The Freedom Artist

To those of you who read books: here’s another recommendation of a compelling examination of how freedom is threatened in a post-truth society. Ben Okri says that he had wanted to write this book “for a long time, maybe all [his] life.” Reading it now in these crazy times is bound to put an even heavier weigh on your chest.

New tales were encouraged. New myths were created by the most highly decorated artists of the land. To be like everyone else was the highest distinction a citizen could hope for. All the new myths promoted this ideal. Uniqueness, individuality, curiosity, became invidious qualities. They made enemies of the state. Anyone who stood out in some way was suspect. To be different was to condemn your fellow citizens. Those who were tall learnt to walk with a stoop. The intelligent learnt to be foolish.

I started this book in an aircraft full of passengers from Freetown. Half of them had full body protective suits, gloves and plastic hoods on throughout the flight. At times, when I had a break from reading and looked around me, I felt I was still in the story! It was one of those powerful moments when you think you escape this world into a book, into that famously mythical world by Okri, and yet everything that is happening around you looks even more fictive and absurd.

Ben Okri: The Freedom Artist (Head of Zeus, 2019)

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