SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND OUT IN FSG PAPERBACK

SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND - WILSON-LEE Edward - US, FSG (front).jpg

Edward Wilson Lee’s much-acclaimed SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND: In Search of a Global Poet is out in paperback in the US today from Farrar Straus & Giroux. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o described it as ‘a masterly literary detective adventure’ and ‘a compelling read.’

First published by William Collins in the UK and FSG in the US in 2016, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND was one of The Bookseller’s Top 6 Shakespeare picks of 2016, and was highlighted in previews of ‘the most significant Shakespeare books’ in The Times, The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal. It will be published in German by btb in 2018.

Investigating the literary culture of the early interaction between European countries and East Africa, Edward Wilson-Lee uncovers an extraordinary sequence of stories in which explorers, railway labourers, decadent émigrés, freedom fighters, and pioneering African leaders made Shakespeare their own in this alien land.

SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND is the first book by Edward Wilson-Lee, a Fellow in English at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. In a narrative that is part travelogue, part memoir, a satire, an ode to Shakespeare and a potted history of East Africa, Wilson-Lee aims to find the holy grail of literary studies – an answer to how and why Shakespeare is acclaimed as a global poet and why his writings should be so universally adored. 

SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND takes Wilson-Lee back to the lands of his childhood (he grew up in Kenya) to dig through mouldering archives to recover the unknown story of the part played by Shakespeare’s works in the region’s history. His story is a literary adventure that throws high culture and the wild together in celebration of Shakespeare’s legacy as a poet of the world.

With its incredible series of stories and momentous travels from Zanzibar, through Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan, this literary adventure throws high culture and the wild together in celebration of Shakespeare's legacy as a poet of the world.

Edward Wilson- Lee’s new book THE CATALOGUE OF SHIPWRECKED BOOKS, will be published by Collins in May 2018. It tells the riveting story of Christopher Columbus’ illegitimate son, Hernando Colon, and his quest to build the first universal library of print. He personally scoured the bookshops of Europe in an attempt to acquire a copy of every book, and bringing them back to his library in Seville – where he drove himself mad attempting to devise how best to navigate and organise the world of print.

Edward Wilson-Lee is a Fellow in English at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he teaches medieval and Renaissance literature and Shakespeare. After growing up in Kenya and Switzerland, he went to university in London, New York, Oxford and Cambridge, living briefly in Mexico and New Orleans in between.

Praise for SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND:

‘Edward Wilson-Lee goes in search of Shakespeare in Africa and finds him entwined in every twist and turn of the drama of colonization and decolonization of the continent from the 17th century to the present. The result is a masterly literary detective adventure. A compelling read.’ – Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o,

'There will be many books published to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Few will be bolder than Shakespeare in Swahililand: Adventures with the Ever-Living Poet, in which Edward Wilson-Lee gets out of the seminar room and treks through Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan to discover how Shakespeare has been constantly reinvented in Africa.' – Matthew Reisz, Times Higher Education

'Wilson-Lee’s account of his East African Shakespeare-hunt is vivid and full of insights. What we learn about colonial power relationships and historical currents is as convincing as any general explanations of Shakespeare’s universalism, but that, perhaps, is partly the point: it’s the very fact that Shakespeare is so read and performed, with these multiple interactions each revealing something, that demonstrates his boundless potential.' - Daniel Hahn, The Independent

‘SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND is an attempt to understand whether the great playwright’s work speaks across cultural boundaries to a shared humanity. … It has successfully told a lesser-known story of Africa, and it is a story worth knowing.’ – The Economist

‘This book evinces a remarkable familiarity with Africa, filtered through the lens of that most-English poet and playwright… Wilson-Lee shows the Bard to be a man for all continents.’ – Critic’s Choice, The New Criterion

 ‘Compelling and affecting" – Tim Black, Spiked!

'✭✭✭✭' - Michael Kerr, Telegraph Travel

‘I thought nothing could surprise me about the impact of England’s greatest cultural figure, but this fascinating, readable book about his influence in East Africa certainly did.’ – The Lady

‘A glorious melange of travel, biography, history and satire’ – The Times, South Africa


Follow Edward Wilson-Lee on Twitter.

Visit Edward Wilson-Lee's website

SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILIlAND paperback out today!

Edward Wilson Lee’s much-acclaimed SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND: Adventures with the Ever-Living Poet is out in paperback from Williams Collins today. First published by William Collins (UK) and Farrar, Straus and Giroux (US) in 2016, the year of the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, it was one of The Bookseller’s Top 6 Shakespeare picks of 2016, and was highlighted in previews of ‘the most significant Shakespeare books’ in The Times, The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal. It will be published in German by btb in 2018.

Investigating the literary culture of the early interaction between European countries and East Africa, Edward Wilson-Lee uncovers an extraordinary sequence of stories in which explorers, railway labourers, decadent émigrés, freedom fighters, and pioneering African leaders made Shakespeare their own in this alien land.

This radical, breath-taking book combines travel, history, biography and satire in an ode to Shakespeare. Wilson-Lee teaches Shakespeare at Cambridge but grew up in East Africa and SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND explores Shakespeare’s global legacy like no other book before it. In these pages explorers stagger through Africa's interior accompanied by Shakespeare; eccentrics live out their dreams on the African Savannah with Shakespeare by their side; decadent emigres, railway labourers, Indian settler communities, African intellectuals and rebels all turned to Shakespeare and adapted his plays to fit their needs. The book examines how Shakespeare influenced the first African leaders of independent nations, Cold War intrigues and even Che Guevara.

With its incredible series of stories and momentous travels from Zanzibar, through Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan, this literary adventure throws high culture and the wild together in celebration of Shakespeare's legacy as a poet of the world.

Wilson-Lee explained that his book 'aims to find the holy grail of literary studies – an answer to why Shakespeare should be so universally adored – in the most unlikely of places; along the way it is a travelogue, a memoir, a satire, an ode to Shakespeare, and a potted history of a region which combines breathtaking beauty and cultural riches with the heartache of injustice, poverty, and amnesia.'

 

Praise for SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND:

‘Edward Wilson-Lee goes in search of Shakespeare in Africa and finds him entwined in every twist and turn of the drama of colonization and decolonization of the continent from the 17th century to the present. The result is a masterly literary detective adventure. A compelling read.’ – Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o,

'There will be many books published to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Few will be bolder than Shakespeare in Swahililand: Adventures with the Ever-Living Poet, in which Edward Wilson-Lee gets out of the seminar room and treks through Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan to discover how Shakespeare has been constantly reinvented in Africa.' – Matthew Reisz, Times Higher Education

'Wilson-Lee’s account of his East African Shakespeare-hunt is vivid and full of insights. What we learn about colonial power relationships and historical currents is as convincing as any general explanations of Shakespeare’s universalism, but that, perhaps, is partly the point: it’s the very fact that Shakespeare is so read and performed, with these multiple interactions each revealing something, that demonstrates his boundless potential.' - Daniel Hahn, The Independent

‘SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND is an attempt to understand whether the great playwright’s work speaks across cultural boundaries to a shared humanity. … It has successfully told a lesser-known story of Africa, and it is a story worth knowing.’ – The Economist

‘This book evinces a remarkable familiarity with Africa, filtered through the lens of that most-English poet and playwright… Wilson-Lee shows the Bard to be a man for all continents.’ – Critic’s Choice, The New Criterion

 ‘Compelling and affecting" – Tim Black, Spiked!

'✭✭✭✭' - Michael Kerr, Telegraph Travel

‘I thought nothing could surprise me about the impact of England’s greatest cultural figure, but this fascinating, readable book about his influence in East Africa certainly did.’ – The Lady

‘A glorious melange of travel, biography, history and satire’ – The Times, South Africa


Follow Edward Wilson-Lee on Twitter.

Visit Edward Wilson-Lee's website.


Edward Wilson-Lee is a Fellow in English at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he teaches medieval and Renaissance literature and Shakespeare. After growing up in Kenya and Switzerland, he went to university in London, New York, Oxford and Cambridge, living briefly in Mexico and New Orleans in between. Edward is currently writing his second book, THE CATALOGUE OF SHIPWRECKED BOOKS, for publication by William Collins in 2018.

SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND SHINES IN THE USA

Edward Wilson Lee’s acclaimed exploration of the influence in Africa of Shakespeare the global poet has won praise across the Atlantic and the beautiful US hardback edition is available from Farrar Straus and Giroux now. William Collins published in the UK in March 2016, and German rights are sold to btb.

In the US, Kirkus Reviews wrote that ‘Wilson-Lee enjoyably melds memoir, history, and literary travelogue to reveal the surprising hold that Shakespeare continues to have on a culture remote from his own’ and Publishers Weekly said ‘Wilson-Lee draws a rich portrait of a region of Africa in which Shakespeare was familiar, adored, and widely performed with numerous local embellishments’, describing it as ‘acrobatic in style and impressive in scholarship.’

This surprising and intriguing literary history of Shakespeare's influence in East Africa sprang from Cambridge academic Edward Wilson-Lee’s own roots in Kenya. Beginning with Victorian-era expeditions in which Shakespeare's works were the sole reading material carried into the interior, the Bard has been a vital touchstone throughout the region. His plays were printed by liberated slaves as one of the first texts in Swahili, performed by Indian labourers while they built the Uganda railroad, used to argue for native rights, and translated by intellectuals, revolutionaries, and independence leaders.

Weaving together stories of explorers staggering through Africa's interior, eccentrics living out their dreams on the savanna, decadent émigrés, Cold War intrigues, and even Che Guevara, Edward Wilson-Lee tallies Shakespeare's influence in Zanzibar, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Sudan. Travelling through these countries, he speaks with everyone from theatre directors and academics to soldiers and aid workers, discovering not only cultural dimensions traceable to Shakespeare's plays but also an overwhelming insistence that these works provide a key insight into the region.

An astonishing work of empathy and historical vision, SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND gets at the heart of what makes Shakespeare so universal and the role that his writings have played in thinking about what it means to be human.

Edward Wilson-Lee in Foreign Affairs on ‘Africa’s Theatre of War: Shakespeare and Nation-Building on the Continent’

Read Edward Wilson-Lee on other poets, Auden and Eliot, and how that led him to writing.

In this series of clips Edward considers questions like “What would the world be like without Shakespeare?” and  why Antony & Cleopatra is (currently) his favourite Shakespeare play

Edward Wilson-Lee was raised in Kenya by conservationist parents, studied English at University College London, and completed a doctorate at Oxford and Cambridge. Over the past few years he has spent extended periods in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. He now lives in Cambridge with his wife and son, and teaches Shakespeare at Sidney Sussex College. SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND is his first book and a second title is under contract to William Collins.

MORE PRAISE FOR SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND

‘There is no better time to recommend SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND: IN SEARCH OF A GLOBAL POET. A lecturer at Cambridge, Wilson-Lee was born on the African continent and spent his formative years in Kenya. This book evinces a remarkable familiarity with Africa, filtered through the lens of that most-English poet and playwright. Tracing the history of Shakespeare’s impact on Africa—from Victorian settlers to modern independence movements—Wilson-Lee shows the Bard to be a man for all continents.’ — The New Criterion

‘Edward Wilson-Lee . . . has successfully told a lesser-known story of Africa, and it is a story worth knowing.’ —The Economist

‘A fascinating book—part travelogue, part cultural history . . . Wilson-Lee proves a perceptive and entertaining guide to the Bard's influence in Swahililand.’ —Andrew Lycett, Literary Review

‘Wilson-Lee’s account of his East African Shakespeare-hunt is vivid and full of insights.’ —Daniel Hahn, The Independent

'SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND is an enjoyable story full of history and valuable insight into the work of England’s preeminent playwright and poet, told by a man whose prose is so well crafted that the reader will feel as if he/she was on the road with Edward Wilson-Lee while he was doing his research.' - The Roanoke Times

SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND PUBLISHED TODAY IN THE UK

SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND is published today in the UK by William Collins. In this adventurous blend of literature, history and memoir Cambridge scholar Edward Wilson-Lee traces a journey in search of the explorers, labourers, freedom fighters and tyrants who loved and fought over Shakespeare in East Africa over the centuries. Edward’s Shakespearean expertise and personal experience of the region make this a vivid and memorable read. 

2016 is a year of #Shakespeare400 celebrations, marking four centuries since the death of the great English poet and playwright. SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND has already attracted a great deal of pre-publication attention and been listed as one of the top books on Shakespeare to read this year. The Bookseller called it a 'striking literary debut' in its preview of the best forthcoming books for #Shakespeare400, The Times included it in their list of all things ‘Bardtastic’ to look out for, and The Financial Times also highlighted it as a book to read in 2016. In the US, where Farrar, Straus & Giroux will publish in September 2016,  The Wall Street Journal featured it in their article on ‘The Coming Shakespeare Extravaganza’. 

As Matthew Reisz writes in Times Higher Education: 'There will be many books published to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Few will be bolder than SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND.’

In a series of clips Edward considers questions like “What would the world be like without Shakespeare?” and  why Antony & Cleopatra is (currently) his favourite Shakespeare play

International student publication The Day ran this piece by Edward on Shakespeare’s global impact he was interviewed for the World Service: Focus on Africa programme. He has already appeared at the Bath Literary Festival and London readers can book tickets for his forthcoming event at Stanford Travel Bookshop on 15 March. Many other festival appearances are scheduled, including:
29 April: Stratford upon Avon Literary Festival
13 July:  Dartington Ways with Words
7 November:  Bridport Literary Festival

See more on Edward’s website

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Edward Wilson-Lee is a Fellow in English at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he teaches medieval and Renaissance literature and Shakespeare. After growing up in Kenya and Switzerland, he went to university in London, New York, Oxford and Cambridge, living briefly in Mexico and New Orleans in between. He is now working on a second book for William Collins.

Follow Edward on Twitter.

WILLIAM COLLINS TO PUBLISH EDWARD WILSON-LEE’S SHAKESPEARE IN SWAHILILAND

Arabella Pike of William Collins has acquired from Isobel Dixon at Blake Friedmann the UK and Commonwealth rights in a radical, original and breath-taking new book about William Shakespeare – to be published for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in April 2016. Farrar Straus & Giroux will publish in the USA.

Shakespeare in Swahililand is the first book by Edward Wilson-Lee, a Fellow in English at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. In a narrative that is part travelogue, part memoir, a satire, an ode to Shakespeare and a potted history of East Africa, Wilson-Lee aims to find the holy grail of literary studies – an answer to how and why Shakespeare is acclaimed as a global poet and why his writings should be so universally adored. 

Shakespeare in Swahililand takes Wilson-Lee back to the lands of his childhood (he grew up in Kenya) to dig through mouldering archives to recover the unknown story of the part played by Shakespeare’s works in the region’s history. His story is a literary adventure that throws high culture and the wild together in celebration of Shakespeare’s legacy as a poet of the world.

Wilson-Lee says: ‘Shakespeare in Swahililand began when I discovered that one of the first books printed in Swahili, on the island of Zanzibar in 1867, was a translation of Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare. Starting from there, I uncovered an extraordinary sequence of stories in which explorers, railway labourers, decadent émigrés, freedom fighters, and pioneering African leaders made Shakespeare their own in this alien land.’ 

Edward Wilson-Lee was raised in Kenya, as part of a family of wildlife conservationists and filmmakers, and now teaches Shakespeare for a living at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he settled after periods of living in the Swiss alps, London, Mexico, New Orleans, New York, and Oxford. He has written and lectured widely on subjects from the Bible to Don Quixote, and is an expert on the early years of the printing press, chivalric romance, and the novel. He has won prestigious research grants from Cambridge University and the British Academy, and is currently reconstructing the greatest library of the Renaissance, which Columbus’ bastard son collected and went mad trying to catalogue.