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Ben Okri’s Aphorisms: “Music on the Wings of a Soaring Bird”

Gray Rosemary
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Gray Rosemary: Emeritus Professor, Department of English, University of Pretoria

Academic Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, 2018, vol. 7, issue 2, 17-24

Abstract: The title of this presentation is derived from Ben Okri’s latest publication, The Magic Lamp (2017), itself an intersectional text featuring a selection of Rosemary Clunie’s art and Okri’s accompanying ontopoietic/ heightened consciousness prose. This trans-disciplinary paper traces the trajectory and suggests the import of Okri’s blueprints for regaining our true state of being: his aphorisms in Birds of Heaven (1996), A Time for New Dreams (2011) and those in Johns Hopkins’s journal, Callaloo (2015, 38(5): 1042-1043). Reviving a wisdom corpus from antiquity, this Booker Prizewinning Nigerian novelist provides a guiding paremiological exemplum in A Time for New Dreams to counter postmodernity’s obsession with the pleasure principle or fast living and hyper-connectivity: “And out of the wilderness/ The songbird sings/ ‘Nothing is what it seems./ This is a time for new dreams’” (2011: 147). Based on Italian Renaissance’s Desiderius Erasmus’s ([1540] 1982) view on the luminous benefits of concise thought, the argument is that the quintessence of aphorisms or proverbs has been and is their pithy wisdom. A basic premise is that the Imaginatio Creatix communicating in poetic prose aphorisms provides fertile ground for new connections, new depths, and new transversals as well as epiphanies or what Okri terms the alchemy of ‘serendipity’. A fragment in Birds of Heaven (1996: 40) highlights the moral purpose of Okri’s aphorisms: “It is precisely in a broken age that we need mystery and a reawakened sense of wonder: need them in order to be whole again.”

Keywords: aphorism; A Time for New Dreams; Birds of Heaven; Ben Okri; serendipity (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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