Who has the film rights to The Palmwine Drinkard? Did Tutuola like to write at night or during the day? What does Tutuola have in common with D. H. Lawrence? Find out!

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1. The Mystery of Numbers: Tutuola had 11 children by four women and published 11 books in four decades.

2. The Viral Novel: The Palmwine Drinkard is the first African novel to go viral. It’s the first to be published in London. The following year, an American edition was released. Soon after a French translation was published in Paris. The novel was so popular that Vogue Magazine gave it a mention in a 1953 issue, in a column called “People Are Talking About…” Here is the quote:

People are talking about…The Palm-wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola, a West African novelist whose English is almost as vivid as his flaring imagination, which makes for a book about a journey to the dead that is even more odd than those best-sellers on climbing a mountain or diving deep into the sea.

Tutuola’s first novel is essentially the grand global debut of what we now call “the African novel.”

3. “Cheap” Popularity? How much do you think Tutuola got paid for the manuscript of The Palmwine Drinkard? After the publishing firm, Thomas Nelson, rejected the manuscript, Faber and Faber accepted it and paid Tutuola 50 dollars (about 400 dollars today) as royalty for the first edition. His writing never did bring him wealth. He worked in the civil service all his life, first as a messenger in the Labor Department in Lagos and later as a storekeeper for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation. Tutuola is one person who seemed to have written not for the money but for the pure love of the craft.

4. #ThugLife: So you think you’re a starving artist. Have you had to sell bread to support yourself? Tutuola did. That’s what I call hardcore hustling.

5. Unsung Hero: As great a man as he was, no Nigerian University thought it fit to award him an honorary degree. Even though they frequently give honorary degrees to corrupt politicians.

6. Thinking of Doing a Palmwine Drinkard Movie? You might need to contact Disney, who bought the film rights. My source isn’t clear about the date, but I think it was in 1964.

7. Foreign Accolades: It’s no secret that Tutuola received far more love abroad than at home in Nigeria. In 1984, he won the Grinzane Cavour Prize for best Foreign Fiction. Others who have since shared that honor with him are Vonnegut, Gordimer, Soyinka, Doris lessing, Julian Barnes and many more. In 1983, he was made an honorary citizen of New Orleans.

8. Secrets of the CraftThe Palmwine Drinkard was written in three days, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts in two to three weeks followed by a three-month revision. When Tutuola revised, he didn’t tinker with the text. He simple rewrote passages that he thought did not work well. Another writer who worked like this was D. H. Lawrence.

9. A Writer’s Quirk: “According to Ibadan literary gossip, Tutuola wrote constantly, mostly late at night.”

 

Sources:
Amos Tutuola by Harold R. Collins (1969)
Wikipedia
“Unsung Hero: Amos Tutuola” by Hyacinth Obunseh (The Week, Oct 13, 1997)
An Interview With Yinka Tutuola by Jeff Vandermeer
Vogue Magazine (Vogue121.6 (Apr 1, 1953): 104, 105.)

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

2 Responses to “9 Surprising Facts About Amos Tutuola and His Work” Subscribe

  1. paul alfred 2016/02/25 at 06:03 #

    Amos did not win Grinzane Cavour Prize for best Foreign Fiction, he was just a finalist in 1984

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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