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The Last Gift of the Master Artists: A Novel (Hardcover)
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The Booker Prize–winning author, a child of the Nigerian Civil War, reinvents through the story of the Atlantic slave trade the beautiful soul and resilient culture of his country.
A boy and a girl meet by chance on a riverbank in Africa. One is the son of a king, struggling to find his place in the world, the other the daughter of a craftsman from the secretive tribe of master artists. The prince, entranced, stays hidden in the bushes. The girl, knowing nothing of him but his voice, agrees to meet again. When she fails to appear the next day, he begins to search for her, tracing her at last to her village where, disguised as an apprentice, he finds a place in her father’s workshop.
But this is no fairy tale, no conventional love story. Their world—though they don’t know it yet—is ending. A strange wind has begun to blow, and in its wake, things are disappearing: songs, stories, artworks, and finally, people. Beautiful ships with white sails are glimpsed on the horizon…
When the novel was first published in the UK in 2007 under the title Starbook, the central role of the Middle Passage was overlooked. Okri has since rewritten the book, giving it a new dimension, more light, more acumen. In 2022 the deep political impact of this extraordinary tale won’t be missed.
About the Author
Ben Okri is a poet, novelist, essayist, short-story writer, anthologist, aphorist, and playwright. He has also written film scripts. His works have won numerous national and international prizes, including the Booker Prize for Fiction. His illustrated eco-fable Every Leaf a Hallelujah and his novel Astonishing the Gods were published by Other Press in 2022.
“One of the most beautiful and profound novels I’ve read in ages. It also packs an unsettling punch…Okri never dwells on the horror of slavery itself—instead, he makes us fall in love with the world it’s about to destroy.” —Washington Post
“[Okri’s] writing takes on the great riddles of existence—freedom and consciousness, truth and illusion, suffering and transcendence—spinning them into shimmering, allegorical texts…at a time of deep reckoning and crisis…his work feel[s] all the more prescient.” —New York Times
“Breathtakingly beautiful…[a] magical take on Africa before the arrival of the Atlantic slave ships—a world of art and artists, lovers, storytellers and philosophers.” —The Independent
“A convincing cautionary tale of absolute power…A master storyteller, Okri prompts readers to reflect on the mistakes of the past and consider the ways in which they are repeated. As ever, Okri channels a voice well worth listening to.” —Publishers Weekly
“Ben Okri is the most quotable writer of all time. Every line he writes effervesces with poetry, philosophy, and story. The Last Gift of the Master Artists is another testament to Okri’s sublime brilliance.” —Nnedi Okorafor, author of Binti and Akata Witch
Praise for Ben Okri:
“I love the mythical, fablelike quality of his stories. There is something very comforting and ancient about them.” —Alan Cumming
“Ben Okri is that rare thing, a literary and social visionary, a writer for whom all three—literature, culture, and vision—are profoundly interwoven.” —Ali Smith
“Fiction’s master of enchantments stares down a real horror, and without blinking or flinching, produces a work of beauty, grace, and uncommon power.” —Marlon James