The Burden of Memory, the Muse of Forgiveness

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When Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka's The Open Sore of a Continent appeared in 1996, it received rave reviews in the national media. Now comes Soyinka's powerful sequel to that fearless and passionate book, The Burden of Memory. Where Open Sore offered a critique of African nationhood and a searing indictment of the Nigerian military and its repression of human and civil rights, The Burden of Memory considers all of Africa-indeed, all the world-as it poses the next logical question: Once repression stops, is reconciliation between oppressor and victim possible? In the face of centuries long devastations wrought on the African continent and her Diaspora by slavery, colonialism, Apartheid and the manifold faces of racism what form of recompense could possibly be adequate? In a voice as eloquent and humane as it is forceful, Soyinka examines this fundamental question as he illuminates the principle duty and near intolerable burden of memory to bear the record of injustice. In so doing, he challenges notions of simple forgiveness, of confession and absolution, as strategies for social healing. Ultimately, he turns to art-poetry, music, painting-as one source that may nourish the seed of reconciliation, art as the generous vessel that can hold together the burden of memory and the hope of forgiveness. Based on Soyinka's Stewart-McMillan lectures delivered at the Du Bois Institute at Harvard, The Burden of Memory speaks not only to those concerned specifically with African politics, but also to anyone seeking the path to social justice through some of history's most inhospitable terrain.