remember.But, you know, when you see this and then you spend your time at trials, and everyday, the daily reminders of the injustice thatshaped his life and continues to shape the lives of many people in the Niger Delta, you can clearly see that, for me as a father, Ialways found it very... my father was on the one hand this very ebullient and very outgoing character, but there was this sort of sadness to him, and I think that sadness is measured by the sense of the injustice that he felt. The anger he felt at the situation, thatthe community that lived on so much wealth was so poor. That you had a country that was really set up to exploit those resources.And I think, as you say, all things being equal, he probably would have been a comedian or an actor. But he was compelled to write,and I think that’s... For me, the great sadness is always that there’s this sense of injustice that ran through his life, and I thinkchanged him from the father that I knew as a child to the more distant and more complicated character that I knew later on.
: A follow-up question: in your memoir of your father,In the Shadow of a Saint, you give us a portrait, in a sense, of your own reluctant coming-into-being as an activist yourself, precisely an activist in the cause of saving your father from thehangman. Could you describe what that has done to you as a person and also as an intellectual and writer?
Ken Wiwa, Jr.
: Well, I mean, one, my father’s a great man. Ken Saro-Wiwa was named after him. I grew up with this man, thememory, the myth always in front of me. And so, I guess like most people, to varying degrees, your first struggle in life as a man is todefine yourself against your parents. So that was the first struggle, really. And when you have this sort of struggle, I mean, I grew upin England, at least a significant portion of my childhood was in England, which you can probably hear in my accent. So you havethis sort of cultural dislocation as well with your father. So the struggle is really to find out who... I mean he’s Ken Saro-Wiwa, I’mKen Saro-Wiwa, well, who am I supposed to be? What is my own unique, what is my own identity? So I mean that’s part and parcelof everybody’s life, I guess, but mine perhaps is a little bit more complicated maybe.But you know, I always wanted to be a writer, unconsciously. You grow up seeing your father writing, and I guess somehow thatpercolates and becomes something that you enjoy. I don’t know whether I was born into it or whether I just kind of copied him or whatever. So then you become this writer and you find that the struggle to define yourself against your father gives you a sense of,at least of something to write about initially, and then there’s also the political struggle, as well, which also informs you as a writer.So those are the things that make up my identity as an individual and as a writer.
: Alright, let me turn to Mr. Patterson for a moment. I have just been reading your really fascinating novel,
,which is set in I guess a fictional African country that you call Luandia, but it’s a thinly disguised Nigeria, obviously. And the storythat you tell here is really the story of Ken Saro-Wiwa and of the Ogoni people, their struggle. Early in the novel, the protagonist,who is a lawyer who is doing well in his profession, has to encounter the question in a letter to a friend that he met in a college, in acreative writing class, and he uses the phrase “a life of meaning.” A life of meaning, that’s where I would like you to get in, to sort of talk about a life of meaning in the context of being an American writer encountering this tragedy in Nigeria and also to talk aboutwhat does Ken Saro-Wiwa mean for you?We can disdain people who are not as courageous as Ken Saro-Wiwa, but we have to remember the forces thatcreate them.
Richard North Patterson
: Well, I think a life of meaning, among other things, involves using your work in some way beyond one’spersonal self-interest. And there’s no better example of that than Ken Saro-Wiwa. I was involved with PEN in the protest surroundinghis imprisonment and subsequent execution, and for me, he was unforgettable. There are few writers who use their craft to addresssubjects as directly as Ken Saro-Wiwa did. There are few writers yet who risk their lives for those principles. So for me, he holds upa mirror to writers and the rest of us about what is it we do that actually has any meaning beyond our own lives and the minute inwhich we do it.And so Saro-Wiwa was to me quite remarkable for a couple of different reasons. One is that he came to maturity under an autocracywhere dissent had very little tradition, where it was dangerous, and where, nonetheless, he started something unique in the historyof Nigeria, as I understand it: a mass movement based upon nonviolence, the principles of human rights which the West claims toespouse, in the hope that he could both rally his own people, which he did, and the West to provide a counterweight to tyranny. Sofor me, he is a distinct and remarkable figure.Now, why did I choose to write about him in 2007? In the fifteen years since Saro-Wiwa’s death, his story is all the more relevant.The Ogoni people continue to struggle, the Niger Delta is fifteen years worse in terms of environmental despoliation, in a failure of
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