“The Secret Source”
by Ben Okri
from the September 19, 2022 issue of The New Yorker

Last year, The New Yorker published Ben Okri’s “A Wrinkle in the Realm,” which I liked okay. Prior to that, my only real experience with Okri’s work was his Booker Prize winning novel The Famished Road, which I love when I read it, oh, twenty or so years ago. I found that book deep and rich in allegory and beautifully written, all things that I felt were lacking in the allegory of “A Wrinkle in the Realm.” I’m curious where this week’s story will fall on that spectrum.

One morning, Fisher discovered that something had been done to the water. For many years, there had been people who said that something was different about the water, but no one had really believed them. Their claims were seen as just the latest wild rumors emerging from the confused state of the country.

Slowly, the city had been sinking. Its shores were overrun by mice. The foundations of churches were crowded with rats. They could be seen emerging from the graves in broad daylight. Towers had fallen. The streets were potholed and broken. Buses were parked at roadsides. Some of them had been flipped on their sides, and many of them were burnt-out shells.

Interestingly Okri has a new book coming out in November — kind of. It’s called The Last Gift of the Master Artists, but it was originally published in the United Kingdom, in a different form, as Starbook. The description from the U.S. publisher Other Press says that “the central role of the Middle Passage was overlooked,” so Orki rewrote it, “giving it a new dimension, more light, more acumen.”

“The Secret Source” is not an excerpt from this forthcoming novel. Okri says in his interview with Deborah Treisman that it will be in a collection of stories, poems, and essays called Tiger Works, which will come out next year.

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