A savage, stabbing inquiry, not into human nature proper, but into human nature viewed through the concave mirrors of solitary confinement and human evil, stretched and warped into horrible familiarity. Soyinka is hard to read if you read him straight — this book is most effective when you enter into its twisting, doubling corridors and let Soyinka transform your mind and introspection into a prison of your own. Like most great books, this one works on several levels: an indictment of political injustice, a psychological study of the prisoner, and (pardon the cliche) a metaphor for the human condition. Brilliant and haunting.
During the Nigerian Civil War (1967–1970) Wole Soyinka was arrested and incarcerated for twenty-two months, most of it spent in solitary confinement in a cell, 4ft by 8ft. His offense: assisting the Biafran secessionists.
The Man Died, now regarded as a classic of prison literature, is a product of this experience. What comes through in the compelling narrative is the author’s uncompromising, principled stand on the universality and indivisibility of freedom and human rights.