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The Palm-Wine Drinkard

3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,120 Ratings  ·  117 Reviews
When Amos Tutuola's first novel, The Palm-Wine Drinkard, appeared in 1952, it aroused exceptional worldwide interest. Drawing on the West African (Nigeria) Yoruba oral folktale tradition, Tutuola described the odyssey of a devoted palm-wine drinker through a nightmare of fantastic adventure. Since then, The Palm-Wine Drinkard has been translated into more than 15 languages ...more
Paperback, 125 pages
Published 1977 by Faber and Faber (first published 1952)
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Best by African Authors
24th out of 307 books — 136 voters
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Oct 21, 2015 Antonomasia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Antonomasia by: MJ Nicholls
The tallest tall tale ever of what one champion boozer did to get a decent drink.
A psychedelic quest as mindbending as Yellow Submarine the film, but written fifteen years earlier and thousands of miles away.
A myth told (unusually) in the first-person by a trickster-god-slash-Herculean-hero, with a Taoist-fresh voice like a tarot Fool.

Whilst, thanks to one or two other people on Goodreads, I'd already figured that The Palm Wine Drinkard was a book to read because it's fun and interesting and str
Moses Kilolo
Dec 10, 2011 Moses Kilolo rated it it was amazing
Dear Mr. Amos Tutuola,

When I was a small boy I was told the story of a perfect gentleman who went to a market and returned from it with a girl that followed him. As he went back home, he kept giving back the pieces of him that were borrowed, so that by the time he got to his home, he was only a skull. And the girl deceived by his beauty now only a slave.

Well, Mr. Tatuola, thank you very much for taking me through many indescribable adventures and many incomprehensible mysteries. I enjoyed them w
MJ Nicholls
Oct 30, 2014 MJ Nicholls rated it really liked it
Read this book on the basis that it is impossible to resist chapter titles such as ‘AN EGG FED THE WHOLE WORLD’ and ‘PAY WHAT YOU OWE ME AND VOMIT WHAT YOU ATE’, and for passages of tortured syntax such as: Then my wife asked him how could a man buy a pig in a bag? But the man replied that there was no need of testing the load, he said that once we put it on our head either it was heavier than what we could carry or not, anyhow we should carry it to the town. So we stood before that man and his ...more
Aug 29, 2015 Adam rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
A Nigerian folktale of Tutuola’s own invention, written in Pidgin English. Like any good folktale, it has the sense that anything can happen; but it improves on the usual model with its particularly easy air of being completely out of control. It’s been criticized for showing Nigerians as amoral drunkards and witlessly superstitious. But never mind that, because it’s awesome craziness. For example:

We could not travel on the Deads’ road because of fearful dead babies, etc.

We had sold our death to
Eldonfoil TH*E Whatever Champion
I don't know of another writer like Tutuola. The creatures jump out of the woodwork like the good boogers they are: you know they took time to develop, but you weren't conscious of that and now it's as if grandma just fell in your lap, chewing on kibbles 'n' bits between watermelon seeds and strumming a cold pumpkin like a guitar----impressive. There is a logic if you care to think about it, but it's one from eons past. And the great thing is that the guy has nothing to prove, nothing to contriv ...more
Anthony Buckley
Aug 05, 2009 Anthony Buckley rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature, africa
I read this book many years ago. Today, I picked the book off my shelves and re-read the first lines. It still makes the hair rise on the back of my neck.

I was a palm-wine drinkard since I was a boy of ten years of age. I had no other work more than to drink palm-wine in my life. - - - But when my father noticed that I could not do any work more than to drink, he engaged an expert palm-wine-tapster for me; he had no other work more than to tap palm-wine every day. So my father gave me a palm-tr
else fine
Jun 26, 2010 else fine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lit, read2010, bestof2010
In some times and places, madmen were viewed with a sort of wary deference. Were they simply insane, or touched by the hand of God? You couldn't be sure. That same sort of holy madness - chilling and funny by turns - infuses every page of this story. What part is myth and what part is novel? You can't really tell where one ends and the other begins. To pick up this book is to find yourself unexpectedly wrenched from the world and deposited into a dangerous wonderland that almost, but not quite, ...more
Nabse Bamato
A wonderful romp through incredible flights of imagination. Nothing is impossible; everything can happen. Told in the vernacular this story draws you in from the very first page and won't let you put it down. I read it in one sitting. Highly recommended; especially for lovers of traditional stories, fairy tales or just general craziness.
Oct 28, 2014 Mala rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Gregsamsa
Recommended to Mala by: Nathan NR

I need some Juju to help me review this!
Mar 19, 2016 Rita rated it it was amazing
Voy a confesar que nunca había oído hablar del vino de palma hasta que leí el título del nuevo Ineludible de Navona Editorial: El bebedor de vino de palma de Amos Tutuola. ¿Quién no corre a la librería a comprar un libro de color verde pistacho que se titula así? ¿Quién?

Pues eso hice, queridos míos, correr a la librería y abrir el libro en el primer semáforo (aclaro que en mi pueblo hay tan pocos semáforos que podía haber evitado ese trayecto, pero eso significaba tener que esperar a llegar a ca
Christopher Charamba
The Palm Wine Drinkard is a brilliant, absurd piece of literature. I adored it. I had never heard of Amos Tutuola (to my friend’s surprise) and had no real expectations and was subsequently terribly delighted!

All the Nigerian authors I have read thus far, Achebe, Adichie, Abani and Soyinka have all been wonderful. I have a great affinity for African literature and the Nigerians like their film making have found a unique way to capture their storytelling.

This is exactly what Tutuola is about. His
Uche Ogbuji
Jan 11, 2014 Uche Ogbuji rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nigeria
Marvelous story of unconventional, non-linear, Nigerian cosmological structure. Quite an adventure in language and atmosphere, and almost certainly unlike anything else you'll have read.

Just a note derived from my comment on "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts." If you want to start with Tutuola, start with "The Palm-Wine Drinkard." You can go on to MLitBoG (4/5 stars from me) if you dig it and want more. Both are darkly imaginative and funny sagas set in the West African idea of a chthonic "bush' wh
Brent Legault
Feb 15, 2012 Brent Legault rated it it was ok
I'm puzzled by the popularity of this novel. I own a small new and used book store and I cannot keep this book stocked. It simply won't linger on the shelf. I have people asking for it all the time. After reading it, I can't for the life of me figure out why.

For the first fifteen pages, I was agog at the odd use of language. I thought I had found an early predecessor to Gordon Lish and Gary Lutz. Not a father or grandfather. Maybe a queer uncle or family friend. But soon, I found myself frowning
Mar 31, 2015 Darkowaa rated it liked it
REVIEW on the blog: https://africanbookaddict.wordpress.c...

Soooo, initially, I hated this book hahaa. The gory descriptions had me cringing and I found some stuff quite demonic (I couldn't read it at night before bed because I was afraid I'd dream of some of the weird ass creatures from the book). This book is just an extreme version of the Ananse The Spider stories lol. It got better after I gave this book a second try. Amos Tutuola is a great, great writer with a freaky imagination. I loved t
Apr 16, 2015 dianne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
a fantastic dream full of seen and unseen.
i'm sure i miss 90% of the Yoruba symbolism in the journey, but it felt delicious anyway.
recommended for anyone who knows that magic is real.
Dec 08, 2010 Cody rated it it was amazing
here are some words that are capitalized in the book








Sep 30, 2008 Nathaniel rated it liked it
Shelves: africa
"I cut a tree and carved it into a paddle, then I gave it to my wife and I told her to enter the river with me; when we entered the river, I commanded one juju which was given me by a kind spirit who was a friend of mine and at once the juju changed me to a big canoe. Then my wife went inside the canoe with the paddle and paddling it, she used the canoe as 'ferry' to carry passengers across the river, the fare for adults was 3d (three pence) and half fare for children."

"When we traveled for two
Aug 13, 2009 D rated it liked it
This is sort of like what the Odyssey might have been like had Homer been going through delerium tremens. The main character likes to do nothing more than sit around and drink copious amounts of palm-wine. When his palm-tapper dies, he goes on an epic quest to retrieve him from the land of the deads. I don't know which parts of the story are Tutuola's and which are standard folk tales, but in any case what follows is a strange and twisting story following the hero through a series of encounters ...more
Corinne  E. Blackmer
A novel of breathtaking originality and scope that, despite the fact that it is only 120 pages (and therefore is really a novella) can be usefully compared to the tone, atmosphere, and thematics of Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel. The language, a kind of Nigerian-Yoruban-English patois, is amazingly inventive and delicious, and it is unfortunate that Tutuolo's brilliance landed him in trouble for his presumed "primitiveness," although what seems really at stake is his unsparing exposure of Y ...more
Carrie Lorig
Oct 01, 2012 Carrie Lorig rated it it was amazing
thank you for shipping my personal lungs to me i love them so much they are so shiny and i'm going to hang up just over the heartland and there will be one million mountain creatures inside them and for once i'm so glad there are titles to these sections. i wish my body parts had titles like that. there a man in here who hires other people's body parts to be his for a while. there are a million skulls that run after a woman and it sounds like petrol drums crushing. this is not about magic this i ...more
Mientras Leo
Mar 11, 2016 Mientras Leo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Un ejemplo magnífico de una novela que roza la fábula para dejar sus enseñanzas
Aug 07, 2011 Adam rated it it was ok
Shelves: african
Starts out amazing, like a West African Brautigan. But somewhere around page 40 the abstract and haphazard storytelling, the pointlessness, the fact that you can skip 5 or 10 pages and, really, not miss anything vital... well, it all began to wear plenty thin. Finally I just got bored and didn't finish.
Jun 20, 2016 E rated it liked it
The first third was the most metal thing I've ever read. The rest was okay but not as good as all the skulls and death.
Mar 26, 2016 Bjorn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nigeria
Sudhang Shankar
Feb 25, 2013 Sudhang Shankar rated it it was amazing
All should read this STORY BOOK for an experience of what bygone storytelling is like. It may seem primitive and semi-literate but is more effective than anything you have ever read. Tutuola employs horrific imagery (zombie baby armies that eat everything) coupled with his off-kilter style STRESSES on keywords give the impression of a travelling storyteller caricature.

Predictably, the book was criticized strongly by the African literary establishment as "ridiculi
Oct 18, 2011 Zack rated it it was amazing
On the book jacket it says something like "Tutuola writes as if his tale had never been told before," and whatever that reviewer meant exactly, the comment sums up perfectly the unrestrained imaginative quality this book has. How self-conscious most other writing seems by comparison. The author is Nigerian, so the English isn't perfect, but that detail is insignificant to the story's dreamlike flow. I hear much of it comes from Yoruban folklore that's possibly ancient, but halfway through, I was ...more
Mar 05, 2016 Biọlá rated it really liked it
A lot has been said about Tutuola's grammar. But as Yoruba person myself, his grammar is all too familiar. This is exactly how a Yoruba person with limited (western) education would communicate in English.

So I'd call his grammar Yoruba-English. Tutuola just kind of showed me that grammar is not all that. Imagination is perhaps more important for writers.

That aside, I found myself laughing out loud in public. Tutuola's imagination is just crazy!
One of my favourite parts of the book: the encounte
May 30, 2016 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intriguing short novel created by Tutuola to keep young people in Nigeria interested in the Yoruba culture. But he also mixed in elements from mid-twentieth century colonialism like photography and British pounds/shillings/pence - it makes the tale seem much closer to an oral tradition that absorbs changes in the culture rather than a rigid piece of writing. It was also interesting to think about the structure of each adventure and compare with Afro-Cuban Tales, which use some Yoruba culture ...more
Dec 29, 2015 Gautsho rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Puhas rõõm ja Jaburuse Tipp. Ma olin tasapisi aru saamas, et ega mulle muinasjuttude ymbertöötlused eriti ei meeldigi, aga pärisjutud ise kõigis oma varieeruvustes - oojaa. Selle raamatuga mõistsin, et ma olen vilunud ainult Euroopa muinasjuttude lugemises ja et on väga äge lugeda aafrikajutte, millest mul pole aimugi, mis on kohalikud klassikalised muinasjutud, mis nende ymbertöötlused ja mis autori isiklik fantaasia. Pidevalt aimub jutustamise taga miskit struktuuri ja äratuntavalt rahvajutuli ...more
Jul 12, 2015 Sam rated it liked it
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Amos Tutuola (20 June 1920 – 8 June 1997) was a Nigerian writer famous for his books based in part on Yoruba folk-tales.
Despite his short formal education, Tutuola wrote his novels in English. His writing's grammar often relies more on Yoruba orality than on standard English.
More about Amos Tutuola...

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“[Death] was not at home by that time, he was in his yam garden.” 7 likes
“But when the fire was about to quench, their children came with whips and stones then they began to whip and stone our heads; when they left that, they began to climb on our heads and jump from one to the second; after that they started to spit, make urine and pass excreta on our heads; but when the eagle saw that they wanted to nail our heads, then it drove all of them away from the field with its beak.” 5 likes
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