Ben Okri is a Nigerian Author, Novelist & Poet, he was born on 15th March 1959 (age 60) in Minna, Nigeria to an Urhobo father Mr Silver Oghekeneshineke Loloje Okri, and a half-Igbo mother Mrs Grace Okri.
Ben Okri spent most of his early years in London, United Kingdom because his father moved them there because he just gained admission into an institution to study law as that was his passion, Ben was still a baby when they moved to London, United Kingdom.
Just a year after the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War started Ben’s father decided to move his family back to Nigeria, so he could practise his chosen Law career and help people who could not afford Lawyers for free or for a discounted fee in Lagos, Nigeria.
Ben Okri at the age of 14 already had the passion for writing and after been rejected from some universities to study physics he concluded to himself that writing could very well be his calling, so he started pursuing that path and he started to write articles on social and political matters although some of his early works did not get a publisher some of them made it to the evening bulletins.
The manner at which he wrote his articles on political matters was so expository that it earned him some death threats, which forced him to exit the country 8 years after the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War in 1978 back to England.
On his return to England, Ben gained admission into Essex University where he studied Comparative Literature, with a grant from the Nigerian government which eventually fell out and had Ben sleeping on the streets, parks and sometimes squatting with friends.
In his words, he said that those times when he slept on the streets and parks in England after his scholarship fell out was “very, very important” to his work, according to him “I wrote and wrote in that period… If anything [the desire to write] actually intensified.”
From 1983 to 1986, Ben worked in the West Africa Magazine as a poetry editor, this appointment came after he enjoyed massive success from the publishing of his first novel “Flowers and Shadows,” at the age of 21 and was a regular contributor to the BBC World Service between 1983 and 1985, continuing to publish throughout this period
For three years from 1988, he lived in a Notting Hill flat (rented from publisher friend Margaret Busby): “I brought the first draft of The Famished Road with me and that flat was where I began rewriting it… Something about my writing changed round about that time. I acquired a kind of tranquillity. I had been striving for something in my tone of voice as a writer — it was there that it finally came together… That flat is also where I wrote the short stories that became Stars of the New Curfew.”
His reputation as an author was secured when his novel “The Famished Road” won the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1991, making him the youngest ever winner of the prize.
After the publishing of his first book “Flowers and Shadows” in 1980, he rose to be an internationally recognized writer and was placed in the ranking of Africa’s best writers.
He has quite a number of novels, poetry and awards to his name his most famous masterpiece “The Famished Road” (1991) bagged him an award in 1991 Booker prize (which is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original novel written in the English language and published in the United Kingdom), to his record he has other works:
The Landscapes Within (1981)
Songs of Enchantment (1993)
Astonishing the Gods (1995)
Infinite Riches (1998)
Dangerous Love (1996)
In Arcadia (2002)
The Age of Magic (2014)
The Freedom Artist (2019)
Poetry, Essays & Short Story Collections
Incidents at the Shrine (1986)
Stars of the New Curfew (1988)
An African Elegy (1992)
Birds of Heaven (1996)
A Way of Being Free (1997)
Mental Fight (1999)
Tales of Freedom (2009)
A Time for New Dreams (2011)
The Mystery Feast: Thoughts on Storytelling (2015)
The Magic Lamp: Dreams of Our Age, with paintings by Rosemary Clunie (2017)
Rise Like Lions: Poetry for the many (2018)
The Madness of Reason (2014)
1987 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Africa Region, Best Book) – Incidents at the Shrine
1987 Aga Khan Prize for Fiction – The Dream Vendor’s August
1988 Guardian Fiction Prize – Stars of the New Curfew (shortlisted)
1991 to 1993 Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts, Trinity College, Cambridge
1991 Booker Prize – The Famished Road
1993 Chianti Ruffino-Antico Fattore International Literary Prize – The Famished Road
1994 Premio Grinzane Cavour (Italy) -The Famished Road
1995 Crystal Award (World Economic Forum)
1997 Honorary Doctorate of Literature, awarded by University of Westminster
2000 Premio Palmi (Italy) – Dangerous Love
2001 Order of the British Empire (OBE)
2002 Honorary Doctorate of Literature, awarded by University of Essex
2004 Honorary Doctor of Literature, awarded by University of Exeter
2008 International Literary Award Novi Sad (International Novi Sad Literature Festival, Serbia)
2009 Honorary Doctorate of Utopia, awarded by Universiteit voor het Algemeen Belang, Belgium
2010 Honorary Doctorate, awarded by School of Oriental and African Studies
2010 Honorary Doctorate of Arts, awarded by the University of Bedfordshire
2014 Honorary Fellow, Mansfield College, Oxford
2014 Bad Sex in Fiction Award, Literary Review
He was married to Nollywood actress Victoria Inyama and they have beautiful kids together, but the couple has since separated.
Research Support: Wikipedia