Tales of Freedom by Ben Okri

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Tales of Freedom by Ben Okri

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Laura Bailey
Reviewed by Laura Bailey
Summary: Tales of Freedom is the kind of short story collection that you will either love or hate. It is an esoteric combination of poetry and prose, of symbolism but also details from everyday life that will be familiar to everyone. I really recommend this book, but read it with an open mind.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: April 2010
Publisher: Ebury
ISBN: 978-1846041594

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Tales of Freedom is a book of two halves, with a short story entitled Comic Destiny taking up the majority of the book. Comic Destiny is made up of a series of short pieces that follow on from each other and are probably best described as being closer to prose poetry than anything else.

This first section of Tales of Freedom reads like a Samuel Beckett play, and there is an air of both Waiting for Godot and Endgame about it. The 'events' all take place in a forest, which is a kind of symbolic void, with a cast of characters who are all variations on a generic personage, including Old Man, Old Woman, Young Man, Young Woman, the Man and Pinprop.

Comic Destiny is one of those happily plot-free literary pieces where everything in it is a symbol for something else, while at the same time the book remains easy to read. As such, each word is carefully placed and the sentences are perfectly and deliberately crafted, giving the reader the feeling that they need to crack the author's code. It is full of paradoxes as well as poignant ideas that almost everyone will be able to relate to, with Okri making comments on basic human desires such as ambition, love and family. There were many moments that made me laugh out loud and definitely many more that made me think.

In this section of the book, dialogue is the means through which the author gets across, or at least implies, most of his ideas; I think I will have to read the book a few more times before finding any conclusions beneath the layers of symbolism. The use of mostly unattributed dialogue adds to the play-like feel as well as the sense of the characters living and speaking into a void. The long passages of short lines of speech also leave a lot of white space on the page, exacerbating the feeling of being in an empty space. OK this review is getting a little bit lit crit now, but this is the kind of book that begs analysis, that you will continue to go back to and always find something new.

The second section, as a note in the middle explains, is made up of thirteen stokus - a cross between a short story and a haiku. Each of these stories is between two and four pages long and captures a unique moment in the character's life.

These stokus are just as carefully crafted as the previous section of the book, they are also highly symbolic but easier to digest as they are written in a more familiar way, and with a more tangible plot. These stories are beautiful, touching, startling, thought-provoking and countless other adjectives that all come together to mean outstanding writing. I would recommend this book to anyone; it really reminded me why I love literature, the author's passion for his art shining through with every word.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: If you liked Tales of Freedom then I would recommend reading Ben Okri's booker prize winning novel The Famished Road, or alternatively if you want more literary short stories then try It's Beginning To Hurt by James Lasdun.

Buy Tales of Freedom by Ben Okri at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tales of Freedom by Ben Okri at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Tales of Freedom by Ben Okri at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tales of Freedom by Ben Okri at Amazon.com.


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