Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Length: 592 pages
About: Survival of young African child
Style: 1st person
The narrator, Azaro, is an abiku, a spirit child, who in the Yoruba tradition of Nigeria exists between life and death. The life he foresees for himself and the tale he tells are full of sadness
and tragedy, but inexplicably he is born with a smile on his face. Nearly called back to the realm of the dead, he is resurrected to confront the tension between the land of the living, often joyful
despite violence and political struggles, and the temptations of the carefree kingdom of the spirits.
“In the beginning there was a river. The river became a road and the road branched out to the whole world. And because the road was once a river it was always hungry.
In that land of beginnings spirits mingled with the unborn. We could assume numerous forms. Many of us were birds. We knew no boundaries. There was much feasting, playing, and sorrowing. We
feasted much because of the beautiful terrors of eternity. We played much because we were free. And we sorrowed much because there were always those amongst us who had just returned from the world f
the Living. They had returned inconsolable for all the love they left behind, all the suffering they hadn’t redeemed, all that they hadn’t understood, and for all that they had barely begun to learn
before they were drawn back to the land of origins.”
Okri is incapable of writing a boring sentence. As one startling image follows the next, The Famished Road begins to read like an epic poem that happens to touch down just this side of prose....
When I finished the book and went outside, it was as if all the trees of South London had angels sitting in them.
Linda Grant, Independent on Sunday
Not so good:
The sheer bulk of episodes, many of which are repetitious in their evocation of supernatural phenomena, tends to slow narrative momentum, but they build to a powerful, compassionate vision of
modern Africa and the magical heritage of its myths.
Publishers Weekly, 5th April 1992 for full review click here
About the author
Ben Okri was born in 1959 in northern Nigeria. He grew up in London before returning to Nigeria with his family in 1968. He left the country when a grant from the Nigerian government enabled him
to read Comparative Literature at Essex University in England. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1987, and was awarded honorary doctorates from the universities of Westminster
(1997) and Essex (2002). Ben Okri is a Vice-President of the English Centre of International PEN and was awarded an OBE in 2001. He lives in London.
To listen to Ben Okri on the BBC discussing his book the Famished Road click