The Palm-Wine Drinkard, by Amos Tutuola
The Palm-Wine Drinkard
Every now and again you read a book so far off the well-trodden literary path that it excites with the possibilities of where a novel can travel. The Palm-Wine Drinkard, published in 1952, is a classic of African literature. It has been lauded by the likes of Dylan Thomas and TS Eliot and can be seen to have paved the way for magic realism. Although based on the Yoruba folktales of west Africa, its idiosyncratic style captures brilliantly the continent’s speech rhythms without spelling them phonetically. The book follows the Palm-Wine Drinkard as he tries to locate his Palm-Wine Tapper, who has died and gone to Deads’ Town. Along the way he encounters many strange creatures, both good and evil. These are often surreal, and hilariously described. The book has many parables and some social commentary buried in its bizarre thickets, and, although it suffers slightly from an “And then . . . and then . . . ” structure, it is a fantastical, macabre, funny, strange and original work.