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Tutuola's most famous novel, The Palm-Wine Drinkard and his Dead Palm-Wine Tapst

er in the Deads' Town, was written in 1946, first published in 1952 in London by
Faber and Faber, then translated and published in Paris as L'Ivrogne dans la br
ousse by Raymond Queneau in 1953. The noted poet Dylan Thomas brought it to wide
attention, calling it "brief, thronged, grisly and bewitching". Although the bo
ok was praised in England and the United States, it faced severe criticism in Tu
tuola's native Nigeria. Part of this criticism was due to his use of "broken Eng
lish" and primitive style, which supposedly promoted the Western stereotype of "
African backwardness". This line of criticism has, however, lost steam. In the o
pinion of Taban Lo Liyong:
Now, in all that he has done, Amos Tutuola is not sui generis. Is he ungramm
atical? Yes. But James Joyce is more ungrammatical than Tutuola. Ezekiel Mphahle
le has often said and written that African writers are doing violence to English
. Violence? Has Joyce not done more violence to the English Language? Mark Twain
's Huckleberry Finn is written in seven dialects, he tells us. It is acknowledge
d a classic. We accept it, forget that it has no "grammar", and go ahead to lear
n his "grammar" and what he has to tell us. Let Tutuola write "no grammar" and t
he hyenas and jackals whine and growl. Let Gabriel Okara write a "no grammar" Ok
olo. They are mum. Why? Education drives out of the mind superstition, daydreami
ng, building of castles in the air, cultivation of yarns, and replaces them with
a rational practical mind, almost devoid of imagination. Some of these minds ha
ving failed to write imaginative stories, turn to that aristocratic type of crit
icism which magnifies trivialities beyond their real size. They fail to touch ot
her virtues in a work because they do not have the imagination to perceive these
mysteries. Art is arbitrary. Anybody can begin his own style. Having begun it a
rbitrarily, if he persists to produce in that particular mode, he can enlarge an
d elevate it to something permanent, to something other artists will come to lea
rn and copy, to something the critics will catch up with and appreciate.[1]
Professor Omolara Ogundipe-Leslie in her own reassessment wrote in The Journal o
f Commonwealth Studies:
What commands acclaim is Tutuola's use of his materials, chosen from all and
sundry, and minted to make something beautiful, new and undeniably his own. He
has handled his material with all of the skill of the good story teller and he h
as been able to endow it with the qualities of a "well-told-tale". His denigrato
rs who think it devastating to name him a mere folktale-teller must realize that
not all folktale-tellers are necessarily good. In The Palm-Wine Drinkard, Tutuo
la has infused the life of his hybrid with the energies of a well-wrought tale.
There is the urgency in the telling, the rapidity, indispensable to the Quest-mo
tif, with which life unrolls itself; the fertility of incidents; the successful
maintenance of our interest through the varying scenes. And the good-story telle
r is ever present in The Palm-Wine Drinkard, speaking to us in warm human tones,
genial, good-natured and unpretentious.[2]
O. R. Dathorne additionally said: