Soyinka's Memory (Short Story) Published

My latest short story, “Soyinka's Memory, published in The Shallow Tales Review “MEMORY” #40 January 2023."

On 17 August 2022 I reached out to Professor Wole Soyinka (through Onyeka Nwelue) regarding the early draft of a short story I had written which featured a fictional Wole Soyinka. Within a few hours I received a direct response! I am pleased to share that the short story is now published in The Shallow Tales Review, along with Professor Soyinka’s acknowledgment of the work, below the title. Please note: an acknowledgment is not an endorsement. I also included the rather poignant and apt sentence he wrote in his email to me within the final draft of the short story itself:  “My ‘memory’ is under strain.” The rest of the short story is FICTION – in a small part autobiographical, but for the most part it is fiction.

It is magical realism. It expands on an original Jorge Luis Borges short story from 1938, “Shakespeare's Memory”.

“Embleton begins his riveting story, Soyinka’s Memory, based on his fictional conversation with Professor Wole Soyinka, an intriguing literary generic, by saying, “I bear the weight of Soyinka’s memory, real and imagined.” The reality in this opening sentence admits that we can be a part of a memory that is not ours.”

– Orji Victor Ebubechukwu, Nonfiction Editor, The Shallow Tales Review

The Premise:

A fictional version of myself, Stephen, as a writer, approaches a fictional “Soyinka” via email to ask to be granted the transferral of all “Soyinka’s Memory” to me. Written with myself as narrator in the past tense, reflecting on the events that have occurred, I tell of how “Soyinka” agreed (with a matter-of-fact “Yes” response) and a video chat was set up where he conveyed his own motivations to do so – even after the arrogant “Stephen” considered the possibility of “a degree of tech-illiteracy” (making the weight of the burden to come even more satisfying for the reader). The story is set after much time has passed between the initial “transfer”, where I am overcome with the immensity of such Memories on myself as a writer and individual finding his way in the world. I reflect on that journey, from elation at having a resource like no other, to being overwhelmed by it all. I delve into beliefs around memory (and its harnessing and transferral), as well as the significance on our experiences on the Continent — culturally, politically and personally. 

It is set in the same “world” as the original Borges short story, referencing his narrator (Sörgel) and even contains a word count of 3,100 words – similar length to Borges’ story. One odd or coincidental sentence early in Borges’ piece includes this “…who just recently died in Pretoria.” And that was one of the catalysts for me! There is acknowledgment of the original Borges piece in a number of instances, and going so far as to rename Pretoria to Tshwane in my line: 

Though I don’t wish my circumstances on anyone, no matter the outcome, it was better than dying in Tshwane. Or dying, generally. 

There are many references to Soyinka's works and wealth of knowledge and experiences, as one would expect, particularly if I am to give fictional voice and credibility to the persona of a real man.


It revolves around memories (and history), learning from those lived memories, and the importance of those capable/skilled enough to transmit those for the benefit of the world to learn from; in our modern social media world the desire to “acquire” talent and be successful overnight; privilege to the extreme (acquiring the memory of someone else, without any respect for what it means); the arrogance and entitlement of desperation; appreciating our ancestors and elderly, their experiences and knowledge, rather than disrespecting and dismissing them as outdated; decolonising everything including the mind.

Read “Soyinka's Memory” here.

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