Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Okri, Ben

(1959-    ) Nigerian-born UK writer, whose early novels and short stories were straightforward realist descriptions of African and occasionally UK life. His two Magic-Realism novels of African smalltown life, The Famished Road (1991) and Songs of Enchantment (1992), deal with the dreamlike existence of a child whose early head-injury has put him in touch with spirits and with the dreams of others. Class-war politics in the town are dominated by a Vampire enchantress bar-owner; the boy's parents survive enchantments, partly by telling each other and the boy traditional Stories which echo the magic of their daily existence. These remarkable books combine a wide-eyed tone of voice with a sophisticated sense of place, constantly transgressing standard boundaries of tone; The Famished Road won the 1991 Booker Prize.

Astonishing the Gods (1995) is a fabulation about an invisible man (> Invisibility) who discovers a City whose morally perfect inhabitants are invisible even to him. He journeys to its centre, and goes through an Initiation which gradually render him perfect and invisible even to himself. This is less successful than the two African novels, partly because Okri is using the stock imagery of ordeals. [RK]

other works: Flowers and Shadows (1980); The Landscapes Within (1981); Incidents at the Shrine (coll 1987); Stars of the New Curfew (coll 1988).

Ben Okri

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This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.