. He humorously mentioned that each time he attempted to ease into a slower pace of life, unexpected events occurred that compelled him to re-engage with his pursuits. He noted, “I have no idea. I should be slowing down, I know, but each time I try to slow down, something happens, and I have to get back on the trail.”
Soyinka also disclosed that he finds it challenging to turn away from pressing matters because doing so disturbs his inner peace. He described it as a personal flaw, as he is aware that he needs this sense of inner tranquillity profoundly.
However, he emphasized that he has preserved his mental stability over the years by what he referred to as “extracting himself from the world.” According to him, finding moments of serenity in his mind has been essential, as without them, he believes he would have succumbed to insanity long ago. He explained, “If I didn’t manage to have some quiet in my mind, I’d have gone mad years ago, so it’s a question of extracting myself [from the world] whenever I can.”
Soyinka acknowledged that this involves sacrifices and sometimes depriving himself of enjoyable experiences, but it is vital to preserve his creative space. He stressed the importance of being thankful for these moments of solitude and waiting for the next opportunity to fulfil his innate need to retreat from the world.
Regarding his role as an engaged writer, Soyinka firmly stated that he never intended to become one. He believes that literature should not be inherently committed to a cause. Instead, he emphasized the significance of a writer’s honesty and their ability to present different viewpoints, opening up new possibilities. He said, “No! Never! One shouldn’t expect literature to be committed. It is sufficient that a writer opens up possibilities… You are writing, that’s your mission, that’s your métier; exploit it in whatever direction it leads.”
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