Astonishing the Gods

“It is better to be invisible. His life was better when he was invisibile, but he didn’t know it at the time. His mother was invisible too, and that was how she could see him. His people lived contented lives, working on the farms, under the familiar sunlight. Their lives stretched back into the invisible centuries and all that had come down from those differently coloured ages were legends and rich traditions, unwritten and therefore remembered. They were remembered because they were lived.”

An invisible man from an invisible people. A quest for meaning. A journey throughout the world. Extraordinary places and strange guides. Magic and miracles as ordinary events.

An invisible man in a world of images…

In this modern fable, Ben Okri draws the extraordinary and enchanted pathway of a man obsessed with finding out why he’s invisible. As in classic fairy tales or fables, he encounters dangers, the temptations of the flesh and the advice of spiritual guides along the way. Yet his question remains: why is he invisible?

Astonishing the Gods is, as some critics have said, “deceptively simple” precisely because it questions a world of incessant questions, a world hungry for results, for exact answers. The invisible man’s journey in a world of images also makes the reader wonder about the questionable depth of a world of images, a world like ours in which visual reality is so powerful and yet so deceitful.

The invisible character has no name and no actual physical shape, so he could be anyone: here lies the mastery of the author in creating a world of ethereal words and images, in which the landmarks of our world fade away to make way for the untold truths and the unseen realities.

Okri’s fable about the classical quest brings the character to discover that identity is something other than he expected. Not the result, but the quest, the road, the process. Not an answer, but the asking process. Not what was expected, but surprise. Because in Okri’s book what we find is something beyond words and images… and we never really look for such ephemerality on purpose.

Astonishing the Gods by Ben Okri

978-0753808641| 1999| Phoenix

Review by Ioana Danaila

IMG_0478-2Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She has published short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish and teaches English to high school students in France.