Tales of Freedom, Hardback

Tales of Freedom Hardback

3 out of 5 (1 rating)


As one of Britain's foremost poets, Ben Okri is rightly acclaimed for his use of language. And as a Booker Prize winning novelist, this skill was shown to particular effect in both "Starbook" (his most recent work) and in "The Famished Road".

In "Tales of Freedom" he brings both poetry and story together in a fascinating new form, using writing and image pared down to their essentials, where haiku and story meet.

Thus we discover Pinprop, the slave to an old couple lost in a clearing, who holds the keys to the universe in his quirky hands.

Then there is the beautifully dressed black Russian on the train, helping to film a new version of "Eugene Onegin".

Later, in the chaos of the aftermath of war, orphaned children paint mysterious shapes of bulls, birds, hybrid creatures, and we wonder if grief has unhinged them into genius...And who is that woman, who hardly speaks, who presses a tiny flower into the palm of the young boy on the bus, and then leaves his life forever?"Tales of Freedom" offers a haunting necklace of images which flash and sparkle as the light shines on them. Quick and stimulating to read, but slowly burning in the memory, they offer a different, more transcendent way of looking at our extreme, gritty world - and show the wealth of freedom that's available beyond the confines of our usual perceptions.




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Reading this collection of short, minimalist prose (by the author referred to as "stokus", a mixture between story and haiku) has the same problem as reading poetry for me. I do it too quickly. I don't have the patience to keep the pace down to the slow, thoughtful process I guess the writing tries to invite to.The first and longest of these stories, "The comic destiny", an allegory over life and love in all their futility, I would very likely have loved fifteen years ago. But tastes change, and now it mostly feels like a pale echo of Beckett.The following fragments of short prose are much more interesting, and a few of them will stay in my mind for a while. Okri writes a sharp, exact prose, and I'm at least a little curious about trying some of his longer works.

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