“Worlds That Flourish” by Ben Okri – Selection 12 of #DealMeIn2018

The Card: ♠Q♠ Queen of Spades

The Suit: For #dealMeIn2018, ♠♠Spades♠♠ is my Suit for “dark/sci-fi/horror stories from various sources.

The Author: Ben Okri, a new-to-me author from Nigeria who, as his Wikipedia page tells us, is “one of the foremost African authors in the post-modern and post-colonial traditions, and has been compared favourably to authors such as Salman Rushdie and Gabriel García Márquez.” In my brief research on him before writing this post, he definitely sounds like an author I will be reading more of in the future.

The Selection: “World’s that Flourish” – originally published as part of his collection Stars of the New Curfew. I own it as part of my copy of the excellent anthology, “The Weird,” edited by Jeff VanDerMeer.

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants try to read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for the list of stories I’ll be reading in 2018. Check the sidebar for links to other book bloggers who are participating in this year’s challenge.

Worlds That Flourish

“Then it dawned on me that something had happened to time. I seemed to be sitting in an empty space without history. The wind wasn’t cooling. And then suddenly all the lights went out. It was as if the spirit of the world had finally died. The black-out lasted a long time.”

This was a strange story. I have to say, though, that I almost immediately fell into step with the narrative voice of the protagonist. He remains unnamed, but somehow that feels appropriate for this story. He’s a man whose world is beginning to disintegrate. It starts when he, along with many other co-workers, is fired from his job. He goes home, and a neighbor tells him that he “walks around like a man who has no eyes” (“haven’t you noticed that most of the people in the compound are gone?”)

Later, he is robbed by men with machetes and a gun and though they are later caught, they somehow convince the police that the narrator is involved.

After a brief though brutal period of being jailed, he eventually decides to flee the city. “I got into my car and set out on a journey without a destination through the vast, uncultivated country.” On his way out of town he notices that a lot of the people he sees in the street have handwriting on their faces.

Things are just as phantasmagorical on his journey, car trouble, car crashes (or did he imagine that?) Until he finally reaches a place where people seem to be waiting for him…

(I found the above quote from the author online and really liked it so thought I’d share)

This story reminded me of some others that I’ve read, at least in the feeling that this surreal city and setting evoked in me. Premendra Mitra’s Telenapota and Chen Quifan’s Lijiang And Hagiwara Sakutaro’s “The Town of Cats” are a few examples. Such stories make me speculate as to how our senses manage to hold our perception of the world together, and – more importantly – how fragile that hold may be, and that it may not take that much to disrupt it.

(Above: Nigeria’s capital. For the trivia points, can you name it?)

Queen of spades image in the header found here:

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7 Comments

  1. Paula Cappa said,

    May 16, 2018 at 9:22 am

    Ben Okri is a new name for me. Great quote!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jay said,

      May 16, 2018 at 9:23 am

      I’m pretty sure his collection will be fodder for a future DMI suit or a #24in48 readathon… 🙂 I loved the quote!

      Like

  2. marianallen said,

    May 16, 2018 at 11:12 am

    I love that quote, too — and it’s so true! Thanks for introducing me to another new-to-me author. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Glenn Snow said,

    May 16, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    I may have to give this author a try. I still say you write to well not to be paid for it.

    Like

  4. Dale said,

    May 16, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    I just picked up a collection of short stories by an author from Nigeria: The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She has also written a novel called Americanah that was on the PBS list of 100 books. After I read the short stories, I’ll might have to put Americanah on my list, too. Along with Ben Okri.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jay said,

      May 17, 2018 at 8:30 am

      I’ve had Americanah on my actual bookshelf at home for a few years and somehow I haven’t gotten to it yet. Africa is certainly a continent that is under-represented in my reading scope, and I should correct that.

      Liked by 1 person


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