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Novelist, poet, short-story writer, Ben Okri has spellbound readers and won the highest accolades – such as Britain’s Booker Prize – for his visionary work. He talks to Boyd Tonkin about his new novel The Freedom Artist, the search for truth in a world of lies, and the legacy of the iconic writers and rebels who found inspiration here on the Gulf of Poets.
BEN OKRI: Novelist, poet, short-story writer and essayist, Ben Okri was born in Nigeria. He grew up in Nigeria and England. His story collections include Incidents at the Shrine and Tales of Freedom, and his 11 novels Songs of Enchantment, Dangerous Love, Astonishing the Gods and The Famished Road, which won both the UK’s Booker Prize and Italy’s Premio Grinzane Cavour. Among his poetry collections are An African Elegy and Mental Fight, and in 2018 he edited the anthology Rise Like Lions: Poetry for the many. His most recent novel, published this year, is The Freedom Artist. Ben Okri’s other honours include the Commonwealth Writers Prize, the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction and the Premio Palmi, and he was awarded the OBE in 2000. His fellow-novelist Ali Smith calls him “that rare thing, a literary and social visionary, a writer for whom all three – literature, culture and vision – are profoundly interwoven”.
BOYD TONKIN is co-presenter of Suoni dal Golfo’s Sea of Stories on the Gulf of Poets. An author, journalist and critic, he is special adviser to The International Booker Prize, the English-speaking world’s premier award for translated fiction (which he chaired in 2016). He writes on literature and arts for international media including The Economist, Financial Times, The Times, New Scientist and New York Review of Books Daily, and contributes to the BBC. His acclaimed reader’s guide to global fiction over 400 years, The Hundred Best Novels in Translation (2018) was published in paperback in June 2019. From 1996 to 2016, he was Literary Editor and then Senior Writer at The Independent newspaper in London, where he re-founded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and co-judged it until its merger with the Man Booker International Prize. He has lectured, and spoken at festivals, around the world, and he curated the Italian Inspirations series at the Italian Cultural Institute in London in 2017. Educated at Cambridge University, he is a Trustee of the Orwell Foundation, associate editor of the journal Critical Muslim and reviews music and opera for theartsdesk.com.
This conversation is part of Sea of Stories on the Gulf of Poets. The talk will be in English with simultaneous translation into Italian.
This evening is free entry/entrata gratis