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Short Story Tougher Than Novel: Booker-Winner Ben Okri at JLF

A short story’s call for discipline makes it a more difficult format to write in than a novel, says Ben Okri.

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Jaipur, Jan 25 (PTI) A short story's call for discipline makes it a more difficult format to write than a novel, which is more responsive to spontaneous inspiration, feels Booker-winning author Ben Okri.

The noted Nigerian writer said a short story often "betrayed in every sentence". A novel, however, he said, was "very generous and forgiving".

"Short story is more difficult, it is very scary... You have to be more rigid and rigorous. Short story is all about discipline," the 59-year-old said.

The idea of a short story begins with expansion, but as one goes along, it insists on concision, he added.

The writer was speaking at a panel discussion at the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival, alongside writers Tania James, Vikram Chandra and Pulitzer Prize-winner Andrew Sean Greer.

According to Okri, writing as a practice comes out of experience, adding that what interested him the most was the "subliminal mythical structure of experience".

He said experience helps awaken what is "deep inside us".

"I am interested in the subliminal mythical structure of experience. Relationship between myth and life and myth and craft is what makes storytelling," Okri, who won the Booker Prize in 1991 for his book "The Famished Road", said.

Considered as one of the foremost African authors in the post-modern and post-colonial traditions, he has often been compared with authors such as Salman Rushdie and Gabriel Garca Mrquez.

He went on to dismiss the idea of "writer's confidence" as a "con".

"The writer is only confident after the work has been done. Once the work has begun, you are as vulnerable and as much a novice as any writer or any human being has ever been.

"You start growing in confidence as your work grows and are confident only after your 25th draft," he said.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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