Adewale Maja-Pearce Calls Out the Nobel Laureate. Wole Soyinka Responds
Anglo-Nigerian writer and literary critic, Adewale Maja-Pearce has doubled-down on his claim on social media that the Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, and the late Nigerian poet and playwright, John Pepper Clark, insisted that his name and that of his co-editor, Kayode Faniyi, must not be publicly associated with the anthology, A Possible Future: An Anthology of the Best Nigerian Writing (1789 – 2018). That was the condition both writers gave for their works to be included in the collection of Nigerian writing.
On August 12, 2022, Maja-Pearce said on Facebook, “As to why our names didn’t appear, it was because Wole Soyinka and the late JP Clark – professors both – only agreed to be included if my name was removed.”
In a chat with TNR immediately after the post, Maja-Pearce said their spat with him “has to do with a review I wrote on You Must Set Forth at Dawn for the London Review of Books and a book I wrote on JP Clark. They didn’t want my name to appear in the book.”
Asked why he accepted the condition, Maja-Pearce says it was a sacrifice he had to make because “There was no way the book could be published without them. And the book was the thing.” On this, he revealed his motivation, “The book celebrates Nigerian writers, not our individual egos.”
However, the Nobel laureate, in a response to TNR’s inquiry on Maja-Pearce’s allegation says, “I cannot recollect details of this issue, beyond the fact that JP and I very firmly indicated that we did not wish to be featured in anything involving Adewale Maja-Pearce. That extends to intellectual property, and I hope no one is about to dispute that fundamental right of any author. For the rest, I find it difficult to believe that any self-respecting editor would consent to have his or her name deleted from a publication in violation of professional entitlement. It’s unheard of! I find this most difficult to understand.”
The anthology, A Possible Future: An Anthology of the Best Nigerian Writing (1789 – 2018) covers about 230 years of Nigerian literature, and the materials for this publication were collated over a period of four years. On its composition, Maja-Pearce says, “Just tried to be representative of the best there is. Genres were mostly poetry, short stories, and excerpts from novels and plays. I think the only non-fiction was from Saro-Wiwa.” Bookpeddler is the publisher.