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The Freedom Artist Hardcover – 7 Feb. 2019
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- Hardcover : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1788549597
- ISBN-13 : 978-1788549592
- Dimensions : 18.9 x 3.2 x 20.6 cm
- Publisher : Head of Zeus (7 Feb. 2019)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: 534,261 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer reviews:
'A multi-layered allegorical narrative that cuts to the heart of our current political and cultural malaise, while maintaining a mythical, mesmeric flavour that makes the reader feel these are stories they have always known ... It's savagely political, disturbing and fiercely optimistic, the deeply felt work of a writer who refuses to stop asking the hardest questions' Observer.
'Okri creates a chilling atmosphere ... Okri's rhythmic, folk tale-like prose is beguiling' Sunday Times.
'These ideas are virtuosically juggled in a series of short enigmatic chapters ... The story does not so much unfold as become manifest ... The Freedom Artist has a compelling power and energy that won't let the reader go. Or fall by the wayside' Herald.
'A heady jumble of influence and inspiration, a tapestry of biblical reference, mythology, folklore and fable. The lyrical simplicity of Okri's prose, with its short sentences and chapters, only heightens the power of the novel's political message' Financial Times.
'In a world not unlike our own, a young woman called Amalantis is arrested. Her lover goes looking for her. An examination of post-truth society and justice from the Booker-winning author of The Famished Road' The Times, 'Biggest Novels of 2019'.
'The new novel from the Booker winner is set in a world of oppression and imprisonment – one rather like our own' Guardian, 'What You'll Be Reading This Year'.
2019 Irish Times 'Most Exciting and Intriguing International Fiction'.
'Fiction's master enchanter stares down a real horror, and without blinking or flinching, produces a work of beauty, grace and uncommon power' Marlon James.
'Okri's trademark magical literary thinking is not broke and he is not about to fix it ... The Freedom Artist is an adventure story and an intense trip through the most esoteric corners of the human mind. It's also a beautiful and timely appeal for the importance of books, subversive stories and love' The Times.
An impassioned plea for freedom and justice, set in a world uncomfortably like our own, by the Man Booker-winner Ben Okri.
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Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner,
Kafka, Orwell, His Dark Materials,
The Scream,The Enchanted Wood,
Fahrenheit 451, 1984, The Castle, The Trial.
The Tower of Babel, Genesis.
It felt like Kafka had rewritten 1984! And I was elated to find Kafka alluded to in the latter stages of the book. It is the work and prose of a poet but not just a poet of words, a poet of thought with an all seeing eye. Not an angry, bitter reproachful poet but a philosophical, spiritual and optimistic poet. It’s offered as fiction yet it transcends definition as it presents as sometime fable, sometime allegory, sometime prophecy, sometime chronicle, sometime fairy tale, parts were almost Biblical with significant numerical allusions like 7 and 40, parts were magical. Page after page containing the wisdom of our ages.
The notion that we are all living in a prison is not necessarily an original thought. It was touched on recently by Elizabeth Lowry in the magnificent Dark Water where the main narrator, Hiram Carver ,affirms ‘..we cling to our false certainty and call it freedom and we can’t see what we’ve really created out of freedom is a prison.’ Okri’s book takes the concept further and beyond. The book could be considered a manifesto for our times. It touches on so much of what is ‘rotten in the state of Denmark’, but Okri deals with it in a manner almost unemotional but with the result that it stirs emotion most profoundly. An economic use of prose with some simply stated sentences that are easy to read and complex to digest in part form this fiction. It’s as if the writer has subjected very word to scrutiny and ensured that he has chosen the exact, right one every time, the exact right number of words, nothing is wasted. The result is an exacting, powerful, elegant manifesto for our times.
I once opined that one of the ways in which a book might be deemed literature is if it were quotable in a meaningful sense. I felt that almost all of this book contained quotable dictums and epigrams. They jump out of practically every sentence. I have my favourites! And I have to restrict myself or I’d be quoting the whole book.
‘She understood that the world was not what it seemed. She understood that reversal was the way. She understood the true things was upside down. She grasped that those who thought they knew were ignorant, that those who thought they had power were powerless and that those who thought they knew themselves were in great darkness.’
‘Listen with your heart and your wisdom. The world is a prison which you must transcend. Then you will know true freedom and you will find that it is very different to what anyone has ever said.’
Okri identifies how as a race so many of us have lost our inherent spirituality. And if we could all recapture that we might have a chance of fleeing these restraints. The book is universal. There is no attempt to vilify any one separate discipline, politics, religion etc, as being the reason for our incarceration.
As far as characterisations go the main cast is small, the supporting cast, though, almost infinite, for it is ourselves. Mirababa, a young boy, innocent until he loses his grandfather, Karnak ignorant until he loses love. Amalantis and Ruslana who either never lose their spirituality or seize the opportunity to develop it whilst maybe kicking against the perceived norms.
Thank you Head of Zeus for a limited edition proof copy. I think this is a great book. I think this is an important book. It will only lose its relevance and potency if things change rapidly. We all know they won’t. But this book urges us to remove our proverbial heads from our proverbial arses, look around at who we are and what we have become and -
Ben Okri very cleverly invents his own mythology. We do not know if we are in this world, or one that is very like it. We do not know if we are in the past, the present or the future. We know that we are in a world where strange things are happening. It seems likely that this is a world of the future affected by climate change, but we have no proof of that. We know that Mirababa is sent on a strange quest, a magical quest by his dying grandfather, with the command to “Go in” whatever that means. We know that Mirababa is going through a sort of Eleusinian Mystery as an initiate. But we do not know what he is expected to find, nor why it is important.
In Karnak’s case we know exactly who he is looking for. He is searching for Amalanta, his beloved, who has mysteriously disappeared, possibly arrested by the secret police of the Hierarchy, who are the government. Amalanta can best be described as enigmatic, which becomes more and more clear as Karnak remembers the strange questions that she kept asking him. As Karnak wanders, he discovers the mystery and strangeness of the place in which he lives. This is a world where the Hierarchy have deemed that books are unnecessary and dangerous. Karnak of course finds a library run by the daughter of a philosopher who had gone into hiding. He begins to piece together what is happening in his world. Then, the library disappears.
It is hardly surprising to find that the writer of “The Famished Road” creates a magical realist world, a world that creates mythologies because people need them and a world that has been created by these very mythologies. He asks some very pertinent questions about these mythologies. Is the Garden of Eden a place to which we should aspire to return? Or is it a prison from which we have escaped? What do our mythologies actually mean? What are they trying to tell us? How do we find the truth in ourselves?