“I had wanted to write a novel which celebrated the small details of life as well as the great, the inner as well as the outer. I had wanted to be faithful to life as lived in the round, and yet to tell a worthwhile story. The many things I wanted to accomplish were to ambitious for my craft at the time.”
This is Omovo’s and Ifeyiwa’s story. He is a painter. “What you forget returns in a hundred other shapes. It becomes the true material of invention.” What he paints is so powerful that it is confiscated by the authorities.
His mentor reminds him: “Don’t live only in your head. You are in the world.” But his world is increasingly consumed by Ifeyiwa, although she has been married off to another man. “She liked the way he stared into the distance, the way he seemed to enter another realm, when an idea possessed him.”
Their connection is powerful, but there are other fascinating relationships here too (particularly Omovo’s with his father and brothers, and his relationships with a couple of other men in the village).
There is a lot of sorrow in this story. “Our society is a battlefield. Poverty, corruption, and hunger are the bullets.” And Okri’s prose forces you to slow down. There are very few commas but the sentences are phrase-soaked.
He is in the process of becoming, and that takes time. “In seeing clearly begins the real responsibility.”