Celebrated Nigerian writer Amos Tutuola dies
GILBERT DA COSTA
Jun. 18, 1997
ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) _ Nigerian writer Amos Tutuola, celebrated _ and sometimes vilified _ for bringing the tales, language and imagery of ordinary Nigerians to a wider audience, has died at 77.
Tutuola died June 8 in Ibadan, about 200 miles southwest of Nigeria's capital, Abuja. Although no cause of death was disclosed, he had been suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes.
Funeral plans have not been completed.
Tutuola's first and best-known novel, ``The Palmwine Drinkard,'' attracted enthusiastic reviews abroad when it appeared in 1952. The British newspaper The Observer called it ``a brief, thronged, grisly, bewitching, tall, devilish story.''
At home, some among Nigeria's elite accused Tutuola of feeding Western stereotypes of uneducated Africans, and of having a limited grasp of English.
But Dr. Remi Adedokun, a theater professor at the University of Ibadan, said Tutuola's works should be seen as ``African classics because they deal in folklores which are uniquely presented in refreshing idioms, imagery, metaphor and similes that are truly traditional.''
Tutuola borrowed heavily from well-known Nigerian folk tales, often modernizing them. A passage from ``The Palmwine Drinkard'' illustrates his use of exaggeration, grammatical flights of fancy and descriptive phrases that have direct parallels in traditional Yoruba story telling:
``As we were traveling about in the bush on that night, my wife was feeling overloading of this baby and if we put him on a scale by that time, he would weigh at least 28 pounds; when I saw that my wife had tired of carrying him and she could not carry him any longer. Then I took over to carry him along, but before I could carry him to a distance of about one quarter of a mile I was unable to move again and I was sweating as if I bath in water for overloading, yet this half-bodied baby did not allow us to put him down and rest.''
Tutuola was born in 1920 at Abeoukuta in the Yoruba heartland. He trained as a blacksmith before World War II, and served in Britain's Royal Air Force in Lagos during the war. He worked as a messenger, storekeeper and clerk at the then-Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation before turning to writing.