The Palm-Wine Drinkard

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This article is about the work of African literature. For the Kool A.D. mixtape of the same name, see The Palm Wine Drinkard (album).
The Palm-Wine Drinkard
Author Amos Tutuola
Language English
Publisher Faber and Faber
Publication date
Pages 125
ISBN 0-571-04996-6
Followed by My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

The Palm-Wine Drinkard (subtitled "and His Dead Palm-Wine Tapster in the Dead's Town") is a novel by Nigerian writer Amos Tutuola. The book was based on Yoruba folktales, but was largely his own invention using non-standard English prose. It is often considered a seminal work of modern African literature, receiving acclaim in the West, although it was criticism at home.[citation needed]

While distinctly African, the novel bears some resemblance to the magic realism works of South American writers such as Juan Rulfo and Gabriel García Márquez, but nowadays it is insert on the African Traditional Religion realism concept.[1][2][3] In all of these works the tone is mystical and pre-modern, but told in the form of a narrative novel, which is in essence a modern form. This contrast is a manifestation of the transition between traditional cultures and the global trend towards modernity.

The Palm-Wine Drinkard tells the mythological story of a man who follows a palm-wine tapster into the land of the dead or "Deads' Town". There he finds a world of magic, ghosts, demons and supernatural beings. The book was published in 1952 and received accolades from Dylan Thomas as well as other Western intellectual figures of the time. However, among many African intellectuals it caused controversy and received harsh criticism. In Nigeria, in particular, some feared the story showed their people in a negative light, specifically, that it depicted a drunk, used Pidgin English, and promoted the idea that Africans were superstitious. However, the Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe defended Tutuola's work, stating that the stories in it can also be read as moral tales commenting on Western consumerism.


An unnamed narrator is the son of a rich man, who affords his son a personal tapster. The tapster draws him many gallons of palm wine. One day the tapster falls from a tree and dies, and so the drinkard sets off for Dead's Town to try to bring back him back from the dead.

In popular culture[edit]

Kool A.D., one of the rappers in Das Racist, released a mixtape of the same name in 2012. Law and Order SVU character Detective Odafin "Fin" Tutuola's name is derived from this novel.


  1. ^ Harvey, Graham (2013). "Animist realism in indigenous novels and other literature". In: Harvey, Graham (ed.), Handbook of Contemporary Animism. Acumen Handbooks. Durham: Acumen Publishing.
  2. ^ Garuba, Harry (2003). "Explorations in Animist Materialism: Notes on Reading/Writing African Literature, Culture, and Society". Public Culture 15 (2): 261—85.
  3. ^ Pepetela (1989). Lueji, o nascimento de um império. Porto, Portugal: União dos Escritores Angolanos.

External links[edit]