Songs of Enchantment

Songs of Enchantment

by Ben Okri
     
 

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Ben Okri, winner of the 1991 Booker Prize for The Famished Road, now gives us Songs of Enchantment, and it is hard to imagine a more gloriously written novel. Azaro, the spririt-child, is a reluctant traveler in the realities of this world. In this moving story of love and transformation, his adventures begin with the disruption of his family. Under the pressure of… See more details below

Overview

Ben Okri, winner of the 1991 Booker Prize for The Famished Road, now gives us Songs of Enchantment, and it is hard to imagine a more gloriously written novel. Azaro, the spririt-child, is a reluctant traveler in the realities of this world. In this moving story of love and transformation, his adventures begin with the disruption of his family. Under the pressure of poverty and myth, his mother departs to follow the legendary Madame Koto. An obsession for a beautiful beggar girl snares forbidden visions. Set in an age of enchantments, their story takes place among the upheavals of a nation struggling to be born. There are mass political hallucinations, battles of contending forces in the realm of dreams, mysterious disappearances, and the rise of the Jackal-headed Masquerade. With humor and wisdom, Ben Okri tells of Azaro's father and how, drawing on the magic of courage, he undergoes the great penance of love. Through the experiences of this unique family we see that life lived with compassion and fire and serenity can vanquish the forces of oppression, and counter the darkness with light. At the end of the absorbing novel we feel it to be true when Azaro's father says, "Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
All is not well in the African village where Azaro lives. The child narrator of poet and novelist Okri's The Famished Road , who had outwitted death in the previous book, again relates the oppressive events that continue to plague his village and his family. While political factionalization shatters the community's cohesiveness, the prodigious bar owner Madame Koto, chief exponent of the ``Party of the Rich,'' alternately exudes portentous metaphysical malaise and miraculous erotic force. Little Azaro, himself touched and distracted by a series of animuses, follows the heels of ``dad,'' who is a resounding vessel, by turns, of cantankerous egotism and abased self-sacrifice. This Nigerian epic reveals a violent provincial world, opaque with magical spirits which place horrendous ethical demands on fragile and fickle humanity, as if to test each individual for a thread of virtuous constancy at the core. Events drench the essentially linear narrative with all the ruthless sensuousness of a tropical storm, and Okri's prose is lucid and deft: ``His limbs shook and he was bathed in radiance, as if his fit were a sweet juice that he was drinking, or as if it were sunlight to the feverish.'' A difficulty with Okri's ambitious performance, however, is its relative indifference to dramatic development; experience violates characters, but does not always deepen them. However, readers will note the subtle moral inquiry which gradually wells up within the work, and will admire its patient musing on the problem of evil. Author tour. (Oct.)
Donna Seaman
Nigerian novelist Okri's last book, "The Famished Road", won the 1991 Booker Prize; his newest picks up where it left off. Once again we're bedazzled and bedeviled by Okri's phantasmagoric prose and the strange and wondrous sensibility of Azaro, a spirit-child living in a poor African village. The only child of a street hawker and a laborer, Azaro is possessed of, or by, an immense and unwieldy intelligence and is routinely overwhelmed by bewildering visions and revelations. His parents also dwell in this enigmatic extra dimension. When they have a falling out, both are sucked into realms full of supernatural menace and cosmic information. Azaro's father is enthralled by a crazy-eyed but graceful beggar girl, while his mother joins the followers of a witchy tavern owner named Madame Koto. As each family member wages his or her own mysterious hallucinatory battles, we recognize that all this strife and upheaval is connected to the stratifications of class warfare and the machinations of political power struggles. This is a feverish and confounding work, a great boil of prophecies and aphorisms, dreams and myths.
From the Publisher
“Ben Okri writes beautifully.” — The Times

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780224036306
Publisher:
Random House Adult Trade Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/27/1993
Pages:
304

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