Title of the work
Country of the First Edition
Country/countries of popularity
First Edition Details
Amos Tutuola, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. London: Faber and Faber, 1954, 174 pp.
Action and adventure fiction
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Author of the Entry:
Dapo Adeleke, independent researcher, email@example.com
Divine Che Neba, University of Yaounde 1, firstname.lastname@example.org
Peer-reviewer of the Entry:
Elizabeth Hale, University of New England, email@example.com
Daniel A. Nkemleke, University of Yaounde 1, Cameroon, firstname.lastname@example.org
Marta Pszczolińska, University of Warsaw, email@example.com
, 1920 - 1997
Amos Tutuola was born in the year 1920 in Abeokuta, the present capital of Ogun State, Nigeria. Tutuola started out in life as a servant to a businessman by the name Monu who sent him to school in place of wages for his service. Tutuola would eventually learn and become a blacksmith. He then worked for the Royal Air force between 1934 and 1939. Mr. Tutuola would also be involved in other vocations such as bread-selling and also worked as a messenger with the Nigerian Labour Department. Tutuola did not start writing until 1946 when he published The Palm-Wine Drinkard, the work which was received with skepticism and regarded as a shame to the Nigerian literature because of its poor use of Grammar. However, in spite of its flawed rendition, the work was well received with applaud in the West. Tutuola wrote many other books after the publication of The Palm-Wine Drinkard, such as My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1954), Sibi and the Satyr of the Dark Jungle (1956), The Brave African Huntress (1958), The Feather Woman of the Jungle (1962), Ajaiyi and His Inherited Poverty (1967), and Pauper, Brawler and Slanderer (1987). Tutuola did not earn so much on his publications but these shot him into the literary limelight which enabled him to work as a storekeeper with the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation in the then Oyo State of Nigeria. Amos Tutuola died in 1997 at the age of 77.
Bio prepared by Dapo Adeleke, University of Yaounde 1, firstname.lastname@example.org and Divine Che Neba, Yaounde 1, email@example.com
Japanese: ジャングル放浪記: アフリカの幽鬼と幻想 [Janguru hōrōki: afurika no yūki to gensō], trans. Fukuo Hashimoto, Tōkyō: Shinchōsha, 1962.
Serbian: Moj život u šumi duhova, trans. Ljiljana Čalovska, Beograd: Rad, 1969.
Italian: La mia vita nel bosco degli spiriti: preceduto da Bevitore di vino di palma, trans. Adriana Motti, Milano: Adelphi, 1983.
Polish: Moje życie w puszczy upiorów, trans. Ernestyna Skurjat, Warszawa: Iskry, 1983.
Spanish: Mi vida en la maleza de los fantasmas, trans. Maribel de Juan, Madrid: Siruela, 1990.
Japanese: ブッシュ・オブ・ゴースツ [Busshu obu gāsutsu], trans. Fukuo Hashimoto, Tōkyō: Chikuma Shobō, 1990.
German: Mein Leben im Busch der Geister, trans. Wulf Teichmann, Berlin: Alexander, 1991.
French: Ma vie dans la brousse des fantômes, trans. Michèle Laforest, Paris: UGE, 1993.
Dutch: Mijn leven in het land der geesten: roman, trans. Peter Abspoel and Hans Plomp, Haarlem: In de Knipscheer, 1999.
Russian: Моя жизнь в лесу духов [Moia zhiznʹ v lesu dukhov], trans. A. Kistiakovskiy, Sankt-Peterburg: Amfora, 2002.
Swedish: Mitt liv i spökenas bush, trans. Niklas Nenzén, Stockholm: Sphinx, 2011.
Just like his first novel, The Palm-wine Drinkard, Amos Tutuola’s second novel, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts has its roots in the folkloric oral tradition of the Yoruba tribe of the Southwest of Nigeria. The author uses the first person narrative technique to tell his story set in the jungle inhabited by goblins and other weird and fantastic monsters acting in the spiritual realm. As common in folklores, the basic themes of the novel are focussed around didactic instructions to children about life in all its ramifications.
My life in the Bush of Ghosts opens with the narrator’s learning of the difference between “bad” and “good” at the age of 7, in a polygamous home where his mother is a petty trader in their village. The village is attacked by slave traders, and in the ensuing pandemonium, the narrator escapes into a jungle called “Bush-of-Ghosts”. He takes with him two fruits which his elder brother plucked from a tree called “future sign” and gave him. He becomes a wanderer, searching for a human world in this mysterious jungle whose inhabitants are not humans but live together like a community of humans. They possess effective juju that makes them invulnerable to death. It is in this community that the narrator discovers his cousin who died a long time ago. His next encounter is with a “Smelling-Ghost” infested with “uncountable” parasites of insects such as bees, wasps, mosquitoes and others flying around it. It wears many living scorpions on its fingers as rings and poisonous snakes coiled round its neck as beads. This Smelling-Ghost leads him to a city where it is the king. With the aid of the juju power he possesses, the Smelling-Ghost transforms him many times into different animals such as: a camel, a horse and later back to himself. The narrator steals the Smelling-Ghost’s juju and flees, but, he soon finds himself in the village of cows where he is transformed into a cow. Although he is now a cow, he does not eat grass and wanders around like the other cows but always remains aloof. They are angry at him and decide to take him to the market for sale, but no one is interested in him and he is returned home. On the third attempt, an old woman eventually buys him in order to offer him as a sacrifice to a certain god who will assist her in restoring her daughter’s sight. A fortune-teller once told her that unless she sacrificed a cow to appease a certain god, her daughter would be blind for life. He finds himself among “burglar-ghosts”. He spends some time with them before leaving. At the eighth town of ghosts, he marries the daughter of a wealthy ghost, then with her, he continues to search for the world of humans. He roamed in the Bush-of-Ghosts for twenty-four years with various weird experiences. He eventually finds himself under the tree, “Future-sign” from which his elder brother plucked two fruits and gave him at the beginning of the story. Having found himself under the tree he knows he is close to his home which he has missed for twenty-four years. Suddenly, two men grab him from behind, tie his hands and lead him away. He has fallen into the hands of slave traders from whom he had earlier tried to escape. He is taken away to join the others in the bush. He eventually escapes, returns home and meets his mother and brother who do not recognise him. He finds out that so many things have changed in the town.
The story has a universal appeal, for it focuses on the evils of slave trade. Amos Tutuola employs the technique of the tale as a vehicle to illustrate the evils of slavery, how it disintegrated a once closely knitted family and turned the captured into a sub-human without identity in the hands of their masters. Also, the introduction of the element of adventure and wandering makes the story good for children and young adults. Like The Palm-wine Drinkard, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts is regarded as classic in the context of African Literature from the perspective of the western literary value.
Cosentino, Donald J., "In Memoriam: Amos Tutuola, 1920–1997", African Arts 30.4 (1997): 16–17 (accessed: September 7, 2021).
Hoekema, David A., "African Personhood: Morality and Identity in the "Bush of Ghosts"", Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal 91.3/4 (2008): 255–286 (accessed: September 7, 2021).
Larrabee, Eric, "Amos Tutuola: A Problem in Translation", Chicago Review 10.1 (1956): 40–44 (accessed: September 7, 2021).
Lindfors, Bernth, "Amos Tutuola: Debts and Assets", Cahiers D'Études Africaines 10.38 (1970): 306–334 (accessed: September 7, 2021).
Thomas, Valorie D., ""1+1 = 3" and Other Dilemmas: Reading Vertigo in "Invisible Man", "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts", and "Song of Solomon"", African American Review 37.1 (2003): 81–94 (accessed: September 7, 2021).