CLASSIC DALRYMPLE: The Perils of Activism: Ken Saro-Wiwa (2000)

Dalrymple’s New Criterion essay on his friendship with executed Nigerian writer Ken Saro-Wiwa is the final installment of our series of his classic writings on Africa. But we have by no means exhausted the list of his wonderful treatments of the continent. We highly recommend Zanzibar to Timbuktu, Monrovia, Mon Amour and especially Fool or Physician.


The New Criterion has graciously made this essay, normally viewable only with a subscription or by individual purchase, available for free. (Thank you, Gabbe!) We strongly suggest you subscribe to this enriching journal of culture and the arts. What an impressive publication.

Essay excerpt:


Saro-Wiwa was the best of company: anecdotes poured from him without cease. In his presence, it was impossible to feel anything other than that life was infinitely interesting, varied, and enjoyable. But in turning to practical politics, it seemed to me that he betrayed his own insight: for the singlemindedness of his mass movement represented an impoverishment rather than an enrichment of life. It also contradicted the message of his own first book, Sozaboy (Addison-Wesley, 1995), which is one of the great antiwar novels of the century, by which he would have been remembered even had he not met so dramatic and gruesome a death.

Read the essay

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