“Wander round this book, as through the world laid out in the prism of words and colours, secret forms and hidden narratives,” writes Booker prize winning writer Ben Okri. But the format of this wonderful piece of literature and art is led by the artist Rosemary Clunie.
There are 25 fairy tales for adults, beautifully illustrated and presenting to the reader and viewer a symbolic sharing of the world around us. From nature to colours and travels far and wide across continents this is a joyful reflection of what we may dream of but also of what we have seen but perhaps previously ignored.
‘Things not there’ perfectly sums this up. The traveller is almost a pilgrim in a beautiful landscape noting small changes and people and not questioning but sharing, “Somewhere a girl who could have been a poet started to weep.” We don’t know why, nor is it explained, but he and his mind travel on having observed, shared and perhaps in many instances cared but not become involved.
This dreamlike quality continues through all the tales and it is wonderful to read Okri, more known for contemporary and often hard-hitting stark writing, now flowing into a fantasy land where human responses are shared with creatures and with the surrounding nature.
The paintings could be seen as childlike but then a fairy tale can take us back to that innocence of youth before the human pessimism enters and disturbs a basic reaction to beauty and the small details of life.
A mood-enhancing read taking you to a place beyond the real world. Let your imagination fly and savour both the writing and the accompanying art. As a personal read just the tonic in this mad world today.
Book groups may want to take a tale each and respond back. Overall, it’s a beautiful gift. A thing of beauty in a sometimes ugly world.
Philipa Coughlan 5/4
The Magic Lamp: Dreams of Our Age by Ben Okri
Apollo 9781786694508 hbk Sep 2017