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Astonishing the Gods

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  959 ratings  ·  117 reviews
From Booker Prize-winner Ben Okri: a deceptively simple modern fable with an ancient origin.

A young man finds himself living among invisible beings who have built a utopia based on one principle: that we must repeat or suffer every experience until we experience it properly and fully for the first time.

'The hero of this novel finds what he did not seek, and goes where he d
Paperback, 272 pages
Published March 12th 2015 by Head of Zeus (first published 1995)
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Average rating 3.61  · 
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Alice-Elizabeth (Prolific Reader Alice)
This review is going to be slightly confusing in advance readers, you have been warned!

Astonishing the Gods is one of those books where you really love the imagination and craft that has gone into it. However, it's one of those books that you really don't understand it whatsoever. A total see-saw kind of read if you will. Very short and fast-paced, we end up in this situation where hearing different voices in someone's head can determine who you are as a person. It is philosophical and psycholog
Chavelli Sulikowska
Enchanting, magical and imaginative. Okri's miraculous "fairytale retold" contemplates an interesting conundrum - how does one cope with being invisible in an age when the visual image is paramount? Okri perfectly captures the essence of this question in the following passage: " it is better to be invisible...their lives stretched back into the invisible centuries and all that had come down from those differently coloured ages were legends and rich tradition, unwritten and therefore remembered. ...more
May 28, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I disliked this book intensely. It was a quasi religious experiment in turning everything you know and believe on its head and looking at things from a different perspective. It was patronising and pompous, caught up in its own grandeuer. It was part self-help, part mystical new age twaddle and it left me angry on reading. Thankfully it was short.
I needed to read a Nigerian author for a challenge, and I needed a short book to complete the task in the allotted amount of time, so I choosed Ben Okri's Astonishing the Gods.
I regret so much I had to rush throught it. Althougt short and, apparently, a sort of fairy tale, I feel like every word is there for a reason. Okri gives us his utopia, as many philosophers has done before.
Dec 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What I learned from this book? Everything!
Paras Sharma
2/5 ⭐⭐

I appreciate the literary voices and the type of writing that the author uses to draw the reader in, but that's not enough. The story simply failed to get my attention, maybe the genre is not of my taste.
Jan 02, 2022 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not for me. In the introduction to the new edition, Okri says, 'The hero of this novel finds what he did not seek, and goes where he did not intend to go. As I did in writing it. I set out to find one thing, but found another.' Unfortunately this is very apparent in the novel. 'Invisibility' starts off as a metaphor for the unremembered, those erased from annals of history. But it morphs (quite quickly - startlingly, without cause) into a metaphor for..... citizenship to some sort of lush utopic ...more
“I love your loneliness. It is brave. It makes the universe want to protect you.”
― Ben Okri, Astonishing the Gods

3.75 stars

Astonishing the Gods is a very imaginative story, filled with wise moments and a bewilderingly interesting plot - it's my second book by Ben Okri and something about his writing is simply reality expanding and so just so so poetic and beautiful.

And it's the perfect book if you want to pass the time on the train :)
May 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021-reads
This was kind of confusing but I liked it a lot and the writing style really worked for me!
Alia Makki
May 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thoughts while reading: What is this book? Who is Ben Okri? Where the heck is Nigeria and why haven't I been there?


I'm such a mystic-fetishist. The book describes the conversations that occur in the Betweens, the conversations I usually hear "with the Voices in my head". The guides, all of them, the temptations, the losses and fires and archangel of the invisible, the prophet-king, the bridge, the long, long bouts of appreciative silences, are all regular beings in the landscapes of the B
Keshav Kumar
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing short book,this book is a great example of an uplifting philosophical conundrum which is filled with profound knowledge & wisdom. It Will give you a better perspective of life, It won't take more than a day to read if you can give it few hours.

I was awestruck after i read this particular quote from the book which was something like this;
If you are trying to find something then you must have lost it and if you have lost something it can never be found. Don't try to find things they ar
Sep 06, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I read this as soon as it was released as I had read the Famished Road and loved that tremendously, but I was so disappointed with this one, perhaps with my inability to comprehend it, but I found it too complex and didn't get the symbolism. It was a difficult read and I just couldn't get it. I did read it all the way, but did I understand it? Did i enjoy it? Sadly, no. I was so excited for this book too. ...more
Jul 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short read that was very symbolic in creating an island where a man exclusively progresses to the point of becoming invisible. This was to be a high level of spiritual attainment that was to represent some sort of deification. I found it very similar to Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Mormon doctrine in that progression is the central focus. It was inspirational as well as stimulating.
Jonkers Jonkers
Jul 15, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What complete and utter tosh!! Annoying and dull tosh at that. Repetitive, packed full of contradictory language (deliberately but for no apparent reason!). It was fantastic, yet crap. Marvellous yet awful. Thought-provoking but brain-numbing. Get the gist? Seeing the invisible, hearing the silence etc, etc, etc, etc, etc. etc.
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This short story is very spiritual, beautifully written, and went straight over my head.
I gave my book club a selection of Okri's work and I have a funny feeling they at going to be very cranky with me.
Bernice Puleng Mosala
A book that is part literature and part prophetic word. It’s a guide through life that melds with poetry, leaving you inspired.
Tumelo Moleleki
Jun 27, 2017 rated it liked it
This is some higher grade storytelling that I am unable to fathom. I am not sure if I know what I was reading and yet I kind of followed the story. This book requires the kind of imagination I don't know if I have. Light that is dark, mind bending stuff. I learned a lot about architecture and picked up some useful vocab. ...more
I'm not going to lie, I didn't understand this but I'm not sure I'm supposed to. Given that this is such a short novel, the beautiful language and imagery kept me interested when my understanding failed and that's why I'm still rating this 3 stars. I found the audiobook version pretty engaging, so I would suggest it to anyone struggling with this novel. ...more
Ims Taylor
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW the most magical book I have ever read, Alice in wonderland dreaminess a thousandfold, feels like you’re in a dream it really does
Reflections and lessons learned:
“The town was a riddle without an answer...”

Unfortunately, for me this book was largely a compilation of words without meaning or understanding... not for me sorry
Feb 23, 2022 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Pretentious. I'm not sure that it had much to say behind the drawn-out metaphors. ...more
Declan Hickey
May 11, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Worth reading for Okri’s prose alone. Some of the dialogue is vaguely redolent of Beckett, for better or worse.
Aug 25, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Da Fuq!!???? Ok I thought, half way in, perhaps it’s a dream that will be explained and provide me with some higher plain of thinking about life choices on the journey. But no. I read stoically to the bitter end and I am no wiser. Maybe I wasn’t in the appropriate astral plain or I need to crank up my substances. I will read reviews posted by others to help see what I missed 😅
Nov 24, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Caitlin by: friend
An unplotted (well hardly) traipse through a dream-like world. Some cool imagery and some cool points, but I miss having characters and backstory and other common bookish standards. I liked Ben Okri's 'The Famished Road' much better. Similar dream-like imagery, but grounded in reality with real 3D characters, motivations and responses. ...more
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very existential with concepts that naturally don’t make sense but Okri beautifully describes them. The idea of their being a higher purpose and the quest for invisibility was interesting as different. The idea of finding without seeking and loving without illusion was new.

Captivatingly beautiful.
Jan 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I remember that I had a hard time reading this book the first time, it is very poetic and dense. Reading it again 3 years later I remember why I still loved it even though it was a difficult read back then. It's magical. It's philosophical. It's such a wise novel. I would recommend it to anyone. ...more
Such a very trippy book. It was like reading a narrative of a dream: nonsensical but at the same time making perfect sense. I feel like I read it too fast because I wasn't prepared for the story. I wish that I could read it again and meditate on every chapter. ...more
Jul 13, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Incredibly surreal writing. A quick read that makes your brain spin in ways you wish it always did regardless of whether you actually like the book or not...
Romil Gaywala
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jhampa Lahiri Quoted in The Namesake "My Grandfather always says that it's what books are for To travel without moving an inch." and this book takes you in an imaginative Island where every living thing is invisible. This was my last Novembers read. .

Astonishing the Gods is the Soul Journey of a young man Who travels and find himself living among invisible beings as time goes he is assisted by three guides the 1st a fatherly being who teaches him to overcome challenges, 2nd a Child who instruct
Apr 05, 2019 rated it liked it
"It is chilling. It is more chilling than I can make it sound. Leave now while you can. Be free of this impossible place, this rigorous land, where everything is guided by the wisdom of suffering, and where the journey towards perfection is continued without any hope of ever arriving. Find joy! Live your life! Make your mistakes! Enjoy life's illusions. Don't become invisible, don't turn to stone. Don't seek impossible loves, find possible ones! Leave now, knock on that palace door, and soon you
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Goodreads Librari...: Correction 3 12 Jul 10, 2018 07:40AM  

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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

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