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Okri, Ben

Entry updated 29 October 2021. Tagged: Author.

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(1959-    ) Nigerian journalist and author mostly in UK from 1978, active from the mid 1970s. Most of his novels, beginning with Flowers and Shadows (1980) and including his best known title, The Famished Road (1991), fit loosely into an understanding of Fantastika less focused on its transgressiveness within an anglophone context, than upon a sense that his work does not visibly struggle against imposed conventions as to the real and the unreal. It is clear that he finds such conventions procrustean. This refusal to be seen as outlying a domineering episteme may explain his resistance to a reading of his works in terms of Magic Realism; a tale like In Arcadia (2002), whose quest structure shifts from "mundane" to a slightly scatty, spiritualized Transcendence, is hard to fit into such a mould.

Okri is of specific sf interest for The Freedom Artist (2019), a myth-radiated portrait of a Near Future world transfigured into Dystopian nightmare by Climate Change. A sense that some unstoppable revel is unleashing itself out of the bowels of story sometimes deafens the tales told, sometimes renders the entire tale luminous. In the end, all the same, the rich continue to ruin the world, like the Horsemen of fable. [JC]

Ben Okri

born Minna, Nigeria: 15 March 1959



Famished Road

  • The Famished Road (London: Jonathan Cape, 1991) [Famished Road: hb/Dirk Van Dooren]
  • Infinite Riches (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1998) [Famished Road: hb/Alan McGowarn]

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