Ben Okri (1959- )

Robert Bennett, Lecturer, Department of English, University of California Santa Barbara

African Postcolonial Literature


Ben Okri was born in 1959 in Lagos, Nigeria. He attended Urhobo College, Warri, for a few years and later continued his education privately in Lagos. Okri claims that his childhood has significantly influenced his writing, yet he has not shared many details about his childhood because he believes that it is best explored in his fiction. Instead of providing autobiographical details, Okri prefers to talk about how reading has influenced his writing. He started by reading African, classical, and European myths, and he continued reading from his father's library of the western classics. Noting many strong similarities between these diverse cultural traditions, Okri developed a worldview that combines African and European traditions. His reading also inspired him to begin writing stories and essays while he was still in secondary school. Later he failed to get a place at a Nigerian university, so he took a job at a paint store and started publishing his writing in Nigerian women's journals and evening papers. By the time he turned eighteen, he had completed his first novel, Flowers and Shadows, and moved to England, where he attended the University of Essex. He continues to live, read, and write in London.

© 1998 Pushpa Naidu Parekh and Siga Fatima Jagne. All rights reserved. Bennett, Robert. "Ben Okri (1959- )." Postcolonial African Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Eds. Puspa Naidu Parekh and Siga Fatima Jagne. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1998. 364-373. This article is reprinted with the permission of Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc. and Robert Bennett.

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Last Modified: 6 June, 2002