Palm Wine Drinkard
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#UPisLit One-Minute Book Review: Amos Tutuola - The Palm-Wine Drinkard
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A stunning new cover edition of Amos Tutuola's debut novel, first published by Faber in This classic novel tells the phantasmagorical story of an alcoholic man and his search for his dead palm-wine tapster. As he travels through the land of the dead, he encounters a host of supernatural and often terrifying beings - among them the complete gentleman who returns his body parts to their owners and the insatiable hungry-creature. Mixing Yoruba folktales with what T. Eliot described as a 'creepy crawly imagination', The Palm-Wine Drinkard is regarded as the seminal work of African literature.
Tutuola criticizes this shift, the inevitable migration from his own cultural traditions toward modernity, while still retaining an optimism which will allow him to incorporate the remaining fragments of his culture into that new, unknown world. By using an old cultural mysticism—his juju—he is able to manifest a new physical and spiritual being. In this sense, Tutuola hints at the ephemeral nature of existence and the inevitability of change—the need to adapt to altering circumstances. But as this merging is forced upon the indigenous population it is, from their point of view, a clash, as it is they who must suffer from it. There are a few parallels between these two texts.
That The Palm-Wine Drinkard's narrator and his wife sell their death but merely rent their fear signifies, according to Richard K. This reflects the irony of existence relying on consciousness to perceive it, that if consciousness exists in all things then all living beings are, in essence, immortal as energy can neither be created nor destroyed. When Laugh laughs, everyone laughs with it, including the narrator and his wife, almost despite themselves, as if against their will again paralleling the question of temptation and choice. The laughter is infectious, and what emerges is the concept of a colonial Stockholm syndrome, wherein the captives indigenous peoples begin to identify with their captors colonial forces —adopting their customs and attitudes after a process of repressive followed by ideological acculturation.
There also emerge conflicting concepts such as mono- versus polytheism. Such cognitive dissonance serves to reinforce a seemingly impossible sanity of inverted solipsism. As Steven M. Tobias states: In The Palm-Wine Drinkard a monstrously distorted, nonsense view of the world becomes the norm. As a result, when an artifact of otherwise privileged English culture appears in the book, it in turn becomes something of an oddity. In this way Tutuola turns the colonial power structure on its ear in an attempt to reclaim the center for himself and his culture.