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From the Booker prize-winning author of The Famished Road comes this bewitching novel. It is a modern fable about the relationship between love, suffering and creativity. To add any more plot would ruin the very point of the book which is the road to self understanding. The protagonist and reader are taken on a journey of discovery and contemplation about life, how we experience it and what we really learn, or hope to learn and perhaps even how to transcend it.
Set in an enigmatic dreamlike state, it becomes a timeless spiritual quest, which has a complex grandeur about its metaphysical nature. The created world sparkles and although at first appearing to be a utopian place, there is an underlying cruel current which seems oddly apt.
There is plenty of symbolism in the prose and its abstract feel — the meandering of the story, the often flowery language loaded with arcane subtext — means there is a presence of the intangible, the spiritual. Those philosophical questions are something that has always haunted our race and the world changes, keeping it in grandeur which mirrors our further understandings and maturity. Beyond the philosophising and the eternal questions of a life none of us can fully conceive, there is also a layering of familiar representations from as diverse sources as the Bible, Arabian Nights, Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges and Dante amongst others.
The complex nature of the ideas leaves the book open to interpretation but for once the object of the story is not so much the conclusion but the journey of understanding and of the process of attaining such.
Books like this are challenging and this is certainly one for those who like to ponder and not to rush to conclusions, this reader will definitely be returning to its pages and the messages contained within soon enough.
Watching the news I find that there is plenty in the book that resonates and as we seem doomed to repeat the same mistakes again and again — as history attests in so many instances — maybe we need to take a step back and look at what defines us and what all these experiences we have actually mean.
For if you ask yourself many questions, you will never be short of something to ponder upon. Like Like. It left a good impression then hehe! Like Liked by 1 person. Given the sources you mention, this book indeed sounds like one I might be interested in reading.
Thanks for your review. It packs a lot in to say there are a fair few blank pages throughout but they work well as contemplative pauses.
Reading your post has reminded me that it is a situation that needs remedying. I will follow your example and read some more of his works myself, I think. Everything you said here is why I love reading fiction — to contemplate life and attempt to understand it or even transcend it. It is amazing that we keep making the same mistakes over and over again. They should all be required to read a list of certain books before assuming any kind of a leadership role. It would be good to have the potential leaders sit in isolation and contemplate such books and try to understand something deeper than soundbyte politics.
I aim to please, sadly with my lack of death perception my aim sways wildly, so glad to have got one in the metaphorical bullseye. We aim to please. You aim too, please….. Sounds very intriguing! I will put this on my list. I have read about Okri but never read his work before. He seems to be one of those authors that people have heard of more than read but I hope i can help redress the balance somewhat.
It is definitely allegorical but there is plenty of fantastical imagery to back it up. If it was dystopian as well, it would truly be a chilling book methinks. Yet your clear enjoyment of the book as a whole interests me.
Would you say that Astonishing the Gods would add a literary spin? Or am I just off at a tangent here because of reading only a chapter? I wonder what book you were reading. Astonishing the Gods is more transcendental than the usual self help books, it does try to bring the notion of time and the infinite challenge of learning and changing together in a vision of myticism.
Mystery solved. I shall add it to the mix. Excellent review, Ste J. I get that feeling with most books I see reviewed, especially those that have been on my book shelves for years and I have glanced over, I like to think that when the moment is right you will find the book and the time to indulge. I always loved history because there is so much to learn from it. Although, not yet!
I hate to think we are doomed to repetition, even as I see history repeating itself both big and small. A well done review!
I do love a book with a wider scope than just fiction for fictions sake. I do wonder if the cycle can be halted, I think part of the problem is that people refuse to take responsibility. It is because of money! If people have to choose responsibility, or money, I think many might sell out. However, a person can be appealed to. Corporations will always opt for profit. They are structured to do so. It says a lot about the nature of these people that they would condone weapons for example when they know what they will be used for, how some of these people sleep at night I do not know.
Schools are breaking up soon so you have even more of an excuse no to report back to me haha. I welcome your thoughts whenever you have time but no rush for I am easily distracted and very forgetful. It felt to me all the while a bit like a cross between The Alchemist and The Tao De Ching, with an Escher painting thrown in for good measure.
Most intriguing and enjoyable — thanks for highlighting it. Haha, an Escher painting, that is a brilliant observation. When i read Astonishing the Gods, I will do so with more time to savour the journey because like life that is what we should do. Adding this one to my list. Hi Ste, this is a very interesting review — I am particularly interested in some of the content, and always pondering life!
And that pondering never stops for me on a daily basis. As always, you are fantastic at writing reviews. Last year I mentored a guy who is a spiritual and relationship Coach. I have an inner intuition that now guides me in my life and tells me what to do at any given moment. Books like this are always great to help us puzzle out the truths, or at least what we believe to be the truths right for us. I am glad you are finding these opportunities and if you have a couple of spare ones throw them over my way hehe!
Drawn in right from the start, utterly fascinating this sounds, a book I could get totally lost with…. I only picked it up because I remember reading another of the authors books a while back, it gets right into it though and is well worth a read, although you may need to allow time for random and unexpected contemplations, I know I did. Intriguing review Ste J. I was caught unawares with the naming thing when I had just started and just stuck in Book to the Future and that has kind of stuck but bookmust is a name that I am proud of thinking up as well.
I am sure the web is rife with pdf files that will satiate your needs, if not i shall write an angry letter! I kept it for ages, and then recently gave my copy to my stepson, who is studying philosophy, I must ask him what he makes of it.
I thought I would reacquaint myself with the review but I shudder to read a post from five years ago. There was a lot to it, another reading would probably help but alas mine has lomg since been given away. Thank you, Ste J, for recommending this book. It sounds like just what we all need to read these days, when being on an island is sort of a metaphor for sheltering in place, as they call our social distancing and isolation against the virus. I will have to read it soon. Stay safe, and I hope you and Crissy and baby Amelia are well, along with your folks and pets.
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You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. Skip to content From the Booker prize-winning author of The Famished Road comes this bewitching novel. Like this: Like Loading Sounds like one to read. A thank you to you Mr. Stej for your excellent review. Were the pub around here that witty then I would probably live in them.
Is it dystopian or fantasy or mainly allegorical in approach? Great review, Ste. You find some of the most intriguing books.
Astonishing the Gods
From the Booker prize-winning author of The Famished Road comes this bewitching novel. It is a modern fable about the relationship between love, suffering and creativity. To add any more plot would ruin the very point of the book which is the road to self understanding. The protagonist and reader are taken on a journey of discovery and contemplation about life, how we experience it and what we really learn, or hope to learn and perhaps even how to transcend it. Set in an enigmatic dreamlike state, it becomes a timeless spiritual quest, which has a complex grandeur about its metaphysical nature.
Astonishing the Gods – Ben Okri
I got my 2-minutes of fame on national radio SAfm. A first for me. I had been asked to contribute a book review of one of my recent reads, Astonishing the Gods by Nigerian author, Ben Okri. I was both extremely excited and extremely nervous at the prospects of being on radio but I had to say yes. This has been my favorite read of this year! In preparation, I re-read the novel and again I just fell in love. At school he finds that the world he lives in, is nowhere in the books he reads.
Astonishing the Gods by Ben Okri - review
His dream-like prose transports the reader on a journey through an enchanted island, where philosophy is explored in the narrator's encounters and experiences in a quest to discover the secrets of visibility. The island is home to invisible beings who have built a utopian society based on a single law, 'Every experience is repeated or suffered till you experience it properly and fully for the first time. I'm not going to pretend I understood this book! The descriptions read like a Biblical rendering of heaven: jewelled roads, hosts of angels, and emerald horned unicorns all present in a city so richly imagined that the experience of reading becomes vaguely surreal, as the reader is aware that the imagery merely scratches the surface of the enormity of the vision conveyed. It sounds daunting, but this really is one of the most amazing books I've ever read. If you're too old for fairy tales, I think this is as close as you get to reliving the experience of a bedtime story. Want to tell the world about a book you've read?