cover image The Last Gift of the Master Artists

The Last Gift of the Master Artists

Ben Okri. Other Press, $18.99 trade paper (432p) ISBN 978-1-63542-279-5

Booker Prize winner Okri (The Famished Road) delivers a convincing cautionary tale of absolute power set in ancient Africa. A prince falls in love with the daughter of an artisan known as the Master Artist, whose portentous sculptures (in one, a man is chained to another man) offer an unsettling view of the future. The prince and the maiden then have visions about the enslavement of their peoples. While the daughter of the Master Artist daydreams in his studio, she imagines she’s at sea, “float[ing] above the chained people who were lying head to foot, and foot to head, in the vile smelling hold of the ship.” While the narrative takes on timeless themes of evil, slavery, art, and mortality, Okri cultivates an ominous tone as the fable begins speaking to the erosion of present-day freedoms. Accounting for the rise of an authoritarian ruler, Okri writes: “Sometimes a sense of doom makes a people susceptible to that which in normal times would horrify them.” 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. Agent: Georgina Capel, Georgina Capel Assoc. Ltd. (Nov.)