Ben Okri Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Besides his collections of short fiction, Ben Okri has written several novels, including Flowers and Shadows (1980), The Landscapes Within (1981), The Famished Road (1991), and Infinite Riches (1998). He has also published the nonfiction work A Way of Being Free (1997).


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Ben Okri has impressed his readers with his colorful, vibrant use of the English language, the power of his words and imagery, and his control over structure and motif. He received the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Africa and The Paris Review Aga Khan Prize for Fiction in 1987. He also received the Booker McConnell Prize for The Famished Road in 1991.

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

How does the metaphor of the journey function in Ben Okri’s writing?

What is the importance of dreams in Okri’s work?

What are the literal and metaphorical functions of landscape in Okri’s fiction?

How does Okri portray encounters between African and Western cultures?

What is the symbolic importance of the abiku child in Okri’s trilogy?

How does Okri’s use of nonlinear narrative structure reinforce the themes of his work?

What narrative genres and traditions does Okri employ and transform in his novels?


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Bissoondath, Neil. “Rage and Sadness in Nigeria.” Review of Stars of the New Curfew, by Ben Okri. The New York Times Book Review (August 13, 1989): 12. Bissoondath calls Okri “a natural storyteller” and especially appreciates his social commentary “on a variety of issues,” including politics in Nigeria. The stories respond sensitively to conditions not only in Africa but also, by inference, in the Third World generally. Only the final story, being totally imaginative rather than based in reality, is pointless and disappointing.

Hawley, John C. “Ben Okri’s Spirit Child: Abiku Migration and Postmodernity.” Research in African Literatures 26 (Spring, 1995): 30-39. Addresses Ben Okri’s use of the abiku, or child-spirit, narrator; discusses the background of the abiku in Nigerian culture and analyzes how Ben Okri uses the figure as a spokesman for two worlds.

Henry, Andrea. “More Magic than Realism.” Review of Infinite Riches, by Ben Okri. The Independent, August 29, 1998, p. 15. Comments on its use of fantasy and folklore; comments on the novel’s strong anticolonial message; suggests that the fantastic sense of the magical in the book is not always satisfying.

Kakutani, Michiko. “Brave New Africa Born of Nightmare.” Review of Stars of the New Curfew,...

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