The Nigerian / British writer Ben Okri has given us, readers, an oeuvre that leaves us with a dazzling mind. ‘Infinite Riches’ is the third novel in a series that started with ‘The Famished Road’ (1991), was followed by ‘Songs of Enchantment’ (1993) and now I have read this book. To be honest with you, I have several of his books and short stories but I have not yet reads the first two book ws I have mentioned. They are on my shelf. It will be time to take them of the shelf and start reading these two books.
Okri takes us back to the heady days of the looming independence of Nigeria. The Governor General prepares himself for his return to his native Britain. He looks back and he looks forward. He tries to rewrite the history of his colony, in true colonial fashion. But this colonial officer is not the most important figure in this novel. It is Azaro, the spirit-child, who lives at home with his parents but who also hovers around the unfolding events and in the world of spirits and forces that come together in these important days. He attends political meetings and is surprised by all the promises he hears from the forthcoming leaders.
His father is arrested by the police force for a murder he did not commit. He is beaten, maltreated, tortured and is a changed man. His wife starts a search for her husband and a growing number of women of all classes and backgrounds follow her. In the end her husband is being releases and women of the upper class take over her movement. We meet Madame Koto, who lives nearby with her bar and restuarant and places where men meet women. Madama Koto rises to great fame. Her powers in the spirit world are feard and sought after. Her death is an event that grows and grows, just as Madame herself.
In this novel we travel through multi-dimensional worlds that leaves me bewildered, written in a captivating style. Political forces that clash. Cultural forces that clash. Everything is on the go. New patterns have to be formed in a new world. Shifting paradigma’s. Clashes all over the place. What will the common man and woman notice of the change in the political leadership? When the white sails the seas to set foot on British soil will the common man live in freedom. Or will he be captured by new forces that fill the void?
Ben Okri has done his readers a great service by writing this book.