Disclaimer: This feature was originally published on CNN.com and is being republished by www.cp-africa.com. All content copyrights belong to CNN.
- Nigerian writer Ben Okri is one of the world’s most distinguished writers
- In 1991 he won the Booker prize for his novel “The Famished Road”
- Growing up witnessing “casual brutality” influenced his writing
Read the text version of his interview below the videos.
Poet Ben Okri tells CNN’s Nima Elbagir about his writing fame and his responsibility as a writer/poet.
Poet Ben Okri tells CNN’s Nima Elbagir about his struggle and journey to becoming a writer.
CNN: You wrote your first poem at the age of 14 …
Ben Okri: It’s a moment that changed my life, really. On this particular day it was raining and everybody in the house was out so I was the only one indoors.
I think Miles Davis or one of Mozart’s symphonies was on the radio and I took a piece of paper and I drew what was on the mantle piece and I spent a lot of time doing this and when I finished I wrote a poem — and I looked at the drawing and it was terrible and I read the poem and it was alright. And that day I decided I was going to be a writer rather than a painter.
CNN: You were born in Nigeria and then you came to the United Kingdom and then you went back at the age of seven, and that was during a really pivotal time in Nigeria.
BO: I had heard so many stories about Africa, most of them negative, like lions walking in the street and people living in trees and things like that.
But I went back to Nigeria and Lagos was teeming with energy and optimism and discovered relations, found a world of vitality. But not long after that the civil war broke out and that was the second turning point in my life.
CNN: Did you go back to that childhood experience when you were writing “The Famished Road?”
BO: There’s a big story between that and there’s first of all surviving the civil war, well, the philosophical and human impact the war had on me.
I witnessed as a kid just so much casual brutality — I saw people being shot, I saw people who are neighbors suddenly would disappear, there was a stream that was full of dead bodies, you know these were themes that a boy, any young person, takes a while to absorb the reality of it …