Ben Okri, The Famished Road (1991)

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The Famished Road, a 1991 novel by Nigerian author Ben Okri, tells the story of Azaro, a spirit-child who decides to stop the mythical cycle and stay in the world of the living despite its arduousness. Thrilled by the range of human passion and suffering, he experiences from an abiku-child's perspective the changes in a village composed of ghetto-like compounds set along the geographical and semantical centre of the book, the famished road.

Publishing History

  • First published in Great Britain in 1991 by Jonathan Cape
  • First published by Vintage in 2003


  • 1991-Booker Prize for Fiction
  • 1993-Chianti Ruffino-Antico Fattore International Literary Prize
  • 1994-Premio Grinzane Cavour (Italy)

Reception and Reviews

  • "[…] In a magnificent feat of sustained imaginative writing, Okri spins a tale that is epic and intimate at the same time. The Famished Road rekindled my sense of wonder. It made me, at age 50, look at the world through the wide eyes of a child" (Micheal Palin)
  • "one of the truly great post-war novels" (Harry Eyres, The Times)
  • 'A Long and Winding African Road', Time, 8 June 1992, p. 95.
  • 'And Bear in Mind', New York Times (Book Review), 5 July 1992, p. 18.
  • Essence 23.5 (September 1992), p. 58.
  • Essence 33.1 (May 2002), p. 110.
  • Appiah, Anthony, 'Spiritual Realism', Nation, 3 August 1992, pp. 146-148.
  • Boehmer, Elleke, Novel 26 (1993), p. 268.
  • Fraser, Robert, 'Carrion Comfort and Magical Strains', Independent (Weekend Books), 1 June 1991, p. 28.: "[…] It is, sometimes, the richness of tragedy, but tragedy in a classical sense, tragedy as exulatation"
  • Gates, Henry Louis, Jr, 'Between the Living and the Unborn', New York Times (Book Review), 28 June 1992, pp. 3-4.: "[…] a narrative that is both engagingly lyrical and intriguingly post-modern"
  • Gbadamosi, Gabriel, Wasafiri 14 (Autumn 1991), p. 35.
  • Grant, Linda, Observer, 27 October 1991, p. 61.: "[…] When I finished this book and went outside, it was as if al the trees of South London had angels sitting in them"
  • Hecimovich, Gregg A., Book Page, August 1991.
  • Mintz, K., Library Journal, 1 June 1992, p. 178.
  • Oguibe, Olu, 'The Famished Road', African Events Magazine, January 1992, p. 135.
  • Wilhelmus, Tom, Hudson Review 46.1 (Spring 1993), pp. 247-254.