Monday, September 18, 2006

The Famished Road

From The Famished Road by Ben Okri:

In 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 because of the beautiful terrors of eternity. We played much because we were free. And we sorrowed much because there were always those among 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 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.

[The Famished Road tells the story of Azaro, an abiku or spirit-child, born in post-colonial Nigeria. He has the ability to experience both the spirit world and the human world together, on the same plane, and he lives distressed by the greed and ignorance of the inhabitants of both. It's a long, rich book--500 pages--and I usually don't make enough time in my life for reading novels, so it took me nearly 9 years, 1993-2002, of off and on reading to finish it. But it turned out to be one of the most amazing, beautiful books I have ever read. Definitely on my Top 5 list. You can read the rest of the first chapter here. It won the Mann Booker Prize for fiction in 1991.]

1 comment:

  1. coopersleuth1:36 PM

    Nine years? I think that's some kind of record..the book does seem interesting and beautifully written. For me...if I don't read on at a fairly even clip I don't have a clue what it is I'm reading or why....;-) (p.s. nice graphic)