Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“In the Shadow of War,” like much of Okri’s work, contains a good deal of surrealist imagery and phantasmagoric happenings, which has led some critics to compare his works to those of Latin American writers Jorge Luis Borges, Isabel Allende, and Gabriel García Márquez, all known for their use of Magical Realism, which mingles realistic and fantastic details. This melding of worlds also defines Okri’s work. However, Okri argues that his stories realistically represent people’s consciousness of life in Nigeria, a country that is inhabited by three hundred different tribal groups and therefore at least this many belief systems. What seems surreal or fantastic to one group, Okri insists, will not seem so to another group.

The art of storytelling comes naturally to Nigerian people, Okri explains. As a child growing up in postcolonial Nigeria, stories were an intricate part of daily life and every aspect of culture. Parents and other authority figures, he remembers, would tell their children stories as parables to teach a moral or to manipulate them to do what they wanted. Likewise, children were encouraged to let their imaginations run wild and to invent stories.

Okri shifts between the material world and the world of spirits with seamless grace. Although the protagonist, Omovo, is grounded in reality in his solid village world—the radio plays; people shave, leave for work, carry briefcases, and catch buses—the boundaries between...

(The entire section is 585 words.)

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

Okri and Nigeria
Okri was born in Nigeria and spent much of his childhood as well as his adult life living in England. Despite...

(The entire section is 654 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

African Literature
Okri’s work belongs to the ever-growing canon of African literature, which in the United States and Europe...

(The entire section is 480 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

Late 1960s: There are fewer than ten Nigerian novels published per year.

1980s: There are approximately fifty...

(The entire section is 174 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

Locate a copy of the first version of ‘‘In the Shadow of War’’ that appeared in the magazine West Africa in 1983. Compare and...

(The entire section is 301 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Short Stories for Students)

The BBC maintains a Web page about Okri ( that contains a brief overview of his work...

(The entire section is 55 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

The Famished Road, which was first published in 1991, is one of Okri’s best-known works. He earned the Booker McConnell Prize for...

(The entire section is 271 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Bissoondath, Neil, “Rage and Sadness in Nigeria,” in New York Times Book Review, August 13, 1989, p. 12....

(The entire section is 405 words.)