Booker of Bookers (Okri was robbed): The Famished Road by Ben Okri

This is one of those books that make a writer like me consider giving up. What is the point of fiddling around with words when someone like Mr Okri has already captured on the page everything that can ever be said? For such is the achievement of this Booker winner that it seems no other writer can ever come close. The Famished Road is an immense, epic and adorable series of beautiful images and happenings. This is wonder, captured. No superlative of hyperbole is possible; for its coherence alone this novel should have beaten Midnight’s Children to be named Booker of Bookers.

The story follows the adventures of Azaro, a spirit-child who has chosen to take human form and live among people. His traversal of the spirit-human world brings with it consequences, confusion and, well, inter-dimensional conflict. Of course, Okri would never use such crude terms: he speaks of “death’s embrace”, of “chaos and sunlight” and “dwellers in their own secret moonlight”. But to extract such phrases from the text in this way denigrates them: the reason why this novel is so powerful and affecting is its relentless stream of coherent images. They trickle from one another like a stream hopping over rocks and coursing through a curving valley. Okri has encapsulated a perfect nature and, more impressively, humankind’s place in it.

In contrast to my last review, I could write about The Famished Road until my fingers drop off. I could probably write more pages about it than there are pages in the novel itself. The heartbreaking thing is that none of my words would come anywhere near the beauty of Okri’s. But that won’t stop me trying.

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