Bite-size Review: The Famished Road | Ben Okri

AFRIKULT.’S OVERALL RATING: 

The Famished Road | Ben Okri

1991 Booker Prize winner and that is of no surprise. Okri weaves a world where the physics of reality and spirituality intertwine, imposing an imaginary vertigo on the reader. This is a colourful novel with animated characters and a palpable presence. As you read, the interwined physical and spiritual worlds morph into a life of its own. You can visualise the decrepit roads, smelly gutters, poverty-stricken one-room apartments and petrol polluted air alongside the extraterrestrial, airy, kaleidoscopic, and imaginative spiritual realm. This interwoven setting is only possible to experience through the protagonist Azaro. Azaro is a spirit-child born to live short-term physically but disobeys his spiritual purpose and chooses to live in the physical world permanently. Okri explores Yoruba beliefs in spirit children and compares this with the political uncertainty of post-colonial Nigeria. The author’s writing style is so raw and candid that there are many moments where the reader feels uneasy, especially as Azaro faces near-death experiences since he is subjected to both spiritual stipulations and environmental dangers of poverty and political corruption. This book does not leave you feeling hopeful, rather it engages you into a dystopian reality both in the physical and spiritual worlds. Cleverly written with an astute retelling of Nigerian political and traditional heritage.

(Recommend Vintage Books 2009 edition)

 

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