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Perspective

The Freedom Artist: Ben Okri asks 'Who is the prisoner?'

Booker Prize-winning author Ben Okri tells us about his latest novel, "The Freedom Artist," a world where people are largely asleep, unable or unwilling to think for themselves. Books have disappeared. People are in prisons. The novel offers some frighteningly contemporary commentary on life today designed to "upwake" the reader. "If you are in the prison of your body. Who is the prisoner?" he writes. Okri joined us for Perspective.

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Speaking to us about the book, Okri says "It’s a fictional warning. An essential warning about the slow erosion of our freedoms. For me also a very deep warning about what is happening to truth in our times. More than that, I think it’s a cry, a plea, a reaching out into the mind of a reader and hopefully shaking him at the scruff of the neck and saying look at what this world is becoming on our watch."

For the author, an artist in today’s world "should be almost a semi revolutionary. They should show us a picture of ourselves that we don’t really want to see but which is becoming true."

Using references from ancient mythology, Okri says he was trying with the novel to look at how power structures alter myths, which for him are the core places where people's deepest values and possibilities are coded. "I think there are two big fights going on in society at any one point which is a fight for the control of myths, in the same way as there is a fight for the control for water."

Ben Okri is a Nigerian novelist and poet.

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