Into this bewildering life, Azaro brings a spirit-eye: around the corrupt policemen and market traders flit imps, ghosts and homunculi, demons and sad souls whom only he can see. These spirit brothers tempt him to return to the world of the unborn, away from his hard-working parents and the mundane squabbles of political strife, caricatured here as a competition between “The Party of the Rich” and “The Party of the Poor”.
Okri’s novel – the first part of a trilogy – brought forward his distinctive brand of magical realism, but it also raised questions about some of the conventions of Anglo-African postcolonial writing. Is the abiku a youthful spirit – a Pan who sees the world in its full strangeness and plenitude – or one of Nigeria’s displaced children, cut off from a culture far richer than the material world of his birth? What does it mean for us to stay, like Azaro, in the “world of the living” while reading this lush prose, full to bursting with fruits and seeds, palm wine and precious stones? “Our hunger can change the world,” Azaro’s father tells him, “make it better, sweeter.” Okri’s novel hungers for variety, for compassion and hope – and for an art that might make a feast out of famine.
Review by James Purdon
Source: The Guardian