The Real African|| By Dumani Mandela
Ben Okri’s book Astonishing the Gods is a masterful piece of story telling.
His ability to describe scenes and the feelings of the central character is uncanny. His descriptions are both specific and somewhat whimsical with a certain grace of magic. His writing style resembles that of a master chess player and master tactician with his use of the English language.
The scenes in the book are both breathtaking and spark the imagination of the reader of what the perfect society would be like to live in. Ben Okri’s book Astonishing the Gods resembles the tale of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho in which he central character goes on the journey to find his destiny. But unlike Paulo Coelho who is a masterful story teller, Ben Okri use of the English language to the describe the scenes of the book and the emotions of the central character is a feat reserved for the greats.
The book Astonishing the God’s is the story of many Africans whom feel that they are invisible in the annals of history and in society in general. The central character in the book that does not have a name feels invisible and that he was born invisible and his life does not matter. His only ambition is to become a shepherd. As he grows up he yearns to become visible and for his life to matter, and so he decides to leave his home on a journey to find himself.
He travels the seas and finally lands up on a deserted island. What he soon discovers on his arrival on the island is that it is populated by invisible beings who create reality through their thoughts.
Through his experience on the island the central character learns that the most meaningful and important things in life are those things, which are invisible.
The central character learns to accept his invisibility as a crucial part of his growth and spiritual development. He learns that one cannot loose what they have already found within themselves and that we as human know as lot more that we think we know, and our potential is limitless.
The book concludes by with the declaration that all that is sacred in human potential is invisible. Like many of the other African writers we have spoken about such as Ahmadou Kourouma in his book Allah is not obliged, this book gives me a renewed faith in African writers and their ability to transmute the spoken word trough the written medium.
If I had my way I would recommend Ben Okri’s seminal book to all African children in high school as his work sets the standard for African writers across the continent as a masterful piece of writing.