Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Palm-Wine Drinkard - Amos Tutuola

A bizarre book. There are little bits like fables, myths explaining natural phenomenon, lots of very tall tales, and the overarching narrative of the whole novel. I liked it, bits of it made me smile, but some of the utterly wide exaggeration is hard to swallow.

I think it's somewhere in the middle of a spectrum which has standard English at one end and Ken Saro-Wiwa´s rotten English at the other. It's easy to read, although many sentences are not how they would probably have been written in standard English. It doesn´t have - or need - a glossary. The oddity of expression here is almost entirely grammatical, rather than lexical. I like the fact that

And I like that my copy includes a facsimilie of Tutuola's original handwritten draft, with his editor's comments and "corrections"! I will definitely be doing something with that wee gem.

I liked the story about the king looking for the man who killed his son, and it's great because it could well be a stand-alone story, it's independent of the rest of the text. I might use that bit too.

The best bit, though, are the descriptions. The description of the complete gentleman and the huge creature are wonderful. And, from a dissertation point of view, these were great, because while I was still reading them, I was already having ideas about what I could do with them in a class. So far, in the reading I've done, I've been struck by particular sections or chapters or bits of text, but only to the extent that it's an interesting passage linguistically or thematically, and therefore there is probably something I can do with it. This has been the first time - so far - that I've had clear ideas about what that something might be. That's exciting. And reassuring. I was getting a bit worried about that.


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