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“Beyond Postcolonialism: The Artist's Role according to Ben Okri” Mariaconcetta Costantini G. d’Annunzio University of Chieti-Pescara AISCLI SUMMER SCHOOL:

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Presentation on theme: "“Beyond Postcolonialism: The Artist's Role according to Ben Okri” Mariaconcetta Costantini G. d’Annunzio University of Chieti-Pescara AISCLI SUMMER SCHOOL:"— Presentation transcript:

1 “Beyond Postcolonialism: The Artist's Role according to Ben Okri” Mariaconcetta Costantini G. d’Annunzio University of Chieti-Pescara AISCLI SUMMER SCHOOL: WORLD CULTURES AND LITERATURES IN ENGLISH Ethics and Literature: from Civil and Human Rights to Environmental HumanitiesS September 2014

2 Ben Okri -works NOVELSSHORT STORIES COLLECTIONS Flowers and Shadows (1980)Incidents at the Shrine (1986) The Landscapes Within (1981)Stars of the New Curfew (1988) The Famished Road (1991)Tales of Freedom (2009) Songs of Enchantment (1993) Astonishing the Gods (1995) Dangerous Love (1996) Infinite Riches (1998) In Arcadia (2002) Starbook (2007) POETRYESSAYS An African Elegy (1992) Birds of Heaven (1995) Mental Fight (1999) A Way of Being Free (1997) Wild (2012)A Time for New Dreams (2011)

3 Cesare Segre, Ritorno alla critica, Einaudi, Umberto Eco, Sulla letteratura, Bompiani, 2003.

4 “The postmodern reply to the past consists of recognizing that the past, since it cannot really be destroyed because its deconstruction leads to silence, must be revisited; but with irony, not innocently”. (Umberto Eco, Postscript to The Name of the Rose, trans. William Weaver, 1984)

5 Homo fabula: we are storytelling beings (“The Joys of Storytelling III”).

6 It may seem that because we live in a fractured world the art of storytelling is dead. It may seem that because we live in a world without coherent belief, a world that has lost its centre, in which a multitude of contending versions of reality clamour in the mind, that storytelling and enchantment are no longer relevant. This is a sad view. Worse than that, it is a view which implies that we no longer have a basis from which to speak to one another. When we do attempt speech or song we do it solipsistically, in fractured tones. This negative view of storytelling also implies that there are no continuities in the human experience, and no magical places resident in us that we can call up in one another (“The Joys of Storytelling I”).

7 The mystery of storytelling is the miracle of a single living seed which can populate whole acres of human minds. (“The Joys of Storytelling I”)

8 If artists continue to develop, in retrospect this may be seen as an era of immense experimentation and energy, of the extension of old boundaries, the exploration of unexhausted mines and quarries. (“The Joys of Storytelling II”)

9 The earliest storytellers were magi, seers, bards, griots, shamans. […] They wrestled with the mysteries and transformed them into myths, which coded the world and helped the community to live through one more darkness, with eyes wide open, and with hearts set alight. (“The Joys of Storytelling I”)

10 Writing, in our day, has moved infinitely closer to its source, to this disquieting sound which announces from the depths of language ― once we attend to it ― the source against which we seek refuge and toward which we address ourselves. (M. Foucault, “Language to Infinity”)

11 And I think that now, in our age, in the mid-ocean of our days, with certainties collapsing about us, and with no beliefs by which to steer our ways through the dark descending nights ahead – I think that now we need those fictional old bards and fearless storytellers, those seers. We need their magic, their courage, their love, and their fire more than ever before. It is precisely in a fractured broken age that we need mystery and a reawoken sense of wonder. We need them in order to begin to be whole again. We need to be reminded of the primeval terror again. (“The Joys of Storytelling I”)

12 This feeling that books, that words can once again trouble the sleep of ancient powers; this joyful challenge to the centrality of realism; this eternal questioning of what reality really is; this healing assault on homogeneity; this quest for magical new realms; this playful ambush on the ivory tower and its guardsmen who police the accepted frontiers of what is considered valid in narrative terms; this unsung age of happy and tragic literary warriors and enchanters and healers; this creation of texts which are dreams that keep changing, fluid texts which rewrite themselves when the reader isn’t looking, texts which are dreams that change you as you read them, dreams which are texts which you write in the duration of contact between the eye and the page; all these marvels, acts of private and public courage, all this and much more constitutes for me the joys of storytelling. (“The Joys of Storytelling II”).

13 DF: So, you don’t feel that you have been influenced by any writers of canons or styles in particular? How would you react, for example, to The Famished Road being called a magic realist novel? BO: Strangely enough, it’s not the subject or the history of the place or the personal philosophy or the culture that shapes the piece of work. It’s something about the age which you live in, but it’s something more to do with your secret true orientation to life that really does. That’s where writers have their true affinities. That’s why I reject utterly the way in which my work is placed within the whole context of the margin, the peripheral, postcolonial and stuff like that. I think those are very poor descriptions of the work that some of us are trying to do. Because it completely situates the work within a time/historical context and not within a context of self and inner necessity, which is bigger than that and beyond that. And there are affinities between writers that have more to do with that than they have to do with the fact that they both come from so-called ex-colonial nations. (“Whisperings of Gods. Interview with Delia Falconer”)

14 It is a kind of realism, but a realism with many more dimensions. (“Interview with J. W. Ross”, in Contemporary Authors)

15 […] the African enchanters, whose stories are rivers reclaiming their own land, and where stories are journeys in the forgotten dreams of the centuries. (“The Joys of Storytelling I”)

16 We are a people who are massaged by fictions; we grow up in a sea of narratives and myths, the perpetual invention of stories. (“Interview with J. W. Ross”)

17 In Renaissance paintings I sometimes see that the interaction between Europe and Africa is an old one. (“Amongst the Silent Stones”)

18 Poets, be cunning. Learn some of the miracles. Survive. Weave your trans-formations in your life as well as in your work. Live. Stay alive. Don’t go under, don’t go mad, don’t let them define you, or confine you, or buy your silence. If they do confine you, burst out of their prisons with wilder fatidical songs. Be a counter-antagonist, break their anti-myths. (“While the World Sleeps”)

19 If you want to know what is happening in an age or in a nation, find out what is happening to the writers; the town-criers; for they are the seismographs that calibrate impending earthquakes in the spirit of the times. […] The writer is the barometer of the age. (“Fables Are Made of This”)

20 If the poet begins to speak only of narrow things, of things that we can effortlessly digest and recognise, of things that do not disturb, frighten, stir, or annoy us, or make us restless for more, make us cry for greater justice, make us want to set sail and explore inklings murdered in our youths, if the poet sings only of our restricted angles and in restricted terms and in restricted language, then what hope is there for any of us in this world? (“While the World Sleeps”)

21 The writer, functioning in a magical medium, an abstract medium, does one half of the work, but the reader does the other. […] Reading, therefore, is a co-production between writer and reader. (“The Joys of Storytelling I”)

22 The great essays on storytelling are done in stories themselves. (“The Joys of Storytelling I”)

23 […] the function of the critic really should be to multiply the possibilities of interpretation of a work; to open up a work, to illuminate the world of a work; not to reduce it and to diminish it; to keep opening it up because that’s what works do. (“The Joys of Storytelling II”)

24 La lettura delle opere letterarie ci obbliga a un esercizio della fedeltà e del rispetto nella libertà dell’interpretazione. C’è una pericolosa eresia critica, tipica dei nostri giorni, per cui di un’opera letteraria si può fare quello che si vuole, leggendovi quanto i nostri più incontrollabili impulsi ci suggeriscono. Non è vero. Le opere letterarie ci invitano alla libertà dell’interpretazione, perché ci propongono un discorso dai molti piani di lettura e ci pongono di fronte alle ambiguità e del linguaggio e della vita. Ma per poter procedere in questo gioco, per cui ogni generazione legge le opere letterarie in modo diverso, occorre essere mossi da un profondo rispetto verso quella che io ho altrove chiamato l’intenzione del testo. (U. Eco, Sulla letteratura)

25 […] la stagnazione continua. Anche accom- pagnata da scoramento, di fronte ai mutati rapporti di forza tra le attività culturali, e al declino del prestigio, entro queste attività, della letteratura, perciò pure della critica, che è al servizio della letteratura, come interprete e valorizzatrice. È anche affievolito quell’impegno etico, che affidava alla critica il compito di spingersi verso le verità del testo. Le inter- pretazioni possibili, venuto meno il compito di verifica, sono tutte disponibili in un supermarket dell’opinabile. (C. Segre, Ritorno alla critica)

26 Philosophy is most powerful when it resolves into story. But story is amplified in power by the presence of philosophy. (“The Joys of Storytelling I”)


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