Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

Catalog » Browse by Title: P » Prayer for the Living

Prayer for the Living


Topical and timely, Booker Prize–winning author Ben Okri’s new collection of short stories blurs parallel realities and walks the line between darkness and magic.

$24.95 $18.71

What people are saying…

A Library Journal Best Book of 2021!

“No matter how different each story is in context or story line, Prayer for the Living is not simply a collection of different tales, it is a deliberate assemblage of universal truths that explores what it means to seek and to live.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

“[Okri’s] new story collection, Prayer for the Living, spans the globe.”
Los Angeles Times

Prayer for the Living creates beauty in the empty spaces, and the confusing lines between reality and myth . . . Regardless of where Ben Okri takes his readers, he does so with a steady, confident hand, even in ambiguity.”
Locus Magazine

“This ambitious collection by the Booker Prize-winning literary author includes 23 stories, a dozen of them new, plus a poem, with works mingling the realistic, the magical, and the metafictional.”
Locus Magazine, a New & Notable Book

“Ben Okri has a fantastic imagination. Reading the collection is similar to turning a glass snow globe and watching several dozen flakes each descending differently. He’s not creating magical realism as much as redefining it. . . Okri’s passion for the written word had my heart soaring.”
Woven Tale Press

“A career-spanning story collection from the Booker Prize–winning Nigerian writer that navigates the blurry line between dream and reality . . . ‘Alternative Realities Are True’ is a dimension-warping detective story worthy of Philip K. Dick, and ‘Don Ki-Otah and the Ambiguity of Reading’ is a Don Quixote satire whose metafictional gamesmanship evokes Borges and Achebe . . . Okri skillfully embeds abstract ideas in concrete, engaging storytelling . . . Mind-bending and provocative.”
Kirkus Reviews, STARRED Review

“Booker Prize–winning poet and novelist Okri creates a dreamlike atmosphere in one store, whipsaws the reader into a horrifying triptych about Boko Haram in the next, and then calms with unexpectedly gentle humor. There is something to entice or challenge every reader in this eclectic repertoire.”
Library Journal, STARRED Review

“Writing across countries, citizens, centuries, Okri effortlessly showcases his literary fluency. Even beyond specific details of time and place, global audiences will discover resonating enlightenment and entertainment between these taut pages.”
Shelf Awareness for Readers

“Booker-winner Okri delivers a sprawling collection that spans continents, centuries, and the border between the real and the supernatural . . . This is as an essential reminder of the timeless and vital nature of storytelling.”
Publishers Weekly

One of BuzzFeed‘s Most Anticipated Books of 2021

One of 42 Superb New Short Story Collections to Read in 2021, selected by Goodreads

“In Prayer for the Living, Nigerian-born, British-based Booker Prize winner Okri ranges worldwide in stories that test the boundaries of reality.”
Library Journal, Barbara Hoffert’s Prepub Alert

“Okri is always good company and these twenty-odd tales showcase his lucid prose and freewheeling imagination. The settings range from the Andes to Nigeria, and the common thread is that what you see is only part of the story . . . A literary magic-carpet ride of shimmering beauty.”
Daily Mail (UK)

A Library Journal top story collection for Fall 2020

“Booker Prize winner Ben Okri’s short stories in Prayer for the Living are timeous, shocking, and perceptive.”
Sunday Times (South Africa)

“Okri is a master of the genre: these fables are concise and otherworldly. Resplendent and lingering, they capture an ethereal plane between wakefulness and sleep with a skewed, dreamlike brutality and beauty . . . Okri’s magnificent twilight zone provides a surreal and unique insight.”
The Lady (UK)

“The reader is in no doubt they are in the hands of a master storyteller throughout.”
Belfast Telegraph

“An air of magic hovers over many of the tales . . . What really makes a tale, Okri shows, is how it is told.”
New Statesman

“A series of fables that make the reader question the nature of reality and whether what one sees in the world can really be all there is.”
Irish Examiner

“Polyphonic or cacophonous as you choose, [these stories] read as if liberated from a single worldview, yet are mindful of many . . . They’re food for thought.”
Country Life (UK)


Playful, frightening, shocking—these stories from a writer at the height of his power will make you think, or make you laugh. Sometimes they’ll make you want to look away, but they will always hold your gaze.

These are stories set in London, in Byzantium, in the ghetto, in the Andes, and in a printer’s shop in Lagos. Characters include a murderer, a writer, a detective, a woman in a dream, a man in a mirror, a little girl, a prison door, and the author himself.

Each one of these twenty-four stories will make you wonder if what you see in the world can really be all there is . . .

Read an excerpt from Prayer for the Living at Literary Hub.

Read Ben Okri’s contribution to PEN America’s We Will Emerge: Action project.

Listen to interviews with Ben Okri at Marva Hinton’s ReadMore Podcast and at First Draft with Mitzi Rapkin.

Read “A Wrinkle in the Realm” and Deborah Treisman’s Q&A with Ben Orki at the New Yorker.

Listen to an event between Ben Okri and Porochista Khakpour at Greenlight Bookstore‘s podcast.

Book Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Published: 2/2/21
  • IBSN: 9781617758638
  • e-IBSN: 9781617758744


BEN OKRI was born in Minna, Nigeria. His childhood was divided between Nigeria, where he saw firsthand the consequences of war, and London. He won the Booker Prize in 1991 for The Famished Road, and his novel Astonishing the Gods was selected as one of the BBC’s “100 Novels That Shaped Our World.” His work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. He also writes plays and screenplays. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a vice president of English PEN, and has been awarded the OBE as well as numerous international prizes and honorary doctorates. His latest novel, The Freedom Artist, was published by Akashic Books. Prayer for the Living is his latest short story collection.

More info »