Friday, 3 September 2010

The Famished Road - Ben Okri

The book is interesting in that it is divided between what happens in the real world and what happens in the spirit world. Although I found this interesting as an idea, I found myself skipping over parts of the spirit world sections which ran on too long, because, although they contain bizarre, intriguing images, I didn't feel like they made that much difference to the plot of the real world sections. It is in my nature (or my culture?) to think of the real world passages as the "real", important part of the book, though that probably isn't what Okri intended.

So, while I was reading, I focused on the real-world parts and, if I use this for the course, I will probably do the same there. Azaro´s Mum is an interesting character, I wished more had been written about her than about his Dad, who didn't appeal to me that much. Madame Koto starts out as an engaging character, but gradually loses her charm (she is supposed to, as her involvement in politics deepens and her moral decline takes hold) and then fades into the background as the book goes on. The sections about politics (the bad milk, the van of bad politics, the party of the rich and the party of the poor) seem like they could be productive.

There is also a section in which Azaro, an abiku himself, describes his friend Ade, who is also an abiku. There are strong similarities between this section and a passage in Ak√©, in which Wole Soyinka writes about his neighbours´ abiku daughter. Okri takes it further than Soyinka - he writes from Azaro's perspective within the spirit world, and describes the inner feelings and conflict a spirit child experiences. He also uses the image of the country in the book (which, as far as I remember, is never named explicitly, though some of the tribal groups within it are - can I assume it is - or at least represents - Nigeria?) as an abiku-country, which I find significant. I know I said that my instinct led me away from the spirit world bits but, now that I think about it, there might be something useful here.


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