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Wassel Mathews

There’s really no end to last-name adjectives in Western literary culture. Shakespearean, Dickensian, Kafkaesque, Sebaldian are just a few. As you can imagine, it’s an honor for an author to have his or her last name become an adjective.

The last-name adjective is the sign that an author has become bigger than him or herself, has been promoted to a higher level of abstraction. Kafka ceases to be Kafka (the man) and becomes a technique, an aesthetic form, a style, a political idea, an artistic movement, a literary problem, a historical force, etc. His name is used to define a vast and diverse body of work that comes after he is long gone and even many that precede him.

The last-name adjective is the proof of an authors influence on a literary tradition. I like to think of it as an apotheosis from author to ancestor.

In African fiction, we’ve had some. Not many. It is common among African literary scholars to speak of an Achebean style, a Soyinkan aesthetics, or a Senghorian imagery.

Blame it on my Tutuola obsession, but I think he deserves to become adjectivized. Tutuolaesque—sounds so beautiful!

Fastforward 50 years from now, which of our contemporary African writers will receive this literary honor? Not all of them. You have to have reinvented the literary tradition for you to gain access into this very exclusive ancestral cult.

Who, among our contemporary writers, will change the course of African fiction? Who will leave a legacy that we would celebrate by transforming their last names into adjectives. Will we ever get to describe literary ideas and forms as Adichian, Beukesian, Colean, Binyavangan, Selasian, Bulawayan, Okrian?

We’ll have to wait and see.


Image by Wassel Mathews via

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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.

13 Responses to “Tutuolaesque? African Fiction and the Last-Name Adjective” Subscribe

  1. Obinna Udenwe August 27, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    Awesome! Let’s wait and see. Nice and creativetively creative work lol

  2. Saadiyah August 28, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    no need to wait for one of the list: colean!

  3. uhamiri August 28, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    Adichian sounds good

  4. Nancy Henaku August 28, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    Tutuolaesque? Wow… feels so wonderful on my tongue and you are right. It definitely needs to be adjectivised. Maybe, you could start by using it in your work…who knows?

  5. Sara Perkins August 28, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

    Tutuolaesque….now I will co-sign that with my last and first-name! I love Amos Tutuola too much as well. I would add to this list Armahian from Ayi Kwei Armah because “Two Thousand Seasons” and “The Healers” are very epic.

    I will start having to use Tutuolaesque from now on. Now I can describe the writing of Henry Duman as Tutuolaesque.

    Great post on much-needed-to-be-put-in-the-air topic 🙂

  6. Ainehi Edoro August 29, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    Hi Sara. Who is Henry Duman?

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