only the dead can answer
The Nigeria that Ben Okri will show me is one with an ‘unforgiving climate’. It will be stiflingly hot, I need to take my time to adjust to the change of continent.
I am introduced to the Famished Road of the title straight away. I find out that the road was not always a road, it was once a river. But the river dried up. I soon realise that everything is not as it seems and that appears to be the theme for the novel.
The narrator of the story is a child named Azaro. He is a spirit child. The novel floats seamlessly between the ‘real world’ and the spirit world, but Okri writes in such a mysterious and often dreamy way that sometimes the two get blurred and I am not sure where I am. But this is not a criticism, I like the vagueness, it reminds me of drifting in and out of sleep.
One of the main characters that Azaro encounters is Madame Koto, a local bar owner. She has a lot of impact on the young boy and his family. At first Azaro is suspicious of her, but he finds her intriguing;
‘She was often digging the earth, planting a secret or taking one out’
Gradually he finds out more about her and it becomes clear to him and the reader what her motivations are.
So far it is difficult to say how I am finding Nigeria as a place. Okri’s use of magic realism means that I spend as much time in the mythical world as I do in Africa. But maybe this is my Africa for now.