Ben Okri e il poeta-vate del terzo millennio: oltre il postcolonialismo

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Ben Okri e il poeta-vate del terzo millennio: oltre il postcolonialismo
“Beyond Postcolonialism:
The Artist's Role according to Ben Okri”
Mariaconcetta Costantini
G. d’Annunzio University of Chieti-Pescara
Ethics and Literature: from Civil and
Human Rights to Environmental
15-20 September 2014
Ben Okri -works
Flowers and Shadows (1980)
The Landscapes Within (1981)
The Famished Road (1991)
Songs of Enchantment (1993)
Astonishing the Gods (1995)
Dangerous Love (1996)
Infinite Riches (1998)
In Arcadia (2002)
Starbook (2007)
Incidents at the Shrine (1986)
Stars of the New Curfew (1988)
Tales of Freedom (2009)
An African Elegy (1992)
Mental Fight (1999)
Wild (2012)
Birds of Heaven (1995)
A Way of Being Free (1997)
A Time for New Dreams (2011)
Cesare Segre, Ritorno alla critica, Einaudi, 2001.
Umberto Eco, Sulla letteratura, Bompiani, 2003.
“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
(Umberto Eco, Postscript to The Name of the Rose,
trans. William Weaver, 1984)
Homo fabula: we are storytelling beings
(“The Joys of Storytelling III”).
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”).
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”)
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”)
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”)
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”)
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”)
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
(“The Joys of Storytelling II”).
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
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
(“Whisperings of Gods. Interview with Delia Falconer”)
It is a kind of realism, but a realism with many
more dimensions.
(“Interview with J. W. Ross”, in Contemporary Authors)
[…] 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”)
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”)
In Renaissance paintings I sometimes see that
the interaction between Europe and Africa is
an old one.
(“Amongst the Silent Stones”)
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”)
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”)
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”)
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”)
The great essays on storytelling are done in
stories themselves.
(“The Joys of Storytelling I”)
[…] 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”)
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)
[…] la stagnazione continua. Anche accompagnata 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 interpretazioni possibili, venuto meno il compito di
verifica, sono tutte disponibili in un supermarket
(C. Segre, Ritorno alla critica)
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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