Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

Bibliomania is a pathological and irrational desire to collect books, not to be mistaken with bibliophilia, a healthy love for books.

I was rereading Ben Okri’s Famished Road recently and came across this bit on Azaro’s father exhibiting full blown bibliomania, a strange, feverish desire for book he couldn’t read, books about things he could not possibly understand. 

famished-road-okri

 

“Dad began to spend a lot of the money he had won in buying books. He couldn’t read but he bought them.

I had to read them to him.

He bought books on philosophy, politics, anatomy, science, astrology, Chinese medicine. He bought the Greek and Roman classics. He became fascinated by the Bible. Books on the cabbala intrigued him.

He fell in love with the stories of the Arabian Nights. He listened with eyes shut to the strange words of classical Spanish love poetry and retellings of the lives of Shaka the Zulu and Sundiata the Great.

He insisted that I read something to him all the time. He forced me to have a double education.

In the evenings he would sit on his chair, feet on the table, cigarette in his mouth, eyes misty, paper and pencil beside him, and he would make me read out loud.

Occasionally he would interrupt me for an explanation.

Most of what I read made no sense to me.

So he bought a large dictionary which must have cost him at least ten mighty punches from the fists of the Green Leopard.

Dad’s bloated eye twitched when he opened it out on our table, releasing into the air of our room the aroma of words and fresh wood.

Like a battered but optimistic salesman, he said:

‘This book explains books.’

His passion began to drive us slightly mad.

The room became cluttered with books of all sizes, ugly books with pictureless covers and tiny letters as if intended only for the ants to read, large books that broke your back to carry them, books with such sloped lettering that they strained the neck, books which smelt like cobwebs and barks of medicinal trees and old sawdust after rain.

Mum complained and sometimes made piles of the books and balanced her basins and cooking pots on them.

Dad got furious at her disrespect and they argued bitterly.”

The Famished Road, By Ben Okri

 

Feature image via Deo Photography

Tags: , , , ,

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

2 Responses to ““His Passion Began to Drive us Slightly Mad” | Ben Okri on Bibliomania” Subscribe

  1. Oyin Oludipe 2014/09/25 at 13:50 #

    #Tsundoku

  2. Famous Isaacs 2014/09/28 at 16:55 #

    This is one book I’m still looking forward to reading.

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

Opportunity for East African Writers | Fellowship for Early Career Writers and Publishers

african writers trust publishing fellowship

In the wake of Nigeria’s Dusty Manuscript Contest, it is encouraging to see Africa Writers Trust rolling out a fellowship […]

Nnedi Okorafor And Marvel Comics Team Up For Yet Another Black Panther Spinoff

african writers trust publishing fellowship (1)

Marvel is expanding its Wankada storyline by adding on yet another spin off. Titled Shuri, the spinoff revolves around T’Challa’s […]

Vote for Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Chimamanda Adichie and Nnedi Okorafor on The Alternative Nobel Prize Longlist

Nnedi-Okorafor BELLA NAIJA

Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Nnedi Okorafor have been longlisted for The Alternative Nobel Prize, the only three […]

In Love and Ashes | Writer-Filmmaker Umar Turaki’s Drama Series Stars Patience Ozokwor, with Soundtrack by 2Baba

umar turaki

Nigerian writer and filmmaker Umar Turaki’s new drama series, In Love and Ashes, has premiered. The series stars Nollywood icon […]

Poetry x Fashion | Attend a Class with Brunel Prize Winner Theresa Lola in London

poetry x fashion

Brunel Prize 2018 joint winner Theresa Lola will be teaching a class on poetry and fashion. The class will “explore […]

Tomi Adeyemi Narrates Frightening Encounter with Racist White Policemen

tomi adeyemi

Tomi Adeyemi, author of the million-dollar Children of Blood and Bone trilogy, shared to her 43,000 Twitter followers an encounter […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.