From Realism to Fantasy: The Poetics of Setting in Ben Okri’s Narratives
Since the emergence of Things Fall Apart to now, Nigerian writers have always resorted to pictorial depiction of what readers can deem as verifiable in their narratives via various realistic aids and indices. But with the appearance of Ben Okri’s narratives on the modern Nigerian literary landscape, this seeming concrete and smooth running literary conditionality appears to have been ruptured. This article attempts to describe Ben Okri’s poetics as regards the setting of his narratives by detailing what artistic strategies enabled him to align himself with tradition in the portrayal of realistic setting, on one hand, and enhanced his deviation from this by creating fantastical out-of-this-world scenes in works bestriding the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, on the other. It also teases out what peculiar impress characters tend to make on setting and setting on characters. Curiously, this piece discovers that as Okri’s genius matures, he appears to judge conventional setting important in so far as it is artistically agreeable with and supportive of the dominant imagery figured by major characters. This article hopes to further conventional theories of setting in Nigerian narratives by declaring that for the first time in modern Nigerian narratives, the magical, the improbable, the fantastical, the visionary, the prophetic, and the realism-oriented tend to emerge in Okri’s corpus, in a way tremendously at variance with what is obtainable in Nigerian myths, legends, and folktales.