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Ben Okri, 48, was born in Nigeria and educated in England. He is revered as a meticulous storyteller.
In 1991 he won the Booker Prize with his third novel, The Famished Road, a magical realism tale narrated by an African spirit-child. Okri received an OBE in 2001. His latest novel, Starbook, is out this month.
What was the last book you couldn’t finish?
Finnegan’s Wake, by James Joyce. But I’m going to have another go soon.
What proportion of the books you own have you actually read?
Which work would you most like to review?
Don Quixote. It’ll keep turning me round and round, which I like. I’ve read it three times.
What book changed your life?
The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu. It’s a guide to the highest kind of living.
Where do you write best?
Wherever the writing insists on being done.
How do you cure writer’s block?
I don’t believe in writer’s block.
Do you rewrite at the end, or as you go along?
I don’t follow any rules.
When are you happiest?
When I’m in nature.
Does music help or hinder your writing?
I don’t hear anything when I’m deep into my work.
Do you meditate often?
Meditation is a part of living, isn’t it?
What is the best piece of advice a parent ever gave you?
My mum always used to say to me “Remember who you are”.
What is your current favourite word?
Who would you most like to sit next to at a dinner party?
There are a lot of questions I’d like to ask Jesus. And Mozart is such fun. He’s just electric and mischievous and playful.
How do you feel about book clubs?
I wish they’d have more unusual books.
Are you a fan of audio books?
I prefer the written word, but audio books can be lovely if the narrator has a good voice.
Can you remember the first novel you read?
No. The first piece of writing that struck me was the collection of stories, The Arabian Nights.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be instead?
My soul is haunted by music. I’d like to compose.
Which do you prefer, hardbacks or paperbacks?
Seven years ago, I’d have preferred paperback because it’s more democratic. Now there’s nothing like a really good book in a beautiful hardback.