Date Read: February 3rd 2015
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Review – ★★★ (3 stars)
The unnamed, naive Palm-Wine Drinkard, who likes to call himself ‘Father of gods Who Could Do Anything in This World’ is the narrator of this story and he takes readers through his peculiar adventures with his wife, in search for their dead palm-wine tapster. The Palm-Wine Drinkard’s tapster mysteriously falls from a palm tree as he is tapping palm wine for the Drinkard and dies. Deeply saddened by this great loss (in the plenitude of palm wine the tapster used to collect), the Palm-Wine Drinkard starts his quest to find his dead tapster. His search to find the tapster commences a crazy, frightful journey filled with evil spirits, demons and other strange, supernatural creature encounters. This is basically an African fantasy book.
I hated this book, initially. The horrid descriptions had me cringing and I found some stuff quite demonic (I couldn’t read this at night before bed because I was afraid I’d dream of some of the weird-ass creatures from the book). This book reminded me of the ‘Ananse the Spider’ folktales, but The Palm-Wine Drinkard is a more extreme and exaggerated type of folktale! The story-line got better when I gave this book a second try after abandoning it for sometime. Amos Tutuola is a great writer with a freaky imagination.
Excerpts with strange, cringe-worthy descriptions:
“When I completed three and a half years in that town, I noticed that the left hand thumb of my wife was swelling out as if it was a buoy, but it did not pain her. One day, she followed me to the farm in which I was tapping the palm-wine, and to my surprise when the thumb that swelled out touched a palm-tree throne, the thumb bust out suddenly and there we saw a male child came out of it and at the same time that the child came out from the thumb, he began to talk to us as if he was ten years of age.” pg. 31 (What the heck? Gross)
“As we sat down under this tree and were thinking about that night’s danger, there we saw a ‘Spirit of Prey’, he was big as a hippopotamus, but he was walking upright as a human-being; his both legs had two feet and tripled his body, his head was just like a lion’s head and every part of his body was covered with hard scales, each of these scales was the same in size as a shovel or hoe, and all curved towards his body.” pg. 54 (Urgh! This stressed me out)
But Tutuola’s ability to have me cringing in my seat as I read some of the demonic encounters the Palm-Wine Drinkard faced is a testament of his tangible writing skill- his way with words and his imagination are quite wild! Another thing I liked about this book was the English and writing style. The writing may seem to be in pidgin or broken English, but I learned that it’s actually a transliteration of Yoruba (a Nigerian language). The transliteration of Yoruba to English was quite enjoyable to read and gave the book a different flair I rarely get from other Nigerian novels.
Give this book a try if you like out-of-this-world, surreal stuff. African literature enthusiasts swear by this book and I understand why- Amos Tutuola is an extraordinary storyteller.
★★★ (3 stars) – Good book. I recommend it, I guess.
Purchase The Palm-Wine Drinkard on Amazon