The Insight of Ben Okri
“We plan our lives according to a dream that came to us in our childhood, and we find that life alters our plans. And yet, at the end, from a rare height, we also see that our dream was our fate. It's just that providence had other ideas as to how we would get there. Destiny plans a different route, or turns the dream around, as if it were a riddle, and fulfils the dream in ways we couldn't have expected.”
“Only those who truly love and who are truly strong can sustain their lives as a dream. You dwell in your own enchantment. Life throws stones at you, but your love and your dream change those stones into the flowers of discovery. Even if you lose, or are defeated by things, your triumph will always be exemplary. And if no one knows it, then there are places that do. People like you enrich the dreams of the worlds, and it is dreams that create history. People like you are unknowing transformers of things, protected by your own fairy-tale, by love.”
“The higher the artist, the fewer the gestures. The fewer the tools, the greater the imagination. The greater the will, the greater the secret failure.”
“Don't despair too much if you see beautiful things destroyed, if you see them perish. Because the best things are always growing in secret.”
“The greatest stories are those that resonate our beginnings and intuit our endings, our mysterious origins and our numinous destinies, and dissolve them both into one.”
“Our time here is magic! It's the only space you have to realise whatever it is that is beautiful, whatever is true, whatever is great, whatever is potential, whatever is rare, whatever is unique, in. It's the only space.”
“The worst realities of our age are manufactured realities. It is therefore our task, as creative participants in the universe, to re-dream our world. The fact of possessing imagination means that everything can be re-dreamed. Each reality can have it”
“Politics is the art of the possible; creativity is the art of the impossible.”
“Reading, like writing, is a creative act. If readers only bring a narrow range of themselves to the book, then they'll only see their narrow range reflected in it.”
“Magic becomes art when it has nothing to hide.”
“Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.”
“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.”
"We are the miracles that God made to taste the bitter fruit of Time. We are precious. And one day our suffering will turn into the wonders of earth."
"The light in us is greater than the dark."
"Live, my son, live with unquenchable fire. Let everything you're suffering now give you every reason in the world to master your life and your art. Live deeply, fully. Be fearless. Be like the tortoise – grow a hard shell to protect your strong heart. Be like the eagle – soar above your pain and carry the banner of the wonder of our lives to the farthest corners of the world. Build your strength. Destiny is difficult."
About Ben Okri
Ben Okri was born in 1959 in Minna, northern Nigeria but spent his early childhood in London before he and his family returned to Nigeria when he was nine years old. As a child he witnessed the Nigerian civil war (1967-70) and this has informed his thinking and his work ever since. During this time he was also exposed to the oral and mystical traditions of Yoruba culture and maintains that myths and local beliefs are very much part of the 'real' world and not separate from it.
As a young man he had difficulty getting any articles published initially and also failed to get into university. When he was 19 he returned to England to study comparative literature at the University of Essex. This was a difficult period in his life and he slept occasionally on office floors and eventually was forced to quit because of lack of funds.
After a slow start to his literary career he got his breakthrough being published in women's journals and evening papers and his first novel, Flowers and Shadows, was published in 1980. From these faltering beginnings he has gone on to write 11 books which have been translated into more than 20 languages.
He won the Booker Prize in 1991 for The Famished Road and he has also won a number of other literary awards and international prizes. He was awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Westminster in 1997 and the University of Essex in 2002 and an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2001. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Ben Okri has been described as a magic realist and his work describes the mundane and the metaphysical, the individual and the collective. He is regarded as one of Africa's greatest living writers and currently lives with his long-term partner, Rosemary Clunie, a painter and video artist, in Little Venice in London.