Ben Okri – the age of magic is the 8th book in my quest of reading the world, and represents the Nigerian contribution. The first book from the continent of Africa.
A film crew is in the field, making a documentary about people and Arcadia, another name for paradise. What is paradise for you, they ask. They take a pause in between filming, in a little Swiss mountain town and suddenly, the magic unravels before them and their souls are marked by the journey. Each of the seven members of the crew, is in touch with either heavenly or devilish spirits, while unfathomable thoughts and events arrive in their lives, neatly packed in everydaylife.
The age of magic is described on the cover as a ‘dreamlike modern fairy tale’ by the Times, and I tend to agree with them on this. It was nothing like I expected though, as it very much is rooted in what resembles the western European contemporary world. I think I was half expecting a Nigerian shaman or something to show up. I let it go and just read the book, thinking it was some Nigerian author taking his turn at the more common fiction writing. I immensely enjoyed the language, the use of words and the expanding of my own vocabulary, that arose from this book. Okri really is a wordsmith of the finer sort, and the fluidity continued to impress me. There is a lot of golden quotes in this book, with a philosophical air around them and I would like to read this book again, simply because of this sort of spiritual mini-awakening that went on in my brain whilst I was reading it. It made me smile because it challenged my intellect in a new way and I enjoy that in a book.
Suddenly, the plot evolved again and I was swept into this limbo of reading a quite thin plot and experiencing the mysteries of midnight fairytales, that didn’t fully disrupt the story. Yet, it worked well for this book. The language made it all seem like the film crew consisted of all these ordinary, common people with each their own happiness and miseries, yet somehow, ancient myths and creatures of other worlds were drawn in, when least expected, and the crew changed nearly over the course of a day. They all leave this little town, completely reformed inside, some of them without realizing it.
I’d say this book is a pearl, although not a huge one. I wil definitely read it again and hopefully discover even more layers to this well told modern fairytale. I might even invest in more books by Ben Okri.