Ben Okri Quotes
“Only those who truly love and who are truly strong can sustain their lives as a dream. You dwell in your own enchantment. Life throws stones at you, but your love and your dream change those stones into the flowers of discovery. Even if you lose, or are defeated by things, your triumph will always be exemplary. And if no one knows it, then there are places that do. People like you enrich the dreams of the worlds, and it is dreams that create history. People like you are unknowing transformers of things, protected by your own fairy-tale, by love.”
“One human life is deeper than the ocean. Strange fishes and sea-monsters and mighty plants live in the rock-bed of our spirits. The whole of human history is an undiscovered continent deep in our souls. There are dolphins, plants that dream, magic birds inside us. The sky is inside us. The earth is in us.”
“That's the way it is. If you believe in something your very belief renders you unqualified to do it. Your earnestness will come across. Your passion will show. Your enthusiasm will make everyone nervous. And your naivety will irritate. Which means that you will become suspect. Which means you will be prone to disillusionment. Which means that you will not be able to sustain your belief in the face of all the piranha fish which nibble away at your idea and your faith, 'till only the skeleton of your dream is left. Which means that you have to become a fanatic, a fool, a joke, an embarrassment. The world - which is to say the powers that be - would listen to your ardent ideas with a stiff smile on its face, then put up impossible obstacles, watch you finally give up your cherished idea, having mangled it beyond recognition, and after you slope away in profound discouragement it will take up your idea, dust it down, give it a new spin, and hand it over to someone who doesn't believe in it at all.”
“We plan our lives according to a dream that came to us in our childhood, and we find that life alters our plans. And yet, at the end, from a rare height, we also see that our dream was our fate. It's just that providence had other ideas as to how we would get there. Destiny plans a different route, or turns the dream around, as if it were a riddle, and fulfills the dream in ways we couldn't have expected.”
“Will you be at the harvest,
Among the gatherers of new fruits?
Then you must begin today to remake
Your mental and spiritual world,
And join the warriors and celebrants
Of freedom, realizers of great dreams.
You can’t remake the world
Without remaking yourself.
Each new era begins within.
It is an inward event,
With unsuspected possibilities
For inner liberation.
We could use it to turn on
Our inward lights.
We could use it to use even the dark
And negative things positively.
We could use the new era
To clean our eyes,
To see the world differently,
To see ourselves more clearly.
Only free people can make a free world.
Infect the world with your light.
Help fulfill the golden prophecies.
Press forward the human genius.
Our future is greater than our past.”
“Bad things will happen and good things too. Your life will be full of surprises. Miracles happen only where there has been suffering. So taste your grief to the fullest. Don’t try and press it down. Don’t hide from it. Don’t escape. It is life too. It is truth. But it will pass and time will put a strange honey in the bitterness. That’s the way life goes.”
“We disliked the rigours of existence, the unfulfilled longings, the enshrined injustices of the world, the labyrinths of love, the ignorance of parents, the fact of dying, and the amazing indifference of the Living in the midst of the simple beauties of the universe. We feared the heartlessness of human beings, all of whom are born blind, few of whom ever learn to see.”
“What hope is there for individual reality or authenticity when the forces of violence and orthodoxy, the earthly powers of guns and bombs and manipulated public opinion make it impossible for us to be authentic and fulfilled human beings?
The only hope is in the creation of alternative values, alternative realities. The only hope is in daring to redream one's place in the world - a beautiful act of imagination, and a sustained act of self becoming. Which is to say that in some way or another we breach and confound the accepted frontiers of things.”
“There is a kind of expressed love which is easy to subvert. When a figure is loved for their deeds, their conquests, their heroism, their goodness, their love of the people, these are easy enough to destroy... But there is a kind of love which is felt for apparently no reason... A love, inspired, it seems, by the gods, which it is impossible to fight, distort, destroy, or weaken. In fact, the attempts to destroy such loves only strengthen them. And to do nothing allows them to continue to grow at their natural pace, inexoribly, till this love becomes a wide and silent adoration.”
- Date of birth: March 15, 1959
- Born: in Minna, Nigeria.
- Description: Poet and novelist Ben Okri was born in 1959 in Minna, northern Nigeria, to an Igbo mother and Urhobo father. He grew up in London before returning to Nigeria with his family in 1968. Much of his early fiction explores the political violence that he witnessed at first hand during the civil war in Nigeria. He left the country when a grant from the Nigerian government enabled him to read Comparative Literature at Essex University in England.
He was poetry editor for West Africa magazine between 1983 and 1986 and broadcast regularly for the BBC World Service between 1983 and 1985. He was appointed Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts at Trinity College Cambridge in 1991, a post he held until 1993. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1987, and was awarded honorary doctorates from the universities of Westminster (1997) and Essex (2002).
His first two novels, Flowers and Shadows (1980) and The Landscapes Within (1981), are both set in Nigeria and feature as central characters two young men struggling to make sense of the disintegration and chaos happening in both their family and country. The two collections of stories that followed, Incidents at the Shrine (1986) and Stars of the New Curfew (1988), are set in Lagos and London.
In 1991 Okri was awarded the Booker Prize for Fiction for his novel The Famished Road (1991). Set in a Nigerian village, this is the first in a trilogy of novels which tell the story of Azaro, a spirit child. Azaro's narrative is continued in Songs of Enchantment (1993) and Infinite Riches (1998). Other recent fiction includes Astonishing the Gods (1995) and Dangerous Love (1996), which was awarded the Premio Palmi (Italy) in 2000. His latest novels are In Arcadia (2002) and Starbook (2007).
A collection of poems, An African Elegy, was published in 1992, and an epic poem, Mental Flight, in 1999. A collection of essays, A Way of Being Free, was published in 1997. Ben Okri is also the author of a play, In Exilus.
In his latest book, Tales of Freedom (2009), Okri brings together poetry and story.
Ben Okri is a Vice-President of the English Centre of International PEN, a member of the board of the Royal National Theatre, and was awarded an OBE in 2001. He lives in London.