Sunday, October 17, 2010

Amos Tutuola: The Wild Hunter in the Bush of the Ghosts

Amos Tutuola's first major effort (so far as I know), The Wild Hunter in the Bush of the Ghosts (1948), serves as a stand-alone and prequel to The Palm-Wine Drinkard and His Dead Palm-Wine Tapster in the Dead's Town (1952) and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1954). Wild Hunter is rawer, more fragmented, but still quite a refreshing break from contemporary writing styles. Each of these works fuel dream states with pep; they might put a Tiger in your Tank of daydreams, too.

The Three Continents Press "First Standard Version" edited by Bernth Lindfors published in 1989 (with illustrations as above by Max K. Winkler) is a good place to start.  At least that's the version I got my hands on. Unlike the later novels, The Wild Hunter doles out specificities in time and names. For example: "It was on the 4th day of May, 1838, that I left the fourth town with tears, and began my journey again, seeking the way to my town" (p. 74).  The Wild Hunter's journey includes stays in Heaven and Hell -- heady stuff, and certainly kind of crazy. His encounters with one "Miss Victoria Juliana" and various other characters are intertwined. 

The Wild Hunter frequently provides commentary with his narrative. Here's a sample:

Alas, our people did not understand what was meant by the fifth town of the Ghosts. We explained that the Bush of the Ghosts was the reserved bush in which both ghosts and spirits of the dead were living as if in their own town. We explained further that though this bush seemed liked an ordinary bush, indeed it was not. Once one entered it, it was not easy to find a way out. One could not travel to the end of it; that was as impossible as it would be for a mosquito to travel around the whole world without perishing. . . (p. 125). 

I can think of several places like that. Places of work, for instance, like energy hives of pulsing intensities, with some co-workers (in the past, of course) rummaging around hallways and rooms like hungry ghosts.  In all truth, things one can observe in North America are not that far off from Tutuola's vision of the Bush of the Ghosts in Africa, despite differences in geography, culture and approach. 

Today's Rune: Journey.


jodi said...

Erik, I have that feeling when I exit Macy's and can NEVER find Ruby Dee without using my car alarm. Lakeside Mall is a country in and of itself and then the daylight is so very harsh. Yes, I am a giant dork...

Charles Gramlich said...

That it breaks with the modern writing methods is a big plus for me. I'd like to see that shaken up.

Lana Gramlich said...

It's just me, I know, but "our people did not understand what was meant by the fifth town of the Ghosts," makes me think of Khan's angry exclamation; "THIS is Ceti Alpha Five!!!"