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Collected Plays: Volume 1: A Dance of the Forests; The Swamp Dwellers; The Strong Breed; The Road; The Bacchae of Euripides: Vol 1 (V. 1: A Galaxy Book) Paperback – 8 Nov 1973


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Collected Plays: Volume 1: A Dance of the Forests; The Swamp Dwellers; The Strong Breed; The Road; The Bacchae of Euripides: Vol 1 (V. 1: A Galaxy Book) + Collected Plays: Volume 2: The Lion and the Jewel; Kongi's Harvest; The Trials of Brother Jero; Jero's Metamorphosis; Madmen and Specialists: Vol 2 (Oxford Paperbacks)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New edition (8 Nov. 1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192811363
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192811363
  • Product Dimensions: 19.5 x 2.2 x 13 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 220,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Finally we have Soyinka's collected plays available in a format accessible and convenient for student readers."--Eileen Crawford, University of the District of Columbia"Soyinka...has established himself as one of the most compelling literary voices in black Africa."--The New York Times

About the Author

Wole Soyinka is a celebrated Nigerian writer and winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature. As well as plays he has written two novels, two volumes of poetry, and The Man Died, notes of his prison experience. His other plays include The Lion and the Jewel, Kongi's Harvest, The Trails of Brother Jero, Jero's Metamorphosis, and Madmen and Specialists. He has a new book, The Open Sore of a Continent, published in June 1996.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 12 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback
This, Volume 1 of the collected plays by Nigerian-born Wole Soyinka, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, contains, The Dance of the Forests, The Swamp Dwellers, The Strong Breed, The Road, and The Bacchae of Euripides (Soyinka's translation).

For this review I want to focus on The Road which Soyinka wrote in 1965. It is a quasi-realistic play which incorporates elements from the theater of the absurd. It is a comedy of sorts, not exactly a comedie noire, as the French say, but with similar satirical intent. It is also a deeply symbolic play.

The action comprises a single day, from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. The scene is a road-side shack presumably in Nigeria with a church close by, parts of which are also on stage. Part of the shack is a used parts store, and there is a dilapidated "mammy waggon" downstage and to the side opposite the church.

The central character is the PROFESSOR who stands for civilization and literacy. He has the power of the Word, and this power sustains him above his fellows. The PROFESSOR uses his literacy to forge documents such as driver's licenses. This too is part of his power. He is a contradictory character, and the Word is slippery and is not always an embodiment of the truth. The PROFESSOR stands in opposition to the Church and its Bishop.

SAMSON is the tout for the "No Danger, No Delay" lorry service. A tout is one who finds customers for the company, who seats them and maybe carries their luggage and flatters them. SAMSON is a practical man.

KOTONU is a driver who works with SAMSON. SALUBI is a driver trainee, a superstitious man. MURANO, whom Soyinka says represents the suspension of death, is a mute and personal servant to the PROFESSOR.
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By Carole Asare on 29 Oct. 2014
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Splendid 12 Jan. 2007
By Dennis Littrell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This, Volume 1 of the collected plays by Nigerian-born Wole Soyinka, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, contains, The Dance of the Forests, The Swamp Dwellers, The Strong Breed, The Road, and The Bacchae of Euripides (Soyinka's translation), but not The Lion and the Jewel, et al., as the Book Description by Amazon above mistakenly has it. Those plays are contained in Volume 2.

For this review I want to focus on The Road which Soyinka wrote in 1965. It is a quasi-realistic play which incorporates elements from the theater of the absurd. It is a comedy of sorts, not exactly a comedie noire, as the French say, but with similar satirical intent. It is also a deeply symbolic play.

The action comprises a single day, from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. The scene is a road-side shack presumably in Nigeria with a church close by, parts of which are also on stage. Part of the shack is a used parts store, and there is a dilapidated "mammy waggon" downstage and to the side opposite the church.

The central character is the PROFESSOR who stands for civilization and literacy. He has the power of the Word, and this power sustains him above his fellows. The PROFESSOR uses his literacy to forge documents such as driver's licenses. This too is part of his power. He is a contradictory character, and the Word is slippery and is not always an embodiment of the truth. The PROFESSOR stands in opposition to the Church and its Bishop.

SAMSON is the tout for the "No Danger, No Delay" lorry service. A tout is one who finds customers for the company, who seats them and maybe carries their luggage and flatters them. SAMSON is a practical man.

KOTONU is a driver who works with SAMSON. SALUBI is a driver trainee, a superstitious man. MURANO, whom Soyinka says represents the suspension of death, is a mute and personal servant to the PROFESSOR.

PARTICULARS JOE is a cop who always wants the "particulars" of the case. He apparently lives as much on the bribes he receives as he does on his salary. SAY TOKYO KID is the leader of the thugs and a driver.

The hangers-on and such serve as a musical and dancing chorus throughout the play. They sing dirges and act out tribal dances sometimes using the Mask which may hide the god of death, or as Soyinka has it, the Mask represents "a religious cult of flesh dissolution." Throughout there are references to Orgun, the tribal god of iron and war. During the Festival of the Drivers, there is the "Feast of Orgun, the Dog-eater" with the idea that the Road eats dogs that get in the way of the wheels of the lorries.

The characters in the play make their living from the road and its traffic. Some of them even chase after accidents and remove things of value from the vehicles--even the clothes of the dead--and sell them in the "Care of Accident Supply Store."

The central element is the road of course, the road like a river that runs through their lives and through their civilization, a road that lies flat and then, like a coiled snake, snaps up and brings to death by accident those who travel on its back. The road is also that which transforms the forest, as they take its timber, into the hard concrete and asphalt of the city. It is the road that transforms the life of the tribesman into that of the city dweller. One might compare the Road to the Way of the Taoists, but of course here the road is actively malicious. In a sense then this play is a religious allegory with the tension contained between the Road and the Word.

Soyinka's dialogue is in English with some Pidgin departures and with some vocabulary from the Yoruba language mixed in. Soyinka has a master's ear and an artist's touch with language. He has the characters at times talking past one another, each with his own concern, as in an absurdist play, and at other times he has them mouthing words of philosophic import. It is especially the PROFESSOR who waxes philosophical. He is a bit of a cynic who exclaims at one point, "Have you sold your soul for money? You lie like a prophet." He adds, "Truth? Truth? Truth my friend is scum risen on the froth of wine" reminding me of Pontius Pilate whom Sir Francis Bacon famously has asking, "What is truth?" and not staying for an answer.

PARTICULARS JOE, who was once a soldier, can also be philosophical, sometimes in an ironic way as when he declares "It is peaceful to fight a war which one does not understand, to kill human beings who never seduced your wife or poisoned your water." And there are jokes and witty sayings which Soyinka springs upon us by surprise from time to time. A nice exchange begins when PARTICULARS JOE pockets a coin that belongs to SAMSON that he finds in a crack on the floor:

SAMSON: That happens to be mine.

JOE [blandly]: That's O.K. Natural mistake on my part. Money has been left for me in more unlikely places believe me.

SAMSON: Well at least wait until I am back on the road before you collect tolls.

This inspires the PROFESSOR to ask JOE, How is the criminal world my friend?

JOE: More lucrative every day Professor.

PROFESSOR: Not for the criminal I trust.

JOE (with unintentional irony I presume): Oh no sir. That would only corrupt them.

One sees the influence of such absurdist playwrights as Samuel Beckett, Bertold Brecht and Eugene Ionesco in this play, but I believe Soyinka is both more realistic and funnier. He spent some part of his formative years in London where he was educated and worked in the theatre and where his first plays were produced. His mastery of the elements of the theater is obvious even from reading just this one play. I am looking forward to exploring more of Soyinka's work.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A Dance of the Forests 21 Jun. 2000
By E. Sovig - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Although I was introduced to this book because of an english assignment, I became entranced by the book by the first 10 pages. And although it is confusing at times, and a teacher explaining the story as you go along is a signifigant help, the lyrical blend of Western experimentalism and African folk tradition is quite inebriating. If you are at all interested in African folk lore, this play is a must read for you. Wole Soyinka is one of the most respected play writers in all of Africa, and this is one of his best works.
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