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Okri, Ben

novel azaro story set

(Nigerian, 1959– )

Most of Okri's fiction explores the unscrupulous politics of contemporary Nigeria and the resilience of the African people. In 1991 Okri was awarded the Booker Prize for The Famished Road (1991), a magical novel about the spirit child, Azaro, who glides between the real and imagined world. Set against a crisis of Nigerian democracy, the novel was widely celebrated for its fusion of literary styles and cultural influences. Azaro is also the narrator of Songs of Enchantment (1993), a novel set in a nameless African village in the midst of civil war. In this trance-like novel with a panoramic vision, Azaro can see giants, unicorns, spirits, and at one point unwittingly enters his father's dream to encounter a talking white horse. Okri's recent novel, Infinite Riches (1998), returns once more to the life of Azaro. Astonishing the Gods (1995) is a fragmentary and mesmerizing narrative. The immortal and invisible story-teller leaves home to search for the secret of invisibility. Discovering an enchanted island, he must carry out a series of endurance tests, including battling with demons, before he can acquire self-knowledge. Okri is also an accomplished short-story writer. His compelling collection, Incidents at the Shrine (1986), rehearses some of Okri's principal concerns.

Amos Tutuola, Gabriel García Márquez, Angela Carter  EW

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