I have always admired Ben Okri for the way he seamlessly combines political commentary with imaginative writing. His ability to write surreal dreamlike sequences is amazing and can be quite disturbing.
This collection of short stories takes us into the heart of Nigeria, people struggling to make a living in a land torn by war and the greed of oil prospectors. 'What the Tapster Saw' follows a palm tree tapster through his nightmare visions after a fall from a palm tree:
he saw the unsuccessful attempts to level the forest area and drill for oil. He saw the witch doctors that had been brought in to drive away the spirits from the forest. They also tried to prevent the torrential rains from falling and attempted to delay the setting of the sun. When all this failed the company hired an expatriate who flew in with explosives left over from the last war. The tapster saw the expatriate plant dynamite round the forest area. After the explosion the tapster saw a thick pall of green smoke. When the smoke cleared the tapster watched a weird spewing up of oil and animal limbs from the ground. The site was eventually abandoned. Agapanthus grew there like blood on a battlefield.
Stars of the New Curfew by Ben Okri, published by Penguin, 1988