The Age of Magic, by Ben Okri

“No novelist lacking a sense of humour should ever be allowed near subjects like life, death, love, intelligence, perception, beauty and especially Switzerland. Working to this degree in aphorism seems a shoddy camouflage of very common and even poor ideas.”

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In the beginning, there was no Ben Okri, and darkness moved upon the face of the waters. Then he came up with a group of men and women journeying in a train across Europe, as a metaphor for life. They’re making a documentary film about the idea of Arcadia, so they’re deep, you see. The star of the show is the self-obsessed Lao, a poet. He has a girlfriend called Mistletoe (yes), who draws things, and the others have variously offbeat names, which is all you will ever know about them. It’s all mystical, free-wheeling and hippy-dippy, but you have to wait until page 177 for them to take their shoes off, which seems wrong somehow. One, the director, has actually had an encounter with the Devil himself, and he reveals this to Lao during an erstwhile eerie nighttime bus trip to a Swiss hotel. The Devil was quite charming…

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