Ben Okri (Benjamin Okri) Biography
(1959– ), (Benjamin Okri), Flowers and Shadows, The Landscapes Within, The Famished Road, Songs of Enchantment
Nigerian novelist, poet, and short-story writer, born in Lagos, educated at Urhobo College, Warri, and at the University of Essex. His first novel, Flowers and Shadows (1980), focuses on an adolescent boy living a cocooned existence until he discovers his father's ruthless business dealings; the consequences become explosive for the entire family. The Landscapes Within (1981) deals with an artist whose protests in his paintings against squalor and inhumanity rebound disastrously on him. The narrator of his novel The Famished Road (1991; Booker Prize) is a ‘spirit-child’, determined to stay on earth ‘to make his mother smile’, rather than die early and return to the spirit world. As a result, Okri achieves a haunting parable of social and economic conditions in Africa, and illuminates its complex, often brutal realities. Songs of Enchantment (1993), a briefer work, is its sequel, continuing the narrative of the spirit-child Azaro; Astonishing the Gods (1995) is a parable-like novel in which a traveller, finding himself on an island with invisible inhabitants, learns to question distinctions between mental and physical experience; Dangerous Love (1996) sets a love story into a realistic portrayal of Lagos during the early 1970s. His short stories, collected in Incidents at the Shrine (1986) and Stars of the New Curfew (1988), are also underpinned by a corrosive disillusionment on the part of key protagonists, together with strong social comment, but stylistically they go further, often generating a phantasmagoric realism. Okri's poems are collected in An African Elegy (1992).