Ben Okri’s unique Booker Prize-winning epic, narrated by ‘an unwilling adventurer into chaos and sunlight, into the dreams of the living and the dead’.
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 are full of sadness and tragedy, but inexplicably he is born with a smile on his face. Nearly called back to the realm of the dead, he is resurrected to confront the tension between the land of the living, often joyful despite violence and political struggles, and the temptations of the carefree kingdom of the spirits.
The Famished Road is fed by the dreams of literature
Originally called Three-Headed Street Spirit, the song eventually became Street Spirit (Fade Out).
Speaking on the Canadian TV show Musique Plus in 1993, Yorke said: ‘The image that I had in my head when I wrote the song was from a book by a guy called Ben Okri… It’s a very weird book, and I like it so much I wrote a song from it.’
Long in the telling, like a great epic poem, Okri's tale is a beautifully rendered allegory, enriched by its African setting, of love powerful enough to defy even death and his minions
Accepting his award, Okri referred to the cheque he’d received and said: ‘When my first novel was published I went home and my father rather cunningly got together all the elders of our town and they contributed a certain amount of money impromptu to buy me a pen to carry on writing. I suppose this will buy me quite a lot of pens.’
Okri also read a poem he’d written, saying he did ‘not have any talent for speeches’.
Ending his remarks, he said: ‘I dedicate this prize to all those who struggle and who suffer in silence and in public and who never stop fighting and always keep on dreaming.’