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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Use imperfections to tell your tale

“The fact of storytelling hints at a fundamental human unease, hints at human imperfection. Where there is perfection there is no story to tell.” – Ben Okri

Born on this date in 1959, Nigerian poet and novelist Okri is considered one of the foremost African authors in the post-modern and post-colonial traditions.  His writing has been ranked favorably with such award-winning writers as Salman Rushdie and Gabriel García Márquez.

Starting with his 1980 novel Flowers and Shadows, Okri achieved international acclaim with his lyrical, intense works about Africa and its people. His best-known novels are the The Famished Road (awarded the prestigious Booker Prize), Songs of Enchantment, and Infinite Riches.  That trilogy follows the life of Azaro, a spirit-child narrator, through the social and political turmoil of an unnamed African nation. 
          Okri said his writing was influenced by the oral tradition of his people, and particularly, his mother's storytelling: "If my mother wanted to make a point, she wouldn't correct me, she'd tell me a story."

His advice to writers?   “I believe in leavening,” he said.   “You can't have words sticking out too much, like promontories. They disturb the density. You have to flatten them, or raise the surrounding terrain.”

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