... a multilayered allegorical narrative that cuts to the heart of our current political and cultural malaise, while maintaining a mythical, mesmeric flavour that makes the reader feel these are stories they have always known ... The pared-back style often feels closest in tone to the Fictions of Borges. Character takes second place to symbolism; few of them are named, and those who are embody representative qualities, like figures from myth. It is often repetitive, in a way that reflects the historic cycle of hope and disillusion, as the people flock to rumours of warrior heroes and Messiah figures who might save them ... It is possible to read particular instances of current affairs or recent history into The Freedom Artist, but this is not a book that is so easily pinned down. It’s savagely political, disturbing and fiercely optimistic, the deeply felt work of a writer who refuses to stop asking the hardest questions.
... isn't a simple, direct comment on our present era; instead, it's a questioning book, one that puts its faith not in any particular social justice movements but rather in a collective, existential desire for freedom and a plurality of stories and myths ... acts as a series of fables that interlock and lead to what is a pretty clear moral, but one that has to be deeply felt, and truly believed, because it's not actionable in any immediate way ... Another way to look at it is as a set of richly symbolic and evocative dreams that explore themes of storytelling and what humanity as a whole loses when stories told for the sake of forging connection are replaced with stories spurred by a desire for money, social cache, or power. In other words, it's a complex book to talk about. And yet, it's a deceptively simple read, written in a style that manages to convey certain rhythms of oral storytelling despite being a printed text ... an unsettling read — its tone lulled me, as if I were a child reading a fairy tale, into a sense of comfort, only to yank me to attention when it reminded me this wasn't the Disney version, as it were, but the one with all the blood and injustice left in — but it is not hopeless. Hope is everywhere in it, because its very form — storytelling — is a slap in the face to the terror looming over it.
... fantastically ghoulish and satirical ... Towards the end, however, just as you’re thinking, 'So this is what Dave Eggers’s The Circle would be like if it were written by a poet,' Okri slips you a shot of ayahuasca and things get decidedly freaky and apocalyptic ... This is not a novel for strict realists or fantasy-phobes. If you find David Mitchell too much, steer clear. The Freedom Artist is an adventure story and an intense trip through the most esoteric corners of the human mind. It’s also a beautiful and timely appeal for the importance of books, subversive stories and love.