101 Weird Writers #34 — Amos Tutuola

“A Nightmare of Indescribable Adventures”: Style and "The Complete Gentleman"

This post is part of an ongoing series on 101 weird writers featured in The Weird compendium, the anthology that serves as the inspiration for this site. There is no ranking system; the order is determined by the schedule of posts.

Amos_tutuolaAmos Tutuola (1920 — 1997) was a largely self-taught Nigerian writer who became internationally praised for books based in part on Yoruba folktales, especially the phantasmagorical The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952). Welsh poet Dylan Thomas called the novel “thronged, grisly and bewitching,” bringing it even more attention.  Tutuola was criticized in Nigeria for the novel’s “primitive” style, seen to promote negative stereotypes about Africa. However, from the perspective of weird fiction aficionados the book is as amazing and sophisticated an accomplishment as anything from such “outsider artists” as Clark Ashton Smith, or H.P. Lovecraft himself, made unique by taking different cultural referents as its entry point into the weird. An excerpt of The Palm-Wine Drinkard is available in The Weird, featured under the title “The Complete Gentleman.” It is precisely this excerpt that leads returning contributor Leif Schenstead-Harris in his own examination of Tutuola and his uniquely weird — and magnificent — style and approach to strange storytelling.

– Adam Mills, editor of 101 Weird Writers


Iam haec equidem ipsa vocis immutatio desultoriae scientiae stilo quem accessimus respondet. [And verily this change of speech doth correspond to the enterprise and matter whereof I purpose to treat, like a rider leaping from horse to horse.]

Apuleius, The Golden Ass: Being the Metamorphoses of Lucius Apuleius[1]

I. The Influence of Amos Tutuola

In his prescient review of Amos Tutuola’s The Palm-Wine Drinkard, Dylan Thomas gave the book an introduction yet to be bettered. Here it is.

This is the brief, thronged, grisly and bewitching story, or series of stories, written in young English by a West African, about the journey of an expert and devoted palm-wine drinkard through a nightmare of indescribable adventures, all simply and carefully described in the spirit-bristling brush.[2]

Thomas’s gripping summary of the great appeal and forbidding strangeness of Tutuola’s novel speaks to the historical uncertainty of readers who, approaching the Nigerian writer’s inimitable prose, gratefully throw themselves on any ready heuristic. The ensuing and seemingly endless citation of Thomas’s single-page review must make it one of the most successful in twentieth-century literary criticism. Remarking on the pairing of Tutuola and Thomas, Chinua Achebe observes that Tutuola’s novel greatly resembles Thomas’s own sensual, moodily technical aesthetic, his language set ever so slightly askew, the better to perceive truth and illuminate the heart’s hidden nature. Here’s how Thomas put it in his ars poetica, “In My Craft or Sullen Art”:

I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.[3]

If Dylan Thomas wrote from the “raging moon,” as he put it later in his poem, he found a kindred voice in Tutuola’s narration, a storyteller with torturous grammar and thrilling images. In that first review, for good or for ill, Thomas set an imprint for readers of Tutuola’s devilish and complex stories written in what another critic has called a “macédoine of malapropisms.”[4]

Yet at the heart of Thomas’s review rests the inventive, disturbing, and thoroughly engaging work of Amos Tutuola. Perhaps, despite the traditional invocation of Dylan Thomas, it is time for critical appraisals to allow Amos Tutuola’s work in its own Nigerian and Yoruban contexts to stand as its own introduction. As Achebe writes, Tutuola gave the world “an odyssey in peculiar English which roamed around from realism to magic and back again, as in old Africa.” In so doing, Tutuola “opened the floodgates to modern West African writing.”[5]

This introduction to Amos Tutuola’s “The Complete Gentleman” will, in the spirit of the 101 Weird Writers series, focus on the selection from The Palm-Wine Drinkard anthologized in The Weird (2012), along with some pertinent passages from the novel. Briefly, however, I would like to survey several contemporary perspectives on Tutuola’s work. Weird Fiction Review has several excellent pieces on Amos Tutuola. I want to draw particular attention to Geoff Wisner’s investigation of The Palm-Wine Drinkard as a whole, “The Drinkard, His Tapster, and Their Legacy” (2012), and to Jeff VanderMeer’s interview with Yinka Tutuola, Amos Tutuola’s son, “Amos Tutuola: An Interview with Yinka Tutuola” (2013). Both entries do masterful work, and readers would be amiss to neglect them.

From VanderMeer and Tutuola’s interview emerges the picture of a secluded but vivacious man whose stories enlivened his and others’ worlds with humour, wisdom, and, most trenchantly, a particularly strong influence. Wisner gives us a clear introduction to linguistic and narrative issues in the novel, and in particular a good grasp on the specific weirdnesses in Tutuola’s work. The Palm-Wine Drinkard evidences “not just the weirdness of translating Yoruba folktales in a naïve and literal way,” Wisner writes, but also “the greater weirdness that comes from the effort to haul the culture itself into the world of modern Nigeria, with its bombs, telephones, and cameras.”[6] Oral cultures and their tight hold on traditional storytelling grapples against the many signs of an increasingly global and technocultural world. Preeminent among these signs are those of an increasingly transformative and spectral late capitalism whose commodity culture infiltrates global spaces.

Thus another of Tutuola’s wanderers in the bush of ghosts comes across a “Television-Handed Ghostess” in the following novel, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1954).[7] This wounded and elderly ghostess (a Tutuola neologism, though the OED lists some scattered precedents[8]) points the weary traveller on the way to home; from her trauma she tells the future, in the manner of Cassandra, but her revelation takes modern form. “[W]hen she told me to look at her palm and opened it nearly to touch my face, it was exactly as a television, I saw my town, mother, brother, and all my playmates.”[9] A palmistry and fortune-telling merge with televisual uncanniness, all under the banner of information production and management. The human body becomes a technological site, a prophetic fusion of irredeemably different objects. Tutuola’s writing mirrors the effect. His stylistic fusion of oral and prose traditions and objects sets an unlikely precedent for cybernetic and distributed-identity media studies.

Distorted, the effect can be mistaken for purest fantasy, and indeed they dance with the stuff of nightmares. One contemporary reader notes in Tutuola’s Palm-Wine Drinkard especially “a sort of afterlife nightmare, a folktale-mirage, a world unanchored from reality that contains things that are not describable, but that are discussed in a deadpan style.”[10] Yet Tutuola’s legendary first descriptions of the bush of ghosts evidence his stylistic investment in realism. He wrote to London-based photography publisher Focal Press to wonder whether they were interested in his manuscript and photography of ghosts in the Nigerian bush. Getting the go-ahead, Tutuola sent Focal Press his story “The Wild Hunter in the Bush of Ghosts.” Although the story wouldn’t be published until 1982, it is quoted in The Palm-Wine Drinkard. Tutuola’s earliest manuscript

arrived in London wrapped in brown paper, rolled up like a magazine, and bound with twine. The sixteen photographic negatives accompanying the seventy-seven-page handwritten manuscript turned out to be snapshots of hand-drawn sketches of spirits featured in the story. […] Written on single-spaced lines covering both sides of loose sheets of foolscap which appear to have been torn from a ledger, the story has marginal notations indicating exactly where the spooky photographs were to be placed.[11]

Such dedication to locating the phantasmagorical truth of nightmare speaks to a stylistic sense scrupulously anchored in reality, one that is delineated with care and earnestness. If nightmare’s form makes it indescribable, it is not for a lack of descriptive effort.

Realism’s trenchant influence make these stories emotionally coherent, though written in jagged, unfamiliar phrasing and reported in a narrative voice at odds with emotional phrasing through uncommonly excessive verbiage. In this stylistic exchange, new perspectives on the world emerge. Achille Mbembe argues that Tutuola’s fiction expose how “languages of life” rely on a specific understanding of “self, truth, and time.” Tutuola’s ghosts and wandering subjects are “aspects of the real[,] integral to a world of life and terror rather than tied to a world of appearances.”[12] In other words, the specular and spectral power of Tutuola’s “nightmare of indescribable adventures,” to again cite Thomas, exposes how these hitherto wordless darknesses trace the uncertainty and unease incumbent to common assumptions, namely, the human mastery of environmental objects through reason and technique. Tutuola’s stories question our reflective self-possession and attendant interiority, our proclaimed difference from animals, and our expressions of desire, pleasure, and happiness. For him, sensorial input and instincts are mistrusted, while the nature of narrative knowledge comes under question.[13]

It is difficult to ascertain the value of disruptions in normative style and grammar, but Mbembe, for one, locates their central place in constructions of humanist subjectivity, the sense of who a person is and how they see their place in the world’s complex ecosystems. The organized grammar of normative language underlies the complex syntax of philosophies of identity and expression; style cumulates in modes of being.[14] Once disrupted, as in Tutuola’s irregular grammar, uncertainty’s abyss yawns. His is more properly a world of transformations and language more common to Yoruban expressions than those of metropolitan English.[15] Such grammatical descriptions make the invisible visible; they issue guidance through stories. Elaine Scarry reminds us that “perceptual acuity exists precisely in order to ensure that we can infer the structure of material reality (and thereby make our way safely through it).”[16] Since Tutuola’s subject is the bush of ghosts, a place of nightmares, the task is important indeed.

These are broad strokes, even caricatures, and their catalogue is well known. Many of the things we take for granted about who and what we are as human subjects become disjointed; even the narrative syntax circles and mutters, biting itself in repeating clauses and decentering the human emotions and thoughts which traditional novelistic discourse holds as its usual operational mode. To draw out the things in which we find ourselves mirrored in stories gives an easy reading experience; it reinforces our vision of ourselves. To do so in stories that resist our safe and usual concepts of ourselves is difficult, dangerous, and unpleasant. Comparing the effect of writing on us as readers to the effect of looking in a mirror, Mbembe contends that Amos Tutuola leads us down a darkened path, a “negative space which is the gap between theand its shadow.”[17] Where does this path lead? Into the bush of ghosts, a playing ground of visions, revelations, surprises, and transformations. Back into the structure of the folktale, but following the traces of dense epistemological disruption along the jagged borders of assumptions about what constitutes normal existence. These shift and sway along with the structures that support them, the perceiving I of self-mythologizing belief and the flittering eyes of the reader.

A caveat. However amicable its teller, Tutuola’s described realm is no passing entertainment. The weird draws it performs on our affective complexes tell of our capacity for suffering or, perhaps more damningly, of our willingness to peer at loss. “One does not enter into the ghostly realm out of curiosity or because one wants to,” Mbembe writes: “Ultimately a tragedy, indeed a loss, is at the origin of everything.”[18] The tragedy at hand is the death of the tapster whose palm-wine slipped the desires of the tale-teller and whose products served as the currency that united a community of sycophants and false friends. Here’s our itinerant teller, our bush wanderer:

When I saw that there was no palm-wine for me again, and nobody could tap it for me, then I thought within myself that old people were saying that the whole people who had died in this world, did not go to heaven directly, but they were living in one place somewhere in this world. So that I said that I would find out where my palm-wine tapster who had died was.[19]

In Tutuola’s later novel My Life in the Bush of Ghosts a young boy enters the bush of ghosts accidentally, as he runs from the military forces who will steamroll his village and take his brother into slavery. In comparison, when our narrator in “The Complete Gentleman” tells us of the Skull and the family, we know this narrator has a formidable will to succeed. He has already found and released Death into the world after all, splitting the afterlife in pieces.[20] He is looking for his tapster and for the peace the tapster’s palm-wine promised. No obstacle is too great.

Another way to say this is that we have been led to the realm of the weird by desire’s propulsive melancholy. Elspeth Huxley dismissively wrote that Tutuola’s novel is “full of the queer, distorted poetry, the deep and dreadful fears, the cruelty, the obsession with death and spirits, the macabre humour, the grotesque imagery of the African mind. […] It is possessed by spirits and the spirits are malign.”[21] Trapped by her totalizing ideas about African artistry and brain structures,[22] Huxley misses the joy and passion attendant to Tutuola’s vision; perversely, she attributes its critical appendages as its guiding spirits, missing the keen intelligence of this exploration of loss, possibility, and epistemological issues in a melancholy common the world over.

Tutuola’s ghostly nightmare world is one of loss, but it is also one of transformation and change. And if the bush strips some characters of their appendages (the narrator of his tapster’s palm-wine, the gentleman of his every limb), there is also the possibility of great gain in the bush. Along the way complex emotions circle ideas of dismemberment, loss, and bodily change: fear, awe, bewilderment, courage, terror, and the rhythms which, embedded in the story through hard-to-read sounds and gestures, return the dead to life and revive the ecosystem of signs and signifieds in which they operate. It is “a telluric sequence […] through which that which was buried has been jolted out of sleep.”[23] Affective responses to Tutuola’s stories demonstrate the lasting translation of these affects into the reader’s body and the literary canon alike.

II. “The Complete Gentleman”: Transformations and a Terrible Forest

The Complete Gentleman” begins with something new in the novel, a third-person story. It is about a beautiful gentleman and a woman whom the narrator has been charged to find. She resembles ourselves, attracted by a gentleman’s marvellous beauty and ignorant of warnings, and she follows him into “an endless forest in which only all the terrible creatures were living.”[24] Only all (!) of them. No wonder the section heading tells us “DO NOT FOLLOW UNKNOWN MAN’S BEAUTY.” Beauty is bought and sold: the gentleman is a skull only, magically living in the nightmare bush through unnamed powers. He returns his composite parts to their real owners each day on his way home. Disregarding all warnings, seeing him strip away his body and flesh, the woman is entrapped by the Skull’s “curious and terrible voice.”[25] Once trapped, the forest reveals a small set of horrors. The woman is held in a hole of a house, given a frog for a seat, a cowrie-alarm around her neck, and kept by a Skull on constant watch. A new hell, surely, fresh material for the weird.

As if to underline the horrors of the bush, the Skull’s purchased human flesh carries magnetic appeal. Money buys not just beauty, but power too, and protection. The drinkard explains:

if this gentleman went to the battle field, surely, enemy would not kill him or capture him and if bombers saw him in a town which was to be bombed, they would not throw bombs on his presence, and if they did throw it, the bomb itself would not explode until this gentleman would leave that town, because of his beauty.[26]

Bought beauty cannot be met in combat. And so the narrator journeys into the endless forest, changing himself into a lizard to avoid detection. For him safety lies in transformation. The narrator escapes the Skulls’ detection again by changing himself into air. When making the break for freedom he transforms the rescued woman into a kitten and makes himself a small bird (the kitten, safely in his pocket, is kept safe in transformation’s magic). Against the commingled powers of beauty, horror, and the cowries’ magic, the narrator adopts a storyteller’s age-old resource: transformation. Another name for fiction is possibility.

What accounts for the prominence of transformation in stories of the weird? Necessity. The need for stories to account for reality’s interlocking rationality and nightmare, the accepted and the unusual. The drinkard later explains that his “juju […] was given me by ‘Water Spirit woman’ in the ‘Bush of the Ghosts’ (the full story of the ‘Spirit woman’ appeared in the story book of the Wild Hunter in the Bush of the Ghosts).”[27] This circular reference to a book that would not be published for another thirty years suggests that magic, the drinkard’s juju, is an intertextual power accrued by storytelling’s deep roots in the hope of self-invention and linguistic change, themselves mirrored by Apuleius’ classical description of translation. They signify what Michael Moorcock deems a way “the unconscious told [and continues to tell] its tales, apparently though eccentric, innocent, or unusual images and strange behavior.”[28] Transformations are translations between narrative regimes of symbolic representation; they are weapons in a conceptual battle between inseparable worlds: the town and the bush. In the context of magic realism, a genre in which transformation retains its historic power, Stephen Slemon observes that

Since the ground rules of these two worlds are incompatible, neither one can fully come into being, and each remains suspended, locked in a continuous dialectic with the “other,” a situation which creates disjunction within each of the separate discursive systems, rending them with gaps, absences, and silence.[29]

Disjunctions and desire oversee any exchange between worlds. The Skull keeps the townswoman in his hole with the aid of cowries, the town’s currency. The drinkard searches for his dead tapster in the world of the dead, and for the missing woman in the endless forest. Most saliently, the Skull hires human body parts to exist in the town, thus adopting the commercial logic of our world; the drinkard, in a parallel move, must become lizard, air, and bird to thrive in the phantasmagoric forest. Transformation itself takes multiple forms: it is current to both commercial transactions and magical shapeshifting, a legacies of the modern world and of Nigerian orality’s animist realism (to use Ato Quayson’s phrase).[30] The endless forest is made up of history, chance, and those indescribable things which cannot be explained by anything other than story – a story which, in Tutuola’s hands, mirrors the indescribable with its own idiom and style.

III. “The Complete Gentleman”: Wives, Sons & Cowries; A Domestic Resolution

At the beginning of the novel we are told there are no currencies other than palm-wine and cowries.[31] The Skulls hang a cowrie around the woman’s neck to imprison her. They threaten our narrator with another. These cowries have a fascinating effect. They clamour when moved and silence the speech of those about whose necks they are hung. By closing the range of human expression, prohibiting movement and speech, they echo the stultifying effects of a “half-bodied baby” the drinkard and his wife birth only slightly later in the novel.[32] Before that, however, the narrator must contend with the cowrie hung around the woman’s neck. “Now I had brought the lady,” he tells us, “but she could not talk, eat or loose away the cowrie on her neck, because the terrible noise of the cowrie did not allow anybody to rest or sleep at all.”[33]

What follows is another trip into the terrible, endless forest. Removing the cowrie turns out to be easy enough, following the folkloric logic where the narrator, suitably transformed into a listening lizard, discovers that he must feed two compound leaves to the woman after the Skull tells him everything he needs to know. The conclusion neatly summarizes the tale:

So when the father and mother saw the wonderful work which I had done for them, they brought fifty-kegs of palm-wine for me, they gave me the lady as wife and two rooms in that house in which to live with them. So, I saved the lady from the complete gentleman in the market who afterwards reduced to a “Skull” and the lady became my wife since that day. This was how I got a wife.[34]

Skilfully revisiting all the major plot points of the short story, the syntax establishes a veritable morality lesson in organized prose, ending with a time-honoured phrase and an establishment of domestic harmony hitherto unexperienced by the narrator. Conceivably, the story could end here.

Yet more nightmares follow. Peace, happiness, and contented consumption do not last. The last element sparks the dynamite and catalyzes future unhappiness. Fifty-kegs of palm-wine, his reward for the rescue, do not stop the drinkard from tapping palm-wine for three years in the town. All changes when his wife’s swollen left thumb bursts into an uncannily-aged ten-year old boy, their son, Eventually, the couple will do anything to escape this child’s unbridled and violent control. A sign of unbridled consumption, the symbolic flip-side of capitalist accumulation, the baby eats their town out of house and home, and, after they attempt to burn him alive, speaks with a “voice like a telephone” to blind and suffocate the couple when they try to leave him.[35] The boy’s name is Zurrjir, “which means a son who would change himself into another thing very soon.”[36] The son’s vast hunger and brutal violence in the town mirrors his father’s unconquerable thirst and cunning willingness to enter into the bush of ghosts; he is an abiku, of a nightmarish kind.

Zurrjir symbolizes rampant consumption; his transformations demonstrate the supple logic of insidious capitalism flourishing in the form of a modernized Yoruban abiku child.[37] His brief reign of terror gestures to the eventual destitution and servitude rightfully feared by early critics of capitalist forms of consumption and social organization. The logic is drawn from the line of magical association which allows cowries to silence a woman and stop her movements. Cowries are currency, and carry the powers of accumulation and purchasing. No surprise that currency carries magical power: a medium of transformation, its power is that of appearances and surfaces. Moreover, words also trade in in its power, as they circulate with fluctuating value. Currency’s nightmare reflection, the uncanny son Zurrjir, is fearsome indeed. The narrator conquers the Skull’s magic cowrie easily enough, though its exchange of silence for clamour is cause enough for concern, especially given its translation out of the nightmare forest and into the normal world of the town. Zurrjir is not so easily dismissed. But that is another tale.

The domestic resolution of the “Complete Gentleman”episode does not conceal the lingering terror to come: the weird merger of traditional spirits with modern capitalism to make of the daytime world itself an indescribable nightmare. It was one of Amos Tutuola’s great legacies that he tracked the reaches of capitalist modernity into the heart of an indescribable nightmare with such traditionally rich, yet stylistically innovative prose.


[1] Apuleius, The Golden Ass: Being the Metamorphoses of Lucius Apuleius, trans. W. Adlington(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970), 1.

[2]Dylan Thomas, “Blithe Spirits”, The Observer 6 June (1952), 7.

[3] Dylan Thomas, “In My Craft or Sullen Art”, Poetry Foundation.

[4] Steven G. Kellman, The Translingual Imagination (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000), 41.

[5] Achebe also credits publisher Heinemann’s African Writers Series. Chinua Achebe, Home and Exile (Edinburgh: Canongate, 2001), 44 – 45, 51.

[6] Geoff Wisner, “The Drinkard, His Tapster, and Their Legacy”, Weird Fiction Review 5 June (2012), np.

[7] It is worth mentioning that the similarities between Tutuola’s themes in My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and those of Beninese writer Olympe Bhêly-Quénum, especially the latter’s “A Child in the Bush of Ghosts”(1949, anthologized in The Weird), are striking, and deserve fuller exploration elsewhere.

[8]“ghostess, n,”OED Online, June 2014.

[9] Amos Tutuola, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (London: Faber and Faber, 1954), 163.

[10] John H. Stevens, “The Joy of Thinking (and Reading) Weirdly”, SF Signal 13 October (2011), np.

[11] Bernth Lindfors, Early Nigerian Literature (New York: Africana, 1982), 26 – 27. Cf. Kenneth W. Harrow, “Bernth Lindfors and the Archive of African Literature,”Research in African Literatures 32.4 (2001), 149.

[12] Achille Mbembe, “Life, Sovereignty, and Terror in the Fiction of Amos Tutuola”, Research in African Literatures 34.4 (2003), 1.

[13] Ibid, 2. Mbembe here is summarizing the work of a wealth of philosophers: G.W.F Hegel, Martin Heidegger, Edmund Husserl, Michel Foucault, Paul Ricoeur, Charles Taylor, Norbert Elias, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Jacques Lacan. Conspicuously absent in this list and Mbembe’s summary are names of women and questions of gender or sexuality.

[14] Novelists as diametrically opposed to Tutuola as, for instance, Martin Amis, concur. “Style is not neutral; it gives moral directions,”Amis epigrammatically states. John Haffenden, “Martin Amis”, Novelists in Interview (London: Methuen, 1985), 23. Joseph Conrad put the question more forcefully. The English language – his third, of course, after French and Polish –had a major influence over Conrad, and in his judgement “made me its own so completely that its very idioms I truly believe had a direct action on my temperament and fashioned my still plastic character.”A Personal Record (Garden City: Doubleday, 1912), vii. Closest in temperament and prominence would be fellow Nigerian, Ogoni novelist and playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa, the writer whose “rotten English”accompanied his ecological activism and eventual, outrageous execution to great dismay. See his Sozaboy: A Novel in Rotten English (Port Harcourt: Saros, 1986).

[15] Jeff VanderMeer, “Amos Tutuola: An Interview with Yinka Tutuola,”Weird Fiction Review 7 January (2013), np.

[16] Elaine Scarry, Dreaming by the Book (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999), 20.

[17] Ibid, 4.

[18] Ibid, 7.

[19] Amos Tutuola, The Palm-Wine Drinkard (London: Faber and Faber, 1952), 9.

[20] In the narrator’s words, “since the day that I had brought Death out from his house, he has no permanent place to dwell or stay, and we are hearing his name about in the world. This was how I brought out Death to the old man who told me to go and bring him before he (old man) would tell me whereabouts my palm-wine tapster was that I was looking for before I reached that town and went to the old man.”Tutuola, Palm-Wine Drinkard, 16.

[21] Elspeth Huxley, Four Guineas (London: Chatto & Windus, 1954), 175.

[22] Chinua Achebe draws our critical attention especially to Huxley’s speculation that “perhaps it may be, as some doctors have suggested, that his brain is different: that it has a shorter growing period and possesses less well-formed, less cunningly arranged cells than that of the Europeans –in other words, that there is a fundamental disparity between the capabilities of his brain and outs.”White Mans Country (London: Chatto & Windus, 1935), 221. This from a book which was for a time considered “the best apologia for white settlement that has been written.”Margery Perham, qtd. in Historicizing Colonial Nostalgia, Patricia M.E. Lorcin (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 125. See also Achebe, Home and Exile, 60 – 69.

[23] Achille Mbembe, “Life, Soverignty, and Terror”, 13.

[24] Amos Tutuola, “The Complete Gentleman,”The Weird, eds. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (New York: Tor, 2012), 333.

[25] Ibid 335.

[26] Ibid 335.

[27] Tutuola, Palm-Wine Drinkard, 40.

[28] Michael Moorcock, “Foreweird,”The Weird, eds. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (New York: Tor, 2012), xii.

[29] Stephen Slemon, “Magical Realism as Postcolonial Discourse,” Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, eds. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995), 409.

[30] Ato Quayson, “Fecundities of the Unexpected,” The Novel, ed. Franco Moretti, vol. 1 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006),754.

[31] Tutuola, Palm-Wine Drinkard, 7.

[32] In my mind, the “half-bodied baby”strongly resembles a figures of early photography, motion-blurred and incomplete, perhaps the famous man having his boots cleaned on the Boulevard du Temple who, his feet and legs “compelled, of course, to be stationary for some time […] were well defined, but he is without body or head, because these were in motion”and thus beyond the grasp of of Daguerre in 1838. Samuel F. B. Morse, qtd. in L. J. M. Daguerre, Helmut and Alison Gernsheim (New York: Dover, 1968), 89 – 90.

[33] Tutuola, “The Complete Gentleman,”336.

[34] Ibid 337.

[35] Ibid 35.

[36] Tutuola, Palm-Wine Drinkard, 32.

[37] An abiku spirit does not only live in a child’s form to die again, and thus bring misery on its human parents, but also and equally malevolently intends personal gain from the matter. “It is the intention of every Abiku …to return affluent to its abode after having turned its parents into a wretched couple,”Timothy Mobolade writes. The parents’lost wealth “is believed to have gone into the coffers of the Abiku.”Timothy Mobolade, “The Concept of Abiku,”African Arts 7.1 (1973): 62.

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