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The Palm-Wine Drinkard

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  2,075 ratings  ·  219 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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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  2,075 ratings  ·  219 reviews


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Antonomasia
Sep 06, 2015 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
...more
Moses Kilolo
Dec 09, 2011 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
...more
MJ Nicholls
Oct 29, 2014 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
Jonfaith
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
So there's a scene where the evasive Death is being pursued, but he isn't at home, he's in the yam garden. I thought, Candide! There was hope but alas I don't like novels drenched in Folk Lore and the sinuous path never again crackled my imagination. Recommended for friends of The Storyteller or The Hakawati. ...more
Michael
140718: this is read 3 times. this is the book that made his name. it has been translated but i do not know how: a lot of the pleasure is in the voice, the unique version of Nigerian english used, perhaps proving that you cannot fail to make poetry when you use english (beckett). i had read some Tutuola before this, i was not surprised, but all the invented and fantastic adventures are what could be translations of typical oral tales he had learned from his grandmother and others then written do ...more
Anthony Buckley
Aug 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: africa, literature
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
...more
Monika
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Published in 1952, Amos Tutuola's The Palm-Wine Drinkard is the first African novel to be published in English outside of Africa. It is subtitled "and His Dead Palm-Wine Tapster in the Dead's Town". Told from the perspective of the "Father of gods who could do anything in this world", it describes his journey for the quest of his dead tapster. For me, this is the kind of work that would have impressed Coleridge (in terms of my reading experience). He said, "The reader should be carried forward, ...more
Skip
Jan 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a recent NY Times Book Review article, Nigerian writer Chigozie Obioma told a story about how when he was frequently ill as a child, his father would tell him wild stories. Puzzled as to why this stopped, he asked his father for an explanation, who explained that Chigozie was now old enough to read on his own, handing him The Palm-Wine Drinkard. It turns out his father had no imagination whatsoever and the stories were all from this book by Amos Tutuola.

The protagonist is a drunk, having star
...more
Mala
Oct 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Gregsamsa
Recommended to Mala by: Nathan NR


I need some Juju to help me review this!
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
else fine
Jun 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lit, bestof2010, read2010
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
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
...more
Brent Legault
Jan 31, 2012 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
...more
dianne
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.
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.
Robert Wechsler
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-lit, tasted
These are trickster stories, along the lines of the Chinese Monkey King tales, the Native American Coyote tales, and the African Anansi tales. The tales are extraordinary, and the idiosyncratic prose is entertaining. But 60 pages was enough for me. Another 60 pages would have been painful, and I didn’t want that to happen. Highly recommended.
Adam Dalva
Interesting book with a fabulous, unique style that melds Yoruban folktales with contemporary life in a classic "there and back again plot structure" that revolves around drinking wine. The short tales themselves are hit-or-miss; Tutuola's protagonist suffers, as does Superman and the RAMAYANA's Rama, from a sort of plot immortality that means we read almost exclusively for descriptions. When they are good, as in the story of the Skull disguised as the complete gentleman (a skull borrows body pa ...more
Bjorn
Apr 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nigeria
"PAY WHAT YOU OWE ME AND VOMIT WHAT YOU ATE"
Magdelanye
It was early 70s when i read this book and was blown away by its quiet power.
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
Uche Ogbuji
Dec 04, 2010 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
...more
Cody
Dec 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
here are some words that are capitalized in the book

COWRIES

BOTH WIFE AND HUSBAND IN THE HUNGRY-CREATURE'S STOMACH

"RETURN THE PARTS OF THE BODY TO THE OWNERS; OR HIRED PARTS OF THE COMPLETE GENTLEMAN'S BODY TO THE RETURNED"

AFRAID OF TOUCHING TERRIBLE CREATURES IN BAG

"THE LADY WAS NOT TO BE BLAMED FOR FOLLOWING THE SKULL AS A COMPLETE GENTLEMAN"

"THE INVESTIGATOR'S WONDERFUL WORK IN THE SKULL FAMILY'S HOUSE"

THE DESCRIPTION OF THE CURIOUS CREATURE:-

NONE OF THE DEADS TOO YOUNG TO ASSAULT. DEAD-BABIE
...more
Darkowaa
Jan 28, 2015 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
...more
Nathaniel
Sep 10, 2008 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
...more
Damien
Aug 13, 2009 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
Ona
Aug 24, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aubrey
I probably should have taken into account my reaction to Laye's The Radiance of the King before reading this, but that's the power of a Goodreads' reputation for you. It's the reason why I snapped this up along with "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" after stumbling upon them both in an obscenely cheap form, as why I read this sooner rather than later. The problem with my reading is that, while I can do sensational monstrosities (if unrooted in bigotry), such material goes better in a visual form, ...more
Carrie Lorig
Oct 01, 2012 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
Adam
Aug 07, 2011 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.
lyell bark
Apr 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
someday i'm going to walk into a den of floating skulls and pull out a wife also
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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.

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“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-tree farm which was nine miles square and it contained 560,000 palm-trees, and this palm-wine tapster was tapping one hundred and fifty kegs of palm-wine every morning, but before 2 o’clock p.m., I would have drunk it all; after that he would go and tap another 75 kegs.” 9 likes
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