Prose

A BOOK TO READ: THE PALM-WINE DRINKARD

The Palm-Wine Drinkard (subtitled ‘and His Dead Palm-Wine Tapster in the Dead Town’) is a novel written by Nigerian author Amos Tutuola. The book was published in the UK in 1952 and the United States in 1953. It is a novel set in Nigeria in the timeless folkloric past. It is the first African novel published outside of Africa, this quest tale, based on Yoruba folktales, is written in a modified Yoruba English or Pidgin English.

The Palm-Wine Drinkard

The book was published by Faber and Faber in the United Kingdom and Grove Press in the United States. It is a 125-page story of a man who follows his brewer into the land of the dead, encountering spirits and adventures. The Palm-Wine Drinkard and His Dead Palm-Wine Tapster have always been controversial, inspiring both admiration and contempt among Western and Nigerian critics.

Despite these, the novel emerged as one of the most important texts in the African literary canon. It has been translated into more than a dozen languages. This work by the author was followed by its series titled ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’.

SUMMARY

The Palm-Wine Drinkard is about an unnamed man; the drinkard (the narrator and protagonist) who is addicted to palm wine. He lives contentedly as the son of a rich man who retains a palm-wine tapster for his son’s exclusive use. The palm wine is made from the fermented sap of the entire tap tree which the tapster (a man who taps the palm tree for sap and then prepares the wine) delivers for the narrator and his friends.

One day, after the drinkard’s father died, the tapster falls from a palm tree and dies. This event leads to the narrator missing his supply of palm-wine, and his friends no longer pay him a visit. So, he decides to search for his deceased palm-wine tapster in the Deads’ Town so as to bring him back to life.

His adventure leads him from his town to various parts of the bush – a place where a lot of supernatural beings and inhuman creatures inhabit. He has many adventures in the world of magic. He stays with a man who promises to give directions to Deads’ Town if he finds Death and brings him to the town. After that, Death could not return to his former home, and so Death enters the world.

In the series of adventures, the narrator gains a wife and wisdom. In the end, he survives various tests and finally gains a magic egg with never-ending palm wine.

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