Bloomsbury is to publish Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth by Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Laureate's first novel in 48 years.
Paul Baggaley, editor-in-chief, and Faiza Khan, consulting publisher, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada and Africa, but including South Africa) and audio rights, which were bought from Zoe Waldie at RCW on behalf of Melanie Jackson at the Melanie Jackson Agency.
The novel will be published on 28th September 2021, simultaneously with Pantheon at Penguin Random House in the US, accompanied by a "landmark" publicity and marketing campaign.
Set in a contemporary version of Nigeria, Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth is described as "at once a savagely witty whodunit and a corrosively satirical examination of corruption, both personal and political".
The synopsis explains: "Celebrated engineer, Yoruba royal and life and soul of every party, Duyole Pitan-Payne is about to assume his prestigious UN post in New York—only someone is determined that he not make it there. His childhood friend Dr Menka needs to know why, but finds that there are some questions you may not wish to learn the answers to. From a master storyteller comes a brutally clear-sighted look at the nature of greed, power and the soul of a nation."
Born in Abeokuta, Nigeria in 1934, Soyinka is an author, playwright, poet and political activist. His body of work includes debut novel The Interpreters and play "Death and the King’s Horseman". His most recent works include his essays "Beyond Aesthetics: Use, Abuse, and Dissonance in African Art Traditions" (2019), "Of Africa" (2012) and "New Imperialism" (2009).
Twice jailed for his criticism of the Nigerian government, Soyinka destroyed his Green Card when Donald Trump was elected in 2016. He is Africa’s first Nobel Laureate in Literature.
Baggaley said: "When I was told that Wole Soyinka had written a new novel, I was of course excited and intrigued. Once I read it, I was blown away by the vigour, the originality, the wit, the outrage and the compassion. I couldn’t be more proud that Bloomsbury will bring this remarkable and brilliant novel to the widest readership."
Khan added: "It is an immense privilege to publish a writer of such profound and humbling humanity and deep political engagement, whose work tells universal truths about the machinations of power, and brims with an anger and a compassion that looks deep into the darkness and the resilience of human nature."