The Palm Wine Drinkard

Handwritten first page of Palm Wine Drinkard by Tutuola
First page of Amos Tutuola’s original manuscript for The Palm-Wine Drinkard. Source: Harry Ransome Center, University of Texas at Austin website

Palm Wine Drinkard is the first person narrative novel by Amos Tutuola, published in 1952 in London by Faber & Faber. The author, who sparsely showed any ambitions for his own craft, had penned the book within a few days in 1946. The novel recounted the mythological tale of a drunken man, who follows his dead tapster into “Deads’ Town”, a world of magic, ghosts, demons, and supernatural beings. Amos Tutuola was severely criticized in Nigeria for his pedestrian use of language and for his disparaging illustration of his country. Clearly, Tutuola’s command of English would have been better had he received a higher education, but the role of this in the reduction or not of the oral quality of The Palm Wine Drinkard is uncertain. Tutuola’s novel, showing the influence of the contemporary work of D.O. Fagunwa, was the first to gain international recognition in West Africa. This celebrated work, seen as the missing link in the Yoruba literary continuum between the old and the new was dramatized with resounding success by Kola Ogunmola in 1963.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer