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My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

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This novel recounts the fate of a mortal who strayed into the world of ghosts. The bush is the wilderness of Western Africa. Here, as every hunter and traveler knows, mortals venture at great peril, and it is here that a small boy is left alone. magic .

174 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1954

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About the author

Amos Tutuola

38 books182 followers
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.

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5 stars
263 (28%)
4 stars
312 (33%)
3 stars
253 (27%)
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86 (9%)
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21 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 116 reviews
Profile Image for Sonic.
2,197 reviews55 followers
March 15, 2009
DO NOT READ THE "Foreword" TO THIS BOOK! While I enjoyed this unusual book very much, I found the Foreword extremely offensive. It was written by your typical pompous-ass scholar type who condescendingly uses words like "primitive" to describe something his elitist bias finds difficult to categorize. To me the Foreword also spoiled other aspects of the book.
There is a poetry to his writing and what's more, a mythology that is very unusual, and to my orientation, surreal. In my culturally conditioned world super-natural experiences are met with close-minded skepticism, but in Amos Tutuola's book they are described with an unquestioning matter-of-factness that is exciting and very interesting. Just as the author describes a time before he was familiar with the notions of "good" and "bad", the lack of such simple discrimination, as well as a lack of moralistic preaching is wonderfully refreshing! I can see why David Byrne and Brian Eno took the title and used it for their seminal pop-rock masterpiece as the title and also all of the chapter headings are extremely stimulating to the imagination.
Profile Image for Samir Rawas Sarayji.
444 reviews85 followers
January 13, 2019
This is the first novel by Nigerian writer Amos Tutuola that I’ve read, and it’s not comparable to any other book that I know of.

Two brothers get separated from their mother in the village, and then from each other near a bush when war breaks out. There are no details or specifics. The power of the novel – the suspension of disbelief – works best with the continuing vagueness that Tutuola employs. The youngest of the brothers eats a fruit from a tree and is then transported into the world of ghosts (in this bush). Here, the strangest tale takes place as the boy learns about this ethereal world with all its different towns, each with their own rules, while he wanders about hoping to make his way out and back home. Suffice it to say, he is stuck there for 24 years.

But as the noises of the enemies’ guns drove me very far until I entered the “Bush of Ghosts” unnoticed, because I was too young to know that it was a dreadful bush or it was banned to be entered by any earthly person, so that immediately I entered in it I stopped and ate both fruits which my brother gave me before we left each other, because I was very hungry before we reached there.

What I particularly like in this novel is the style of English used, reminiscent of the oral tradition of African storytelling rather than composition. There were occasional words of pidgin English, too. Sentences repeated themselves – not in an annoying way – but in the natural manner of speech. And just when I’d think a sentence had a run-on effect, Tutuola would round it off nicely by coming full circle where, for example, one sub-clause would have explained another sub-clause that would, in turn, have explained the main clause and, then finally, the last sub-clause would tie it all back to the main clause.

The aspect of the novel that I didn’t fully enjoy was the story itself of the trapped kid in the bush of ghosts. It came across as a device to show the reader the mystical aspects of the culture (Yoruba) and the tribal (pagan) beliefs of what life after death is. Basically, the Bush of Ghosts is where the ghosts remain until judgment day. And here, the dichotomy of pagan and Christian values fuse together as is seen in many African cultures where somehow, the traditional values and beliefs remain despite the belief in and adoption of Christianity. It’s certainly fascinating, and the “Bush of Ghosts” is a great window into the afterlife beliefs of this culture (at least at it might have been a long time ago), but I have no authority to make any sweeping conclusions or further analysis into this subject. However, back to the point, the bulk of the novel takes place in the ghost towns, which quickly becomes boring. Had Tutuola used the opportunity to create two parallel stories, one for the trapped brother, and the other for the brother that was still alive, and showed us the two worlds – the ghost one and life in a real village – I think the tale would have been stronger, more enjoyable and more insightful into a foreign culture. Wishful thinking, I know.
Profile Image for Mala.
156 reviews210 followers
July 26, 2016
Tutuola's second book, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, is an improvement on the first, The Palm-Wine Drinkard, in terms of plotting, but the earlier one scores high on spontaneity & exuberance.
Both deal with a young boy, facing a series of strange & fantastic adventures, learning to outwit his adversaries (who come in all shapes & sizes) & adverse circumstances with a little help from magic & fate. They are a bildungsroman of sorts as there's a progression of years & accumulation of various experiences via the vicissitudes of life. One recalls the charm of One Thousand and One Nights in the oral tradition of Tutuola's story-telling in that they are episodic & linked in nature but there is no framing device as such rather his narrative conjures up the image of an inebriated shaman, telling a bewitching yet horrific tale to his fascinated audience around a crackling wood fire to the sounds of tribal beats. While the hero's trials & tribulations, the supernatural occurrences, remind one of the Odyssey, & The Golden Ass, also, a fascination with the grotesque & playful aspect of life, show a Rabelasian bent of mind— in short, Amos Tutuola is in august company.
Surprisingly, Tutuola's "primitive" English becomes his strength as it helps him smoothly convey native West African myths in a natural native usage— they seem more grounded & believable that way. His language has the charm of children learning to speak– they make mistakes but how charming those mistakes sound that you wouldn't have them any other way!
In this highly imaginative tale, two characteristics stand out— a superb comic sense & the matter of fact presentation of the most bizarre happenings. I still roll with laughter when recalling "the gentleman of completed parts" & the hilarious sub-heading of that chapter: "Do Not Follow Unknown Man's Beauty" from The Palm-Wine Drinkard, here too one encounters that madcap comedy in chapters like The Smelling Ghost, The Short Ghosts and their Flash-eyed Mother, I Meet My Dead Cousin in the 10th Town of Ghosts, etc. The ferocious dead babies crawling on the road to the "Dead's Town" meet their match in the "Burglar-ghost" here:

In the mechanics of this bush of ghosts, Tutuola's imagination blends with the mythology of West African tribal life so that this ghost world is presented as an elaborate system of some parallel world. We are transported from realism to the magical/supernatural with an ease that captures the essence of folk art. These ghosts aren't really that different from human beings in that they have a clear hierarchy, initiation rites & cults, why, they even have a church, school, hospital, agriculture & animal husbandry, & carry guns & money!
They eat, drink, sing & dance– such a merry lot! No wonder, despite his long ordeal, our hero doesn't really want to come back from their world— Persephone or Stockholm Syndrome, you decide. How come Tim Burton & Johnny Depp haven't yet heard of this tale is beyond me!
Some of the tales here I've also encountered in Indian folktales e.g., The Man with Three Wives, & some others in various permutations, makes you wonder about the generic nature of such folklores.
Freshness & Innocence are the words that spring to mind when speaking of Amos Tutuola's fiction. It has the pure joy of story-telling— making up stories as you go, no wonder it took me back to the summer holidays from childhood, when swinging under a huge mango tree, with cousins gathered from different corners of the world, I would listen in rapt attention to my grandmother's tales. Some of the older kids objected to her extravagant elements, pointing out lack of logic, she would laugh & say—Oh but it's a story; anything can happen! Were she alive today; I would read Tutuola's books to her. She would've enjoyed them immensely.
Some snippets:

Profile Image for Nate D.
1,583 reviews999 followers
September 8, 2011
One day in Nigeria one of the three common types of war breaks out, and a 7-year-old boy is abandoned to it by his father's jealous second wife. He is too young even to know the meanings of "good" and "evil", but escapes by accident into the human-forbidden bush of ghosts, where the spirits walk, and he will find himself pursued by fearful specters, changed in form, worshipped as a god, and taking part in strange rites. Conveyed in the conversational tones of spoken Nigerian English and drawn from the rich, otherworldly mythology of his colliding Yoruba/Christian-upbringing, Tutuola's novel is seemingly unique in literature: a sort of effortless home-grown African surrealism, rich and memorable. The novel's series of pared-down episodes without a lot of description or character development seem consistent with an oral tradition rather than a literary one (of course), but that suits the immediacy and vibrancy of the telling just fine. Though so much happens at times as to overwhelm, and to make me wish I could hear more about just a few of the strange, nightmarish villages and landscapes through which our protagonist must travel during his odyssey. I'd really like to know how much of this is purely Tutuola's imagination versus cultural memory.
Profile Image for Uroš Đurković.
588 reviews134 followers
August 10, 2019
Kakva avantura!

Psihodelični folklor - nizanje bizarnosti i stalni obrti. Vrtlog. Nešto potpuno van našeg evropocentričnog opsega, za šta je potreban novi jezik. Uranjanje u Afriku iznutra.

A začuđujeće kako se nešto primordijalno doživljava kao potpuna avangarda. Ili je u pitanju kulturološko iskustvo koje je neuporedivo?

Utisci: jam, (magnetne) džudže, preobražaji, televizijske šake, vreće, meso, paučinasta šuma, smrad i dim, lizanja rana, most gubitaka i dobitaka, skorela krv, društvena hijerarhija duhova.

I da - obratiti pažnju pri čitanju na okvir koji je mimetički. Ovo je i autentična priča o ratu, izrabljivanju, iskorišćavanju. Iako se čini da roman ima linearnu, novelističku strukturu relativno nezavisnih epizoda, kompozicija je zapravo prilično promišljena. I nije ni čudo što delo počinje time što se ne razlikuje 'dobro i zlo', a završava se jednostavnom i upečatljivom rečenicom koja sumira sve. Neka radoznali obrate pažnju.

I da - na kraju - Brajan Ino i Dejvid Birn imaju album nazvan po ovom delu. I sad mi je tek 'kliknuo', iako Tutuola ima neki još osobeniji ritam. (https://youtu.be/JOXbk1GYkxE)
Profile Image for Michael.
544 reviews122 followers
February 3, 2021
From the reviews of others, my initial reaction (as a Westerner) to this book seems a common one: WTF am I reading?! However, without wishing to uproot it from its African soil, the folklore motif of a person lost in the otherworldly realm of spirits is universal: the Faerie of the Celts and Britons, and the land of Xibalba of the Quichi Maya springing to mind. Actually, the adventures of the twins Hunahpú and Xbalanqué from the Popol Vuh are probably the closest thing I've read to "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" in terms of atmosphere.

So, a seven-year-old boy escapes from soldiers and unknowingly wanders into the spirit world. His experiences are nightmarish, comical, disturbing and wonderful. There is little in the way of plot, other than the boy's desire to return to earthly life, but it is in the reader's exposure to the surreal world of non-conscious experience that the book's power lies.
Profile Image for Neal Adolph.
142 reviews85 followers
February 6, 2017
How do you review a book when you are not confident that you have the toolset to understand it? Perhaps that is where you start.

I've never read a book like this before.

My Life in the Bush of Ghosts is a fascinating adventure through the landscape of a mysterious civilization hidden in the West African forest. It contains short adventures, all of which are entirely unbelievable, but each containing within itself some story or suggestion about life, danger, economy, human relations, trust, and "the other". I think that is, of course, the point, and, of course, you could look back at this as a collection of parables that have been banded together in some mist-like manner. In fact, I would suggest that the approach is somewhat in line with Don Quixote, though, based on what little I know of the author, I doubt he had read that book. Perhaps that great accomplishment of the Western canon is less astonishing than we think.

While I was reading this, I often thought that an illustrated edition would be really quite special. I even had brief glimpses of a film directed by Hayao Miyazaki capturing the flow from one nightmare to another and giving it some consistency. The imagery here is wonderful, and it really engaged my imagination. I don't think that is true of stories that settle into realism - at least not in the same way.

What struck me as quite bizarre about this book was the pacing. I couldn't make sense of the pacing whatsoever. There is not effort to meditate on the stories - that is left up to the reader - and, as a result, the adventure thrusts itself forward before the reader is ready to continue onwards. Again, I think that is part of the point. Again, I think that might be part of the point. After all, after reading the introduction (which is quite poorly done) my sense is that the book is structured to mimic stories shared over a campfire, wisdom found not in the story-teller so much as in the story itself. Does this make sense? I'm not sure - I'm definitely not a child of an oral tradition (and this often disappoints me).

In the end, it is the pacing that really throws off my ability to give this book a better rating, though I really enjoyed reading it and think it is quite fascinating (and worthy of some serious study - somebody somewhere must have done some work on this, right?). It made me use my brain in different ways than most literature, and I'm grateful for that. I'll maybe even read it again some day. It contains many mysteries, and many stories, that I wouldn't mind parsing out. Before I do that, though, I'll likely read Tutuola's other work, The Palm-Wine Drinkered, and see if it, maybe, helps me understand the approach used in this book.

Recommended for those interested in exploring a totally different method of story-telling. An exciting and interesting, though often grotesque, adventure. Prepare to be perplexed.
Profile Image for Josh Boardman.
112 reviews13 followers
August 3, 2012
Yeah man, this African Summer was a good call. This book is miraculous. It reminds one of Dante, or Homer, or the most to me, Apuleius' Metamorphoses. The stories contained herein (it's essentially a novel in stories) run the gamut of funny to horrifying, and Tutuola's masterful manipulation of the English is a delight.

Let me reiterate that last point. Tutuola's masterful manipulation of the English. The fucking editors of the edition pictured above seem to think that his English is "primitive" (oh god) for lack of education, although the author was better than fluent by the time he wrote this story. Honestly, I don't know if they have a new edition yet, but the blurbs on the back of the book and the introduction make me cringe and cry and beat my chest. They're racist, straight up. It's horrible to see Western scholasticism just missing the mark so badly.

Anyhow, this is a masterpiece. It can be difficult to read, as it is heavily colored (zing!). But it is so worth it. A must-read.
Profile Image for Miloš Dimitrijević.
14 reviews3 followers
March 19, 2021
Afričko čistilište, između ostalog, ima i svoju metodističku crkvu. Na trenutke užasno duhovito štivo.
Profile Image for Mar.
179 reviews18 followers
July 6, 2018
No me ha gustado.
Tiene su gracia, pero a pesar de lo corto que es, se me ha hecho interminable.
Profile Image for J.M. Hushour.
Author 8 books200 followers
July 22, 2014
A series of surreal, bizarre encounters with ghosts and their towns in the bush of ghosts. The narrator, lost in the bush of ghosts by the age of seven endures being persecuted by the Deads in myriad ways (from forced domestic servitude to being trapped and body elongated in a occult pitcher through which he is forced to eat strange meats) befriended by some (such as the "Super-Lady" he later marries) and witness to a thousand weirderies. He learns magic from a ghost magician the fallout of which is their running duel of transformations through the bush of ghosts trying to steal each others' juju. He meets the sore-ridden "Television-handed ghostess". He suffers the vagaries of the Nameless-ghost-town and Hopeless-ghost-town. He meets HM, King of the Bush of Ghosts. He fails to differentiate good from bad but in the end knows that these adventures were born out of the evil of man.
That's as close to a plot summary as one can get. Part Lewis Carroll and part H.P. Lovecraft if Lovecraft were born in the Congo or Cameroon and his pantheon of ancient evils were spread and sprinkled over a thousand haunted towns. Tutuola wrote in his second-hand English, which charms with its consistent grammar inconsistencies and almost poetic clumsiness.
Profile Image for Carmen .
227 reviews21 followers
March 4, 2019
Sinceramente se merece las cinco estrellas, me ha encantado de principio a fin, repleto de imaginación, leyendas, mitos nigerianos, todo tipo de terrores, de mensajes ocultos, me fascina, he aprendido mucho sobre la cultura de Nigeria gracias a este libro. Un libro diferente, original, fresco, me encanta!!
70 reviews8 followers
April 3, 2022
it's funny how the more technically "correct" english of this contributes to it being worse than the palm wine drinkard. i'm extremely mad at the foreword which says "it has been edited to remove the grosser mistakes" and to remove some repetition. dumbass editors. it's still great though, the episode with "the fire eyed mother" is particularly horrific and cool
Profile Image for Vicente Ribes.
684 reviews100 followers
January 9, 2022
Una historia de lo más extraña. Un niño se interna en la maleza del bosque africano huyendo de unos soldados y pasará 30 años en el mundo de los fantasmas. Encontrará los más extraños y bizarros personajes y crecerá rodeado de ellos y viviendo peligros.La trama tiene poco de terrorífica y lo he veo más como un cuento infantil que un relato de miedo. No se si es por la traducción o por la propia escritura del autor pero el texto en ocasiones es confuso o poco trabajado.
Una rareza para pasar el rato pero poco más.
Profile Image for Uche Ogbuji.
Author 14 books24 followers
August 1, 2015
I might come back to a fuller review, and I will say that if you must pick one Tutuola book, pick "The Palmwine Drinkard" (five stars from me) over this one. For now I just felt compelled to record that this is a darkly imaginative and funny saga set in the West African idea of a chthonic "bush' where the real and spirit worlds intermingle, using a broken English with elements of Nigerian Pidgin, but largely Tutuola's fantastic, poetical idiolect. For other books that might better suit the unadventurous Western lib arts educated dabbler and that work with the cosmological idea of a "bush of ghosts," read Helen Oyeyemi or Nnedi Okoroafor. You might "get" Tutuola and enjoy his writing, or you might hate it, just as with any unusual author. But I do want to address the egotistical numpties who say stupid things such as "people who like this book are only working out their colonialist guilt." Tutuola's is an unique, iconic and magical work, and no more primitive than, say, Ulysses. It's just prose, people. And it has the great advantage that you will discover very quickly whether or not you like it, and you can always put the book down and leave it for others to enjoy.
Profile Image for Katrinka.
608 reviews26 followers
August 31, 2020
This is one of the weirdest books I've ever read. Frustratingly enjoyable, and I have no idea how to rate it.
Profile Image for Marko Vasić.
443 reviews134 followers
August 31, 2018
Nikad ne bih pomislio da će mi se svideti bilo kakva novela bilo kog afričkog pisca. Budući da sam ovu potpuno nasumično "pokupio", pročitavši piščevu biografiju na kraju knjige, iznenadilo me što sam, bez predrasuda, počeo i dovršio čitanje iste. Štaviše, uvrstio je na listu za ponovno čitanje. Sve zbog neposrednog narativa i zbog ogromne sličnosti sa Danteovim "Paklom" (iako u pogovoru nigde ne postoji takvo poređenje, već sa Odisejevim putovanjima). Kao što je Dante počeo svoju "Komediju" alegoričnim skretanjem sa pravog puta u šumu, tako i u Tutuolinoj noveli dva crnačka dečaka, bežeći ispred ratnih pušaka, zabasaju u neku šumu. Stariji dečak pobegne, a mlađi se sakrije ispod drveta zapisa. Što, zapravo, predstavlja ulaz u "šumu duhova" tj. paralelni svet mrtvih, odnosno panoptikum ljudskih nedaća, gde počinju i završavaju svi strahovi, tuge, teškoće i kušaju se sva iskušenja. Ta šuma duhova jeste, zapravo, čitava zemlja sa obiljem gradova, gde u svakom gradu (a poneki je od drugog udaljen nekoliko stotina milja) vladaju drugačiji kodeksi ponašanja i drugačiji vid komunikacije. I svaka od priča vezana za prelazak iz jednog u drugi grad (što je kod mene, ponovo, izazvalo paralelizam sa Danteovim krugovima "Pakla") obiluje afričkim mitološkim elementima i elementima domorodačkih folklornih priča (od promene oblika, prelaska iz jednog tela u drugo, seksualnih perverzija i gadosti, bajanje uz pomoć džudžu amajlija isl.). Nakon dvadeset četiri godine, prolaska beskonačnih iskušenja i dva braka po običajima duhova iz "šume", momak na kraju čudnim spletom okolnosti dospeva pod isto ono zapis drvo gde je i ušao u "šumu" (ponovo, moja asocijacija sa završetkom Danteovog "Pakla", kada izlazi sa Vergilijem na brdašce "da gledaju zvezde") i gde ga pronalaze i odvode u roblje, kada spoznaje da, zapravo, služi sopstvenom bratu. Potpuno psihodelična, izuzetno interesantna i lako čitljiva, neobična novela.
395 reviews103 followers
January 27, 2023
Similar to The Palm Wine Drunkard by the same author in form and yet still totally unique in content. A constant stream of strange out of the blue things happening and yet it doesn't feel "random" - there's a rhythm and progression and connections everywhere. It feels almost like a travelogue of sorts of the world of the supernatural. The first half it feels absolutely wondrous and amazing, completely fresh and captivating, but by the end I was glad it wasn't too long - it's a beautiful trip but the succession of fantastical events gets a bit overwhelming eventually. Still something I'd absolutely recommend to anyone as something completely unlike most "classic" literature yet with an incredible command of language that I feel would reward rereadings and deep study.
Profile Image for Aubrey.
1,309 reviews757 followers
August 8, 2018

Despite my best efforts, my reaction to 'My Life in the Bush of Ghosts' was similar to that of my reaction to The Palm-Wine Drinkard; confused, one too many times frustrated and not finding the brief moments of engagement worth it for large stretches of a super short text. I'm not going to be an ass about it like this text's introduction is with its yammering on and on about "the thoughts of other races, even of those who resemble us superficially", but it does drive home how cavalier I was to stumble across this and TPWD and think it would be grand to take a chance on hearsay. Still, I can at least appreciate that hearsay from afar, as well as enjoy my mental wanderings down intricate pathways such as the underlying narrative similarities between this and The Journey to the West, and how this text's references to TPWD make for a more complex experience rendered strange by my own half remembered tidbits of plot and pathos. I can only hope that donating this work will send it on to another intrepid soul who may understand it better, but ideally will respect it regardless of their own personal enjoyment. Only time will tell.

Most of things I appreciate about this novel involved being reminded of something else. For example, I've heard the term "Antelope Wife" thrown around in instances before this (although it may have just been another's review of this self same work), and have incomplete rememberings from TPKD and more distantly related things such as the aforementioned JttW and the film 'Spirited Away' Indeed, now that I think about it, the film has strong resonances with this story, albeit MLitBoG is far more brutal and resonant with images of child slavery and intervillage warfare and comparatively fewer ones of peace and prosperity. Something could be made of the witches and Christianity and devils that op up every so often, but I don't have the wherewithal for it. I've already overworked my analytical appreciation more than I usually do in order to give this work a fair review, so any further rhapsodizing on themes and imagery will have to be done by another, hopefully more enthusiastic soul.

I'll be honest and say that I likely won't be picking up any more of Tutola's works until I have far more relevant critical faculties at my disposal. I wouldn't mind a biography or even an analysis if it wasn't too dense, but I just wasn't up to the challenge when when I read TPWD, and I wasn't up to the challenge now. The best I can do is pass my book along to a more worthy reader and pass my review along to a future me who is taking stock of their Nigerian/African author read count and weighing whether it needs to be supplemented at the time. I've got Ousmane Sembène's Xala coming up soon, so the latter category, at least, is in no danger of being neglected at this time.
Profile Image for Callum Morris-Horne.
259 reviews7 followers
August 29, 2021
I started this book a couple of years ago to get some insight into West African folklore and mythology for a short-story I was writing. I recently returned to it after clearing out my bookshelf and mostly enjoyed the rest. You certainly have to surrender to the flow of the prose which can be (intentionally?) disorientating to a native English speaker; occasionally hard to follow yet stylistically very simple. It’s basically about a young boy who flees his war-torn village only to find himself in the Bush of Ghosts, akin to the Yoruba afterlife, where he undertakes an odyssey through the various villages, encountering grotesque ghosts and fearful creatures along his punitive path, ever searching for his way back home. The plot itself is fairly basic and rather repetitive, leaping from one undifferentiated region to another, reading like ‘I did this, then I did that, then this awful thing happened to me’, etc. It is lacking characterisation and the descriptive detail is very stark (though I actually quite liked this as it added to the allegorical aspect of the boys psychedelic journey and the oral tradition tone). I think most will either hate it or enjoy the ride, a very marmitey book, but it left me a bit luke-warm though nonetheless undeterred from reading something else from this undeniably important African voice.
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 3 books339 followers
January 27, 2019
230316: somehow lost the review, for this as second reading, but as remembered: no different than any of his work, sort of a comic odyssey, from the very beginning the narrator must learn what is ‘good’and what is ‘bad’, being an unloved child of second wife, who escapes the slavers by falling through ‘the bush’ and over the years he is trying to escape... there is some contention that the author merely is transcribing Yoruba myths on his particular voice (mostly west-African spoken English) but he is simply building this fantastic quest of return...

this follows the narrator through adventures in ‘the bush’, going from town to town, from monstrous and magical, when he comes to know them, lives there for apparent years then escapes to their next town, river ghosts and the marriage under the river, 20 th town of ghosts, short ghosts and their flash-eyed mother, then the ‘television-handed ghosts’... there may be allegorical values, i do not know, and through the adventures and transformations, he does change in learning what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’... he is someone recounting fantastic bush and ghosts and towns and magic. this is for me a fun read, in poetics, in energy, in imagination...
Profile Image for Ted.
19 reviews
August 30, 2020
I had the good fortune to pick this book up at a bookstore more or less randomly. I enjoy going to bookstores and exploring like that.

What I found was the least western/European book I've ever read. It's a picaresque, a horror story, a love story I guess? Certainly an adventure story. Tutuola evokes a world that I knew nothing about. In the course of the story, we get glimpses of our protagonist's home life, his life in the bush, and his culture's philosophies of life, death, afterlife, and hospitality. But also, and more importantly I think, it reads a bit like a coming-of-age story. Adventures, excitement, danger, joy, guide us through his playful, foreign idioms, grammar, and landscape. A facinating, wild ride.
Profile Image for Burke.
11 reviews
July 19, 2011
Wanted to like this book. Didn't. The best thing about it by far is the title (which is epically great). More interesting in concept than execution. The fact that there are some who absolutely love it smacks of post-colonial guilt-inspired patronization to me: it's just not very well-written or especially engaging.

Skip the book, get the album of the same name by Brian Eno and David Byrne. That really is great.
Profile Image for Eileen.
323 reviews71 followers
September 15, 2009
Difficult to review. Probably a lot of that is due to my comparative ignorance of African culture and lit. The whole book is so deeply steeped in African culture, beliefs, mythology that I have very little authoritative to say. Sudden, visceral. You should read this one.
Profile Image for Devrim Güven.
Author 8 books30 followers
October 10, 2021
The major common point of these non-European texts –whose main characters are small adults struggling against the harsh conditions imposed by historical realities— is the author’s strategy of engaging the reader not only to the social/international phenomena s/he tackles in his text, but also to the process of construction of his/her text. This is also evident from the writers’ technique of finishing their stories with an open ending, thus enabling the reader to connect it to the cultural and historical context. Out of these works from all over the world, to which a myriad of others might be added (such as the ghost tales of Amos Tutuola, fables and tales of Kenji Miyazawa and essays of Kenzaburō Ōe particularly written and illustrated for children with political, social and cultural insights) a canon of “Third World small adult’s literature” must be formed.
Excerpt from Reviewing the Concepts of “the Modern Child” and “Small Adult”— A Plea for “Third World Small Adults’ Literature” as an Alternative to “Children’s Literature” by Devrim Çetin Güven. Free PDF available @ https://www.researchgate.net/publicat...
Profile Image for Az.
129 reviews38 followers
March 29, 2017
I’ve never quite read a book like this. I’ve noticed that a few reviewers have taken to referring it to the African Wizard of Oz, or as a prime example of African magical realism. I would argue though that ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’ is a hell of a lot more visceral and vibrant. This is my first foray into Amos Tutuola and in fact anything of its kind.

The story begins with a young Nigerian boy, too young to understand concepts of “good” and “bad”, and his escape from a gang of slavers into the African bush - the forbidden bush of ghosts. Our protagonist makes his way through a myth-infused environment populated by unnerving and often animalistic spirits. These encounters, as in mythological traditional, often coincide with the boy himself shape-shifting into a variety of forms and creatures. These encounters that comprise the adventure in this story do not really progress linearly at all, and neither is there much character development. There is only a semblance of continuity between the individual stories and so I feel that this, and stories like it are best appreciated orally rather than as a novel.
Profile Image for Billy Degge.
54 reviews
March 28, 2021
An oneiric series of vignettes written in prose that evokes yoruba storytelling - I'd recommend reading this aloud and preferably with a crowd. Tutuola completely (and joyfully) demolishes western paradigms of storytelling and takes the characters and symbols of campbell's mono-myth, chews it up and spits the imperialism back out.
Profile Image for Connor.
78 reviews
June 6, 2021
This book is like if spirited away was written by Kevin Barnes. I was more interested in what strange things would happen and the writing style than the plot or characters. It can kinda be read as short stories, there isn’t too much important continuity or progression. I’m looking forward to reading his other book but I can’t read them back to back
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