Ben Okri OBE FRSL (born 15 March 1959) is a Nigerian poet and novelist. Okri is considered one of the foremost African authors in the post-modern and post-colonial traditions and has been compared favourably to authors such as Salman Rushdie and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Ben Okri is a member of the Urhobo people; his father was Urhobo, and his mother was half-Igbo. He was born in Minna in west central Nigeria to Grace and Silver Okri in 1959. His father Silver moved his family to London when Okri was less than two years old so that Silver could study law. Okri thus spent his earliest years in London, and attended primary school in Peckham. In 1968 Silver moved his family back to Nigeria where he practised law in Lagos, providing free or discounted services for those who could not afford it. His exposure to the Nigerian civil war and a culture in which his peers saw visions of spirits at this time later provided inspiration for Okri's fiction.
At the age of 14, after being rejected for admission to a university program in physics because of his youth, Okri claimed to have had a revelation that poetry was his chosen calling. He began writing articles on social and political issues, but these never found a publisher. He then wrote short stories based on those articles, and some were published in women's journals and evening papers. Okri claimed that his criticism of the government in some of this early work led to his name being placed on a death list, and necessitated his departure from the country. In the late 1970s, Okri moved back to England to study comparative literature at Essex University with a grant from the Nigerian government. But when funding for his scholarship fell through, Okri found himself homeless, sometimes living in parks and sometimes with friends. He describes this period as "very, very important" to his work: "I wrote and wrote in that period... If anything [the desire to write] actually intensified."..
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