Astonishing the Gods by Ben Okri

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If you enjoy reading books with a spiritual – mystical twist, abounding in poetic lyricism, symbolism and references to myth, this is the perfect book for you. In Ben Okri’s modern fable Astonishing the Gods (1999), inspired by his poetry anthology Mental fight (1999), a young man, possibly at a tumultuous pivot point in his life, sets out on an existential quest in search for visibility. He arrives at an imaginary island where he explores an infinite possibility of worlds, while harnessing his inner mental-elemental energies. This is a story which resembles an actual meditative quest, paradoxically lacking the minimalism that characterizes an actual meditative journey. However, tapping into the vast power of man’s visual brain, Ben Okri manages to decipher a journey into the recesses of the mind in its most compassionate simplicity, all the while Astonishing the Gods…

Ben Okri is a Nigerian-British post-colonial author. He was born in 1959, in Minna in West Central Nigeria. Okri grew up in London from the age of two, but returned to Nigeria with his family in 1968, when he was exposed to the Nigerian Civil War. In 1978 Okri moved back to London in order to study comparative literature in Essex (his degree was not conferred because of lack of funding). “After a brief homeless period, he got a flat and wrote his way to some form of modest stability’’ link:

Ben Okri has won the Booker Prize for Fiction for The Famished Road (1991), a Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and a Premio Palmi award. He has also been made an honorary Vice-President of the English Centre for the Internional PEN and a member of the board of the Royal National Theatre. Some of his latest books include Starbook (2008), A Time for New Dreams (2011), In Arcadia (2015), A Way of Being Free (2015) Apart from Shakespeare, Aesop’s Fables, and William Blake, Ben Okri was significantly influenced by Yoruba folklore, and particularly his mother’s storytelling: “If my mother wanted to make a point, she wouldn’t correct me, she’d tell me a story.” (Sethi, “Ben Okri novelist as dream weaver”, link: ). His first-hand experiences of civil war in Nigeria are said to have inspired many of his works. (Sethi, “Ben Okri novelist as dream weaver”)

I grew up in a tradition where there are simply more dimensions to reality: legends and myths and ancestors and spirits and death … Which brings the question: what is reality? Everyone’s reality is different. For different perceptions of reality we need a different language. We like to think that the world is rational and precise and exactly how we see it, but something erupts in our reality which makes us sense that there’s more to the fabric of life. I’m fascinated by the mysterious element that runs through our lives. Everyone is looking out of the world through their emotion and history. Nobody has an absolute reality. (Sethi, “Ben Okri novelist as dream weaver”)


You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.


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