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The Famished Road (The Famished Road #1)

3.72  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,925 Ratings  ·  505 Reviews
In the decade since it won the Booker Prize, Ben Okri's Famished Road has become a classic. Like Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children or Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, it combines brilliant narrative technique with a fresh vision to create an essential work of world literature.

The narrator, Azaro, is an abiku, a spirit child, who in the Yoruba trad
Paperback, 512 pages
Published June 1st 1993 by Anchor Books (first published 1991)
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Katie Apparently the book refers to the beliefs of the Beng, a small ethnic group in West Africa.
Life of Pi by Yann MartelThe God of Small Things by Arundhati RoyThe Remains of the Day by Kazuo IshiguroThe Blind Assassin by Margaret AtwoodMidnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
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27th out of 50 books — 1,566 voters
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78th out of 1,228 books — 1,208 voters

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They wanted to know the essence of pain, they wanted to suffer, to feel, to love, to hate, to be greater than hate, and to be imperfect in order to always have something to strive towards, which is beauty. They wanted also to know wonder and to live miracles. Death is too perfect.

The road thirsts for libations of blood and tears and sucks into its inescapable vortex, parables of imperialist avarice and remnants of broken dreams. It cuts across the acropolis of untold agonies, eavesdropping on
Dec 23, 2011 Kinga rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book almost broke me and ate me.

I went to bed after reading the first twenty pages of it and I dreamt about chasing an antelope with a broken horn which jumped out the window. I, in turn, was being chased by a wild boar covered in blood which spoke in a human voice. There was also a flying carpet.

I don't really like magical realism but this book didn't care. I was gonna have it whether I liked it or not. It swept me away before I knew it. By the end of it I would read about a man who slept
Towards the end of the book, in Chapter 12 of Book 7, the author states quite clearly what seems to be his intended message:

The spirit-child is an unwilling adventurer into chaos and sunlight, into the dreams of the living and the dead. Things that are not ready, not willing to be borne or to become, things for which adequate preparations have not been made to sustain their momentous births, things that are not resolved, things bound up with failure and with fear of being, they all keep recurrin
Violet wells
Mar 07, 2016 Violet wells rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booker
Just didn’t feel the love for this. I hate long accounts of dreams in novels and magical realism can be like reading an endless succession of dreams. I like the laws of gravity to hold fast in the novels I read so this started off at a big disadvantage where my reading preferences are concerned (One of the few novels I’ve ever failed to finish is Midnight's Children).

In short, this is a novel about an African community struggling and failing to be born, the community a microcosm of Africa itsel
Oct 20, 2014 William1 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, 20-ce, africa
An oneiric epic. Phantasmagoria in the bush. One is reminded of Achebe's Things Fall Apart in which the Yoruba myth of the abiku, or spirit child, is so much more darkly rendered. The Famished Road is not so dark a book. It is scary in its way, surely, loaded as it is with its cast of frighteners, but it can also be oddly reassuring in its vivid depiction of the afterlife. Heaven may indeed be a place where nothing ever happens, yes, but as intimated by Okri it is also beautiful, in a Daliesque ...more
Aug 20, 2015 Jaidee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-stars-books
5 stars.....a monstrously beautiful piece of literature....a must read before you die

Decided to add two comments thatI gave to two Goodreads friends since I wrote such a flimsy little fragments in 2013 (when I was not writing reviews)

"This book is so unbelievable. I have never read a book that was like one long dream sequence full of wonder, beauty and ugliness. It is incredible. This is in my top ten books of all time"

"You will die from the wonder. I cannot put into words the impact this book h
Matt Brady
A boy sat down to read a book, but when he looked closely, it was not a book, but a person. The person had green skin and roller-skates for eyes. A lizard with a head as big as the moon scuttled over and sniffed the green-skinned person. "What are you looking at?" the person asked the boy. "I thought you were a book," the boy said. "No," the person said, "I am a metaphor or magical realism or some shit. I dunno. But I have roller-skates for eyes, that's pretty cool." The boy shrugs. "You're mum ...more
For the first 150 pages I was mightily frustrated.

Then came the episode of the poisoned milk, distributed by a political party canvassing for votes

Suddenly the sense of community coalesces. The symbolism speaks. The deceitfulness and peril of whiteness is exposed. It recurs in many guises: from false holiness to naked danger to amulet of enemies.

But Okri would not have us simplify, would not have us make this many-faceted reflection into a parable where every sign has one meaning

And that, I thin
Aug 17, 2007 Martha rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: my worst enemy
Oh my dear lord, how I hated "The Famished Road". Friends don't let friends read this book. I only finished it because I was trekking in Nepal with no alternative English-language book for miles upon miles. In my personal hell, this is the only book in the library.
Justin Mitchell
Sep 29, 2013 Justin Mitchell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This came completely out of left field. I read Okris debut, Flowers and Shadows, a heartbreaking family chronicle, but nothing prepared me for this. This book is not like anything else I have read. I had to keep asking myself what was going on, but was nevertheless transfixed.

Imagine reading a David Lynch movie taking place in Africa with a script by Karl Marx and youve got some idea of what youre in for. It starts right away and doesnt relent. Okri manages to meld the personal, the fantastic,
Jan 01, 2009 Mike rated it liked it
A very strange book. I found the first two thirds dull, densely dreamlike, and impenetrable. Then something caught fire, and the last third was absolutely riveting. In the final chapters, the camera pulls back and you realize that the book isn't just about a boy who is struggling to be "born"; it's about all of post-colonial Africa, struggling repeatedly to be born, and too often falling back into death. It needs to be read with Zimbabwe, or Liberia, or Sierra Leone, or Angola, or Uganda, or the ...more
the gift
later addition: well the guardian newspaper says it is the 25th anniversary since publication- so what are you waiting for? read it!

review for third volume of 'the famished road' trilogy: this last of three novels by ben okri, the famished road series, is a great summation of themes introduced, elaborated, extended, from the other two. i read some reviewers who claim he merely includes more of the same, more fantastical, definitely african, images, thickening the stew but not creating new savour
Mar 24, 2008 Siri rated it liked it
I CAN'T HANDLE THIS BOOK! It's addicting and annoying and takes itself too seriously and colorful and tense and weird and jumpy and cool. WHAT DO I DO?! I am a bit over halfway and can't quite stop reading it but it keeps me up all night (not turning pages, but anxious after I put it down...). It's also ridonculously long, so I can't just suck it up and finish it in a couple nights...

ok i think i have offically given up on it. It had so much potential to be good but all of the acid trip writing
Nov 19, 2012 Tonya rated it it was amazing
This is my book of the year! I absolutely devoured this book. An African tale filled with folklore, sangomas and creatures of a nether world. The story traces the life of Lazarus, a boy gifted with the power to see and engage in the African spirit world. He takes you along a very hungry road that is Nigeria filled with poverty, corruption and disease yet also rich in many other ways. This book was filled with moments where I wonder what on earth was going on only to be dumped firmly back on hars ...more
In the month since I've finished The Famished Road it's managed to become less appealing and the worse parts have stuck more strongly in my mind. So I dropped it from three stars to two. I hate disliking books, so here's my attempt at articulating its weaknesses.

Okri has some really well developed characters in here. Azaro's father is conflicted, torn between his natural viciousness and his desire to be gentle and kind to his family. The photographer is a great political symbol. Azaro himself i
Jul 24, 2009 Kellyreaderofbooks rated it it was amazing
A young Nigerian boy named Azaro is caught between two worlds: the real world, and the spirit world he came from when he was born. He's in a constant struggle to keep his soul here in the real world, with the spirits trying to get him to join them again in their world. Azaro's real world family lives a hand-to-mouth existence, with his father doing manual labor jobs for very little money, and his mother peddling what cheap goods she can get ahold of. They live in a compound in the ghetto, and ar ...more
Nov 15, 2009 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i am no expert but i think the reigning opinion amongst literary snobs is that magic realism is an embarrassing gimmick. braving the possible negative backlash, i have already put one hundred years of solitude on my favorites shelf. today, i'm going to take another leap of faith and confess that i also loved this one. i read this quite a while ago (in 2006 maybe) but tonight i don't want to sleep so i'm killing the time on goodreads randomly adding things.

i am a real sucker for stories written
Richard Bon
Nov 27, 2011 Richard Bon rated it it was amazing
I have a question, after finishing this book: how can I go back to living my daily work life? This masterpiece of imagery and language made me question everything about the capitalist machine.

The story of the boy Azaro and his family's struggle in a poor neighborhood somewhere in Nigeria shuttles readers between the real world and the spirit world and interweaves the two in any given scene. The boy's father (who transforms himself into a mystically powered boxer named "Black Tyger") and mother t
Aug 09, 2012 Dean rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
An awful book. Boring, impenetrable, and practically unreadable. Utter dross hiding behind the obscure and silly moniker of 'magic realism'. I have to admit I started skimming whole paragraphs, something I've NEVER done as a reader.

Nonesense. Vague. Over written. No plot. Rubbish.
Yuki Black
Dec 04, 2015 Yuki Black rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: awesome
Un copil ce se zbate într-o lume plină de mizerie îi este dat să renască pe tărâmul spiritelor și să trăiască alături de alți abiku- copii spirit-. Azaro alege lumea umană în defavoarea celei a spiritelor. Acesta trăiește în lumea africană unde oamenii mor de foame, negrii sunt priviți cu ură de către albi, corupția este auto-impusă, sărăcia devine religie universală, iar politica devine centru de interes pentru cei a căror ultimă speranță e să aspire la ceva mai bun.

Tot romanul are un aer hipn
Rachel Rueckert
Oct 11, 2010 Rachel Rueckert rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Shelves: africa, favorites
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 27, 2009 Shawn rated it liked it
The reviews say things like, "you've never read a novel like this before"; Winner of the Booker Prize, etc. Well, sometimes you want to read a little magical realism, right? Like you are yearning to re-read Cien Años de Solidad by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and I also feel like that sometimes. But I only gave this book three stars because it is 500+ pages of this:
"Mesmerized by the cobalt shadows, the paradoxical ultramarine air, and the silver glances of the dead, I listened to the hard images of
Oct 30, 2007 Aberjhani rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lovers of Exceptional World Literature
A Thrilling Journey through African Enchantment

Ben Okri's THE FAMISHED ROAD is exceptional in its treatment of fiction as a study of both history and prophecy. Through the eyes of Okri's child hero, Azaro (shortened from Lazarus) readers enter an African community coming to terms with that crossroads known as change. Like another boy hero in the famed CALVIN AND HOBBES comic strip, Okri's Azaro is prone to wandering roads of the imagination that constantly lead him in body, mind, and spirit away
I found this book immensely frustrating—I wanted to love it much more than I did, but despite the beauty of Okri's prose, I read The Famished Road itching for a red pen. At least half of the book could have been edited out, and it would have made for a much stronger novel. I can appreciate what Okri was trying to do with making it so cyclical: the novel is about Azaro, a 'spirit child' who is reborn over and over to the same parents, enduring the same events, paralleling the struggles Africa fac ...more
Jul 09, 2015 Karson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book was really big! Little words and about 500 pages. The writer has a really unique style. I am sure there is a term for it, but basically he mixes the magical with the practical. One sentence a boy is walking to the store, and the next he is encountering three yellow glowing witches, an old herbalist, a wizard's apprentice and a centaur in a magical forrest. Yeah, it's kind of like that. My description might repel or attract you to the story, but there is a lot more going on in this book ...more
Feb 23, 2016 Val rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookers

Beautiful images and prose, but far too long to keep me loving it. Can you have too much beauty? I wouldn't have thought that could be so until I read this book. It is well written and the events, both real and spiritual, are wonderfully described, using elements of African folk story-telling effectively and juxtaposing contrasting images, but nothing much happens.
It would be more accurate to say that the same things keep happening: Dad gets into fights, Mum gets upset, Azaro runs off and se
May 05, 2016 Lester rated it did not like it
Shelves: could-not-finish
OK, I must admit the that writing is pretty, very descriptive and the story (which is almost in the background) is compelling. However, after a few chapters the descriptiveness becomes too bizarre and too changeable. I got completely fed up after 10 pages the first time I tried to read it. This time I made it to 180 pages before giving up. I cannot stand this writing anymore and Okri has spoiled it for me. I cannot understand for the life of me why it won the Booker Prize. Maybe because it came ...more
Jun 04, 2011 Linette rated it liked it
I read an excerpt from the first few pages of this book during a literature course, immediately fell in love, and knew I had to read the rest of it. I was so excited when I finally managed to lay my hands on a copy at the library. The prose was lush, evocative, and beautiful. I loved the way the mundanity (which was vivid and never really mundane) was interspersed with brief, surreal episodes. And then, after the first 50 pages or so...

...I got so tired. The richness of the prose started off mag
Victor Delvy Tutupary
Menurut saya buku ini memiliki kualitas terjemahan yg bagus, maksud si pengarang dan daya imajinatifnya mampu di transfer dgn begitu baik oleh penerjemah dgn menggunakan kata2 yg pas dan kaya, dlm beberapa bagian penerjemah menggunakan kata2 bahasa indonesia yg tdk lazim (dan ini usaha yg bagus) sehingga berkali2 saya terpaksa membuka kembali KBBI. Masalah penggunaan kata yg "tdk seharusnya", tidak jadi masalah, karena kata2 tersebut mmg sudah sangat akrab dlm kehidupan kita sehari2. Ben Okri dl ...more
Dec 16, 2008 Inge rated it it was ok
Too bloody ruddy many words
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The World's Liter...: The Famished Road by Ben Okri 24 40 Feb 08, 2013 10:55AM  
  • Saville
  • Something to Answer For
  • Holiday
  • The Elected Member
  • The Conservationist
  • The Old Devils
  • Staying On
  • How Late It Was, How Late
  • G.
  • In a Free State
  • Rites of Passage (To the Ends of the Earth, #1)
  • Offshore
  • The Siege of Krishnapur (Empire Trilogy, #2)
  • Sacred Hunger
  • Last Orders
  • A Grain of Wheat
  • Heat and Dust
  • Moon Tiger
Poet and novelist Ben Okri was born in 1959 in Minna, northern Nigeria, to an Igbo mother and Urhobo father. He grew up in London before returning to Nigeria with his family in 1968. Much of his early fiction explores the political violence that he witnessed at first hand during the civil war in Nigeria. He left the country when a grant from the Nigerian government enabled him to read Comparative ...more
More about Ben Okri...

Other Books in the Series

The Famished Road (3 books)
  • Songs of Enchantment
  • Infinite Riches

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“This is what you must be like. Grow wherever life puts you down.” 1839 likes
“One human life is deeper than the ocean. Strange fishes and sea-monsters and mighty plants live in the rock-bed of our spirits. The whole of human history is an undiscovered continent deep in our souls. There are dolphins, plants that dream, magic birds inside us. The sky is inside us. The earth is in us.” 52 likes
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