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The Famished Road (1991)

de Ben Okri

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Sèrie: Azaro Trilogy (1)

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2,349386,465 (3.64)217
The narrator, Azaro, is an abiku, a spirit child, who in the Yoruba tradition of Nigeria exists between life and death. The life he foresees for himself and the tale he tells is full of sadness and tragedy, but inexplicably he is born with a smile on his face. Nearly called back to the land of the dead, he is resurrected. But in their efforts to save their child, Azaro's loving parents are made destitute. The tension between the land of the living, with its violence and political struggles, and the temptations of the carefree kingdom of the spirits propels this latter-day Lazarus's story.… (més)
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» Mira també 217 mencions

Es mostren 1-5 de 38 (següent | mostra-les totes)
I was eager to read this book because the synopsis lent a feeling of otherworldliness that intrigued me. It described an abiku, or spirit child, born into the human world but who decides to remain human. His companions from the spirit realm then decide to bring him back to the spirit world. I also had never read anything from an African author so I was looking forward to this. However, it wasn't long before I found it a chore to finish the book. I largely felt that the story had no direction and did not match up with my impressions from the synopsis. There was not much about the boy's choice to remain human or about the other spirits' attempts to bring him home. I felt the story focused more on his day to day life and his father's personal development.

The postmodern writing style was new to me and did not suit my tastes. This is what really contributed to my feelings that the writing was just all over the place. I couldn't make heads or trails of what the authors true purpose was in telling this story. There were clear measures about the political and economic climate in African nations but I just didn't know what the author wanted this book to be.
Oddly enough, the final chapter represented a clear departure from the style of the rest of the book and I found it energizing, but it was too little too late. ( )
  BlackAsh13 | Oct 10, 2023 |
Reason read: ANC, Booker winner list 1991, ROOT,Alpha

I expected this book to be good or I hoped it would be good because I own it. The story is set in Nigeria during the fifties/sixties. The main character is Azaro who is an abiku or spirit child, his mother, father, Madame Koto, Jeremiah the photographer, and landlord. The story is filled with Yoruba mythology and the time line seems like it might of bit repetitive but I don't know if that is true because of the heavy constant in and out of the spirit world and spirits, rambling, and constant action. I found it all to be too much.

Okri was born in Nigeria. He was taken to the UK when he was not quite two by his parents where his dad attended law school and returned to Nigeria in 1966 or 68 depending on where you look. The Nigerian Civil occurred between 1967 to 1970. Okri moved back to the UK in 1978 and he has dual citizenship.

The opening paragraph; "In the beginning there was a river. The river became a road and the road branched out to the whole world. and Because the road was once a river it was always hungry."

When you read this book you are very aware that there are influences from the Bible and I could see Chinua Achebe all over the book. I cannot rate this book very high because; lack of plot, minimally developed characters, structure/writing style. It meets achievement as it won the Booker but I'm not convinced it was the best book in 1991. Okri was the youngest writer to win the Booker prize at 32. ( )
  Kristelh | Jul 10, 2023 |
A bit rambling at times, unrelenting in action, sliding in and out of the surreal ( )
  sirk.bronstad | Apr 20, 2022 |
It's the 50th anniversary of the Booker Prize, and I am reading all the winners. Follow me at www.methodtohermadness.com.

Have you ever noticed how absurdist works are very short? There is a reason for that: one can only put up with so much absurdist dialogue.

And have you ever heard that saying that nothing is more boring than other people's dreams?

Well, The Famished Road is five hundred pages of absurdist dialogue and other people's dreams.

Our hero, Azaro, a young African boy, cannot decide if he wants to live in our reality or in the spirit world. He chooses our world, but the spirit world keeps pursuing him. In nearly every chapter, Azaro goes to the local bar, sees weird spirit-world stuff happen (that's the "other people's dreams" part), then gets home late and gets in trouble. In the next section it starts all over again.

In the background, two political parties are waging war in the village. Dad is trying to become a boxer and politician. And Madame Koto, the bar owner, is growing rich, and corrupt, and just plain growing. All this surely has some kind of allegorical meaning, but grotesque visions of monsters with multiple heads trying to lure Azaro back to the spirit world distracted me from whatever that might be.

I admit that many portions of this book are beautifully written and highly imaginative, especially the first few times that Azaro wanders between worlds, or the final chapters that at last make the connections clear. But I think this book, like its magic-realist genre-mate Midnight's Children, would have been twice as compelling if it were half as long. ( )
  stephkaye | Dec 14, 2020 |
[I wrote this review in 2012]

**Beautifully written. Booker Prize Winner in 1991**

What an incredibly polarised array of reviews this book has had. I have been gradually reading previous Man Booker Prize winning novels, not in any particular order, and I felt drawn to this novel and the story of a spirit child born only to live for a short while, but who decides to defy this destiny and chooses to stay in the living world. It sounded like an interesting premise and refreshingly different from other novels I've recently read.

I wasn't disappointed.

'The Famished Road' won the Booker Prize for fiction in 1991 and I found it easy to see why. Ben Okri writes beautifully. His lyrical, poetic style is a delight to read. His use of language is at times literally breathtaking. As the reviewer for the Independent on Sunday wrote, 'Okri is incapable of writing a boring sentence.' Although there is an abundance of mystical reflection in this novel, and it is by no means a page-turner in the conventional sense, I yet felt compelled to keep reading. Some greater force - the force of powerful language - was keeping me hungry for more.

The flowery writing and mystical narrative was at times a little frustrating. I found I was intensely interested in the child, Azaro and his small family; their poverty-stricken life of hardships, hunger, sorrows and joy moved me. I wanted to know more about the flattening of the surrounding forest and its effect and the building of new compounds, about the arrival of electricity, about the changing world around them and the infiltration of outside influences. I wanted to know more about the story of the photo-journalist who took photos of everyday life and hardships, of tragedies, of politicians - a documentary life of his neighbours if you like - and who had these controversial pictures published in the local press. I had to do a little digging of my own to discover that the novel is set in Nigeria as this is never overtly mentioned. All-in-all, beautiful as it is I'm sure I would have fallen in love with the book if it had a more even balance of mystical and harsh gritty reality. The intense concentration on mysticism left me feeling one step removed from seeing the whole - the poverty, the politics, the daily grind, the myth, legend and mysticism, all combined - and instead feeling like I had only truly grasped a part of the picture.

The beautiful writing makes this a worthy read for anyone who appreciates world-class use of language, but its ethereal qualities may put off readers looking for something more solid, rather than spiritual. If you do read and enjoy it I recommend going back and re-reading the last chapter every now and then - its message is universal. 'The Famished Road' gets a highly recommended and a 4.5 starts from me. ( )
  ArdizzoneFan | Nov 12, 2020 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Ben Okriautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Vooren, MarthaTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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Si et cal més ajuda, mira la pàgina d'ajuda del coneixement compartit.
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To Grace Okri, my mother and friend:
And to Rosemary Clunie
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In the beginning there was a river. The river became a road and the road branched out to the whole world. And because the road was once a river it was always hungry. In that land of beginnings spirits mingled with the unborn. We could assume numerous forms. Many of us were birds. We knew no boundaries. There was much feasting, playing, and sorrowing. We feasted much because of the beautiful terrors of eternity. We played much because we were free. And we sorrowed much because there were always those amongst us who had just returned from the world of the Living. They had returned inconsolable for all the love they had left behind, all the suffering they hadn't redeemed, all that they hadn't understood, and , and for all that they had barely begun to learn before they were drawn back to the land of origins. There was not one amongst us who looked forward to being born. We disliked the rigours of existence, the unfulfilled longings, the enshrined injustices of the world, the labyrinths of love, the ignorance of parents, the fact of dying, and the amazing indifference of the Living in the midst of the simple beauties of the universe. We feared the heartlessness of human beings, all of whom are born blind, few of whom ever learn to see.
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It is more difficult to love than to die. It is not death that human beings are most afraid of, it is love. The heart is bigger than a mountain. One human life is deeper than the ocean. (p. 498)
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Wikipedia en anglès (1)

The narrator, Azaro, is an abiku, a spirit child, who in the Yoruba tradition of Nigeria exists between life and death. The life he foresees for himself and the tale he tells is full of sadness and tragedy, but inexplicably he is born with a smile on his face. Nearly called back to the land of the dead, he is resurrected. But in their efforts to save their child, Azaro's loving parents are made destitute. The tension between the land of the living, with its violence and political struggles, and the temptations of the carefree kingdom of the spirits propels this latter-day Lazarus's story.

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