Durojaiye Kehinde Owoeye
Critiquing the aesthetics of textual relationships in the novels of Amos Tutuola and Ben Okri at the level of style, which this paper is all about, is an advance on unravelling their thematic interrelatedness, one which underlines the psychological contest for literary-epistemological edge between authors. Primarily, an exposé on Amos Tutuola’s The Palm-Wine Drinkard and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and Ben Okri’s The Famished Road and Astonishing the Gods is deemed important to emphasize the stylistic bond between the writers though few other texts are a necessary supplement. The inter-textual and postmodernist literary philosophies are theoretically instructive in illuminating the style connectives. Ben Okri’s appropriative sensibilities reveal his stylistic indebtedness to Amos Tutuola, leveraging his advanced education by deploying elements of Roland Barthe’s “cryptogram” pursuant to dexterously silencing the “master” and pronouncing the “death” of the author in the paternal narratives of Tutuola.
Key words: cryptogram, hypo-textual, style, post-modernism, anxiety of influence.
The thematic indebtedness of Ben Okri to Amos Tutuola having been elucidated by this essayist in a published essay, it is not out of place to do a holistic appraisal of the authors’ creative struggle by appreciating how their leaning on imaginative media explicates the contiguities and disparities in their mythicization of literary values. The thorough-going critic, therefore, sees it worthwhile to invigorate hermeneutic-aesthetic sensibilities in order to foreground how interpretative insights into the associative moments explain the relevance of textual paradigms for regenerative goals. The hypo-textual significance of Amos Tutuola’s oeuvre in the artistic renown of Ben Okri is derivable from this insight into relational textualism. Besides openly appropriating the thematic notions of Tutuola, there is the suggestion that Okri spreads his transtextual gauze into the stylistic precincts of the former, a reinforcing of the view that African literature “has continually suffered its own autonomy and identity crises” (Ogundele, 2001: 21). These are, of course, crises that enliven paradoxically cross-textual affiliations owing to the deepening of hypertextual realities, which vitiate the stasis imperatives of the realistic ideology; one whose creative machinery stands to blaze futuristic lights through the dynamic interchange of ideas.
Filliped by the postcolonial idiom: “a complex of related tropes, rhetorical strategies, and themes deployed for more or less identical politico-cultural aims” (29), the fictions of Tutuola and Okri make themselves amenable to the intertextual plausibility argument, as they are “enriched by social heteroglossia” (Worton and Still 16), a concourse of “figures, metaphors, thought words”, the linguistic core of stylistic ordering. In the light of this, the anxiety-generating paternal complex as pitted against the originality-defacing consciousness of the appropriating subject makes it necessary to attempt a critical voyage into the stylistic connections between Tutuola and Okri, bearing in mind the veracity of the “homogeneity and continuity” (Renza 186) ethic, a psychological contest for textual prominence between authors.
A comparative study of the novels of Amos Tutuola and Ben Okri is primarily undertaken enabled by the wavy course of fantastic realities, the doctrinal tenets of morbid imagination being the soul of the authors’ imaginative convictions as far as this essay is concerned. The two writers explore the freewheeling phantasmal universe of the transformation-laden cultural ontology of Africa to express their fictive thoughts. To that extent, the theoretical platform of the surrealist ideology becomes appropriate to expatiate upon the features of textual interpenetration in the two writers’ novels. The intertextual or hypotextual paradigm, the main conceptual guide in understanding the transversal insemination of notions between these generation-defined novelists, is also of no mean value. The intricacies of the homogenous and heterogeneous content of the authors’ fictive fraternisation are laid bare as a result of deep insights into some hypotextual elements. The postmodern omnibus theoretical supposition could not have been inconsequential in this comparative essay, for Tutuola and Okri, consciously and unconsciously, are culturally driven by the zeal to subvert the homogenous control of the literary horizon by Western cultural perspectives, thereby submitting to the pull of intertextual tactics of “subversion, appropriation and abrogation” (Ogunsanwo 41). An overview of theories deployed points to a revelation of the dialogic suppression of European mono-critical ideology in the works of Tutuola and Okri, and, of course, an embrace of contemporary reasoning about social, political and literary interdependence.
AMOS TUTUOLA AND BEN OKRI’S FICTION: A META-TEXTUAL STYLISTIC EXPOSITION
Realism Construct in Tutuola and Okri’s Novels
Exceedingly obvious from ordinarily nibbling at Okri’s The Famished Road, Astonishing the Gods and Songs of Enchantment, is the type of realism he employs. The supernatural, surrealist and fear-inducing world into which the reader is introduced brings to mind the concrete facts of magic realism, and by inference, situating itself in the animist ambience of the traditional African. This leaning towards marvelous realism is clear in Okri’s literary journey into Tutuola’s mythic association with reality, and it is profoundly noticeable in the former’s setting and characterisation techniques, all being located in surrealist imaginings. The locale of most of Tutuola’s novels is always the bush, a domicile of supernatural elements like fairies, ghosts, and wild animals. The drinkard in The Palm-Wine Drinkard, the protagonist in My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, the travelling hero in The Witch-Herbalist of the Remote Town, to mention just a few of his main characters, all venture into the bush where extra-human personalities hold sway. Most of the actions in these novels take place in the forest.
The magic conceptualisation of setting has a tie-in to the characterisation method. The characters in Tutuola’s works are imbued with super-human qualities. Even his protagonists, though human, have supernatural traits. The drinkard’s presumptuousness (in The Palm-Wine Drinkard) in preening himself on being “Father of gods who could do everything in this world” (Tutuola 10) is, therefore, important. He faces and cohabits with supremely extraordinary figures who have hyper-sensitive body functions; Faithful-Mother, the invisible pawn and dead babies are visible in this regard. All the characters have transmuting powers to enhance their near-ethereal constitution. The narrator in The Witch-Herbalist of the Remote Town, also a larger than life phenomenon, competes with killer characters like the Brutal Ape and the Abnormal Squatting Man of the Jungle. The suffering hero in ‘the bush of ghosts’ has his strength taxed by animist creatures in Reverend Devil, Smelling-Ghost and River Ghosts.
Like Tutuola, Ben Okri, in line with animist aesthetics, merges the transcendental nature of his setting with the characters. This he achieves very much in The Famished Road, Songs of Enchantment and Astonishing the Gods. The characters in these novels defy some natural kinetic laws, including that of gravity. Also, like Tutuola’s works, there are beings of sinister and benign countenances in the Okri novels. The main character in the first two novels, Azaro, exemplifies the fantastic orientation in Tutuola’s characterisation modes. He (Azaro) packs much awe in his ability to stay in mid-air, talks simultaneously with two or more characters, and mysteriously develops an in-built armour against the destructive force of vehicular accidents. Such is the dread that Azaro represents. Being an “abiku”, his spirit colleagues, Mama Koto, and other numinous characters collectively remind the reader of the traditional African belief in the actions of superhuman creatures in the life of humans. Okri also succumbs to the intertextual wisdom in his character-construction of the visitor-hero in Astonishing the Gods. Taking a cue from Tutuola’s hero-making of the protagonist in My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (Tutuola, 22), the “invisible” traveller in Astonishing the Gods is impotent, before the forces of purification.
However, the two authors tend towards disagreeing, in some respects, in the way they treat both setting and characterisation. It is abundantly clear that most of Tutuola’s fictive products are set mainly in the bush. Okri, hearkening to Montaigne’s denying-to-escape-slavish-regurgitation (Worton and Still, 8) suggestion in an attempt to depersonalise the father-author, never restricts himself to the forest. He, in The Famished Road, straddles the forest, the home, and the mid-space, thereby making the progenitor-work look rather pedestrian. Okri’s psychological battle seems to be frenetic in his presentation of Azaro. He uses “daemonization” (Renza 188), in hyperbolic fiction to weaken the precursor’s vision, creating a deceptively grander vision in the minatory posturing of the “Abiku” figure.
Also, in Astonishing the Gods, Okri creates a somewhat heavenly setting, a far remove from the earthly predisposition of Tutuola. Although there is an extant ‘unreturnable heaven’s town’ in The Palm-Wine Drinkard, it is situated subordinately in an overbearing forest locale. Another area of “discord” at times is in the presentation of heroes. By creating a believably empyrean locus, very clearly outside Tutuola’s terra firma-located “unreturnable heaven’s town” (Tutuola 57), Okri’s use of “debordement” (Worton and Still 49) or overrun removes aesthetic glamour from Tutuola’s use of the “heaven” locus.
Respecting heroic agents, Tutuola’s heroes are always human beings who are usually physically armed to confront any foe. However, in the only instance where Okri’s protagonist is equipped for any assault, it is clearly more of an ethereal than a corporeal affair. Azaro, the abiku mystery, uses his abiku potency to repulse his antagonists on a number of occasions. One can also suggest that Okri makes a recourse to one of Harold Bloom’s “ratios”, “daemonization” (Worton and Still, 45), the use of hyperbole, to make the appropriating work look independent by suppressing the precursor’s vision, indirectly defoliating it, and then creating a deceptively grander vision, to completely obscure the paternal foundations of Tutuola’s fantastic characters. That Azaro is deployed to bring out the ironies and ambivalences in the decrepit society’s social organization says a lot about his obsession to obliterate the progenitor-heroic projections of Tutuola’s lead characters, especially the born-and-die child, a close cosmological construction of Azaro. Tutuola only concerns himself with the ontological nature of the “born and die” (Tutuola 76) character as conceived in the Yoruba culture, mentioning the phrase “born and die” at least thirty-four times in only the episode titled “The Town of the Born and Die Baby” (76).
Both authors are especially reputed to have built their artistic creations on allegorical messages. They employ symbols with deep-layered meanings to give substance and vividness to their thematic reasoning. A particularly interesting symbol of post-modernist eclectic orientation is the Witch-Herbalist character of the Remote-Town in The Witch-Herbalist of the Remote Town. This female figure is said to have various kinds of voices
such as a huge voice, a light voice, a sharp voice, the voice of a baby, the voice of a girl, the voice of an old woman, the voice of a young man, the voice of an old man, the voice of a stammerer, the voice of boldness, the voice of boom, the voice of weeping person, the voice which was amusing and which was annoying, the voice like that of a ringing bell, the voice of various kinds of birds and beasts (Tutuola, 1980: 144).
That she also understands all kinds of languages and cures all known maladies complement her eclectic symbolisation. In addition, in strong symbolic analogy, one can assume that Tutuola draws a psychoanalytic difference between the hero’s Rocky-Town (11) and the Remote-Town (140) where he meets the omnipresent and omniscient character. In the first place, the Rocky-Town and Remote-Town dualism representationally explains the conscious and unconscious levels of perceiving reality. The word ‘Rocky’ is denotative of the insentient and unfeeling aspect of the intellect-inspired region of man, which is at odds with the ‘Remote-Town’ where feelings are supposedly given free rein because the ‘Remote’ qualifier itself, in psychoanalysis, is used to describe the unconscious region of the body with its characteristic spontaneity. This may have presented the ‘Remote-Town’ as a salve for every sore.
Okri’s symbolic technique also parallels Tutuola’s. The former’s eclectic dissemination of the road and abiku phenomenon, indeed, nearly strikes a symbolic congruity with the characterisation of the Witch-Herbalist as the abiku spirit-child is believed to “assume numerous forms” (Okri. 1992: 3) and “knew no boundaries” (3). Both authors also see the road as a journey through-life affair with its attendant pains. These are just few among many symbols deployed by the authors.
The elements of orality, the stylistic strength of Tutuola’s novelistic acclaim, are being rehashed by Ben Okri. Very prominent in this context is the reference to the past – a fundamental medium through which the oral society celebrates its values and existence. It is a peculiarity in Tutuola’s works to find “In those days” (Tutuola, 1954:5), “2,000 years were past and gone” (Tutuola, 1987: 1) and “in those days, we did not know other money, except cowries” (Tutuola, 1990: 7). In Okri’s The Famished Road, there is the reference to “that land of beginnings” (Okri, 1992: 3) when “spirits mingled with the unborn” (3). Astonishing the Gods opens partly with the allusion: “all that had come down from those differently coloured ages” (Okri, 1995: 3) like “legends and rich traditions, unwritten, and therefore remembered” (3). Furthermore, the presence of stories, myths, legends, etc., in the plot of Okri’s fabulous works is probably a carry-over from the “flora and fauna” of African culture which Amos Tutuola delights in.
With the oral structural platform, their novels de-emphasise or vitiate realism’s univocal reality. The fact that the oral elements in the two authors’ works are carried by words of mouth, makes it undependable and unstable because it is not documented. It is the convergence of the unstable in orature and the stable in literature that many African writers partly exploit to create the hybrid in African literature. Amos Tutuola and Ben Okri are no exception. They allow for the interpenetration of African orature and literature to serve as an enabling factor in their post-colonial attack on the “Centre”. Tutuola’s stories of the abiku, road and death, which are all grounded in myths and spread through the communal nature of the traditional African society, are now enshrined in the individualist written literary system of the West. Okri thus follows suit. S. E. Ogude’s statement in Genius in Bondage that the African writer is one that is “wedged as it were between Europe and the black continent” (Ogude 11) then stands to be controverted because, as earlier asserted, the African writer operates between two ontological platforms – the traditional oral African ideology and the realistic Western creed. This eclecticism goes on to manifest in the interweaving structure of two opposite religious sentiments: the traditional African and Christian “pacifying” norms.
There is, nonetheless, a difference here. While Tutuola’s works preponderantly thrive on this orality, Okri spices his novels greatly with elements of the realistic novel, i.e., tangibility. Tutuola also goes a step further than Okri by making some of his books proverb-laden. A good example is Pauper, Brawler and Slanderer and The Brave African Huntress in which there are many transliterated Yoruba proverbs. Okri, in his works, seems to distance himself from this indigenous educative model.
The proclamation that if “each language is a voice, then society is a welter of intersecting groups and different ideologies” (Hirschkop 20) is suggestive of Tutuola and Okri’s diametrically opposed linguistic positions and indeed a prop for the liberalist doctrine. Beyond this liberalism though exists an identifiable substance in this intertextual discussion. It cannot be controverted that Tutuola’s linguistic hybridity functions effectively as a post-modernist instrument, a trait he shares with the progeny in Okri. Aside the farrago of English and Yoruba syntactic elements, he introduces Yoruba words for the sake of clarity in some of his novels. The presence of ‘opele’ (instrument of divination) (Tutuola, 1987: 4) ‘Oba’ (King) (1), ‘Kimi Adugbo’ (strong man of the neighbourhood) (6), ‘Alagemo’ (chameleon) (6), ‘esent aye’ (the future of a person) (3), ‘Otun oba’ (a chief, next in command to the King) (6), etc. in Pauper, Brawler and Slanderer underscores this Yoruba language intrusion into a novel written in the English Language – a sort of trans-lingual idiom to confute the “master”.
That having been asserted, if there is any perceivable difference between these two ‘fabulous’ writers, it is in the use of language. This is despite the acquiescence that they both evoke emotions of horror and terror that are concomitant with the magical context of their literary bent in their linguistic mode; secondly, they relish deploying paradoxes – the very essence of the African world-view that they try to project – and they never simulate to be so profusely inclined to demonstrate this in their prose structure. An ambivalent message which both authors send to the reader is the fact that there is no gain without pains, for through suffering, the human will is strengthened for any ponderous task. All their heroes partake agonisingly of these denying “comestibles” in their quest routes.
Their linguistic convergence probably ends with the concessional discussion above. It is very arguable that these two authors operate at the two extremes of the language-proficiency pole. While Ben Okri’s high academic acquisition supports the near unimpeachable face of his English constructions, Tutuola’s almost illiterate grasp of the syntactic and morphological rules of this foreign code, literally analysed, reduces his prose to a novitiate as he flounders through and through. He even admits that he decided to ‘improve’ himself in order to develop into what he describes as ‘a real writer’ (A Nigerian Correspondent, 37). The psychoanalytic deduction of B. M. Ibitokun that Tutuola’s disjointed sentences are a compelling corollary of the assumption that he writes from the remote region of his psyche – the unconscious – is potentially a face-saving intervention for his failings. However, he makes up for this undoing in his introduction of neologisms like ‘drinkard’ and ‘tapster’.
These word-coinages, together with the use of repetition, enrich the morphological structure of his sentences and consequently make them sound poetic. As already revealed, Okri does not have the problems which Tutuola grapples with because of his educational background and this is much reflected in how sublimely he weaves his sentences. His antiphonal and short sentences empower the prosodic quality of his language use. A contributory factor to his linguistic finesse is the use of various registers like that of boxing in The Famished Road and the religious one in Astonishing the Gods. In sum, Okri’s towering over Tutuola in the use of the English language notwithstanding, “the languages in which [African literatures] are expressed have at best only an official acceptance; they are neither indigenous to the societies and cultures on which they have been imposed, nor are they national in any real sense of the word” (Quoted in Ogundele, 2001: 30), and this problematises the importance of the exogenous code in realistically portraying culture-inspired African prose.
Tutuola, though his novels are the primary intertexts in this research, is also not unconscious of the opportunities created by intertextuality as a post-modernist tool to disestablish realist mono-cultural credo. In addition to the recognition of the manifest concerns of Fagunwa in Tutuola’s fiction, the latter makes massive references to his own past fictive endeavour. Pandering to Harold Bloom’s contention that an author’s works exist in anxious nexus to “the youth he was” (Worton and Still, 1991: 54), he (Tutuola) repeats, among others, the “complete” (Tutuola, 1990, 18) adjectival word in the ‘Complete Gentleman’ episode of The Palm-Wine Drinkard in the “Complete Skeleton Man” (Tutuola, 1980: 154) story in The Witch-Herbalist of the Remote Town. Also, the ‘antiquity’ nominal in “pitcher of antiquity” (11) of the ‘Rocky Town’ in The Witch-Herbalist of the Remote Town is brought back in the “pond of antiquity” (Tutuola, 1987: 2) in Pauper, Brawler, and Slanderer. The extra-sensitive character of ghosts seeing the hero’s thoughts in My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (Tutuola, 1954: 27) also appears in The Witch-Herbalist of the Remote Town, as the herbalist also sees thoughts. The faithful mother’s characterisation in The Palm-Wine Drinkard as somebody that helps people in difficult situations is repeated in the Witch herbalist’s kind predisposition in My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.
Cross-textual creativity is furthermore identifiable in Tutuola appropriating Christian ideals to build his patently African mythic fiction. Amos Tutuola’s heroes, despite the magical prowess of their super-human existence, have to rely on the Christian God to escape from the terrors of their tormentors. The drinkard, although prides himself on being able to do anything in this world, calls on God on some occasions for deliverance. The Christian influence is very profound in My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and The Witch Herbalist of the Remote Town. The sojourner-hero in The Witch Herbalist of the Remote Town admits the existence of his “supreme second” (21), analytically referring to God as his saviour in many deadly encounters with some weird creatures. A concrete submission to the power of the Christian God by the author is projected in the image of the Witch-Herbalist herself. She, in spite of her ethereal qualities of omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence, never fails to acknowledge the superiority of the Christian God. She tells the Complete Skeleton Man after he has been healed not to thank her but to appreciate the existence of God in his salvation. She berates the hero’s father in The Witch-Herbalist of the Remote Town for not being able to solve his son’s sterility problem. She posits that despite his position as the chief of pagans, gods, spirits, and idols, if he had sought the approbation of God Almighty, he would have succeeded in any endeavour. Hear the Mother: “There is no need to mock his father and gods, idols, spirits, etc. of his town who had failed to make his wife pregnant, because, without the approval of God Almighty, people will fail in all attempts” (Tutuola, 1980: 169). The adverting to “METHODIST CHURCH OF THE BUSH OF GHOSTS” (Tutuola, 1954: 146) in My Life in the Bush of Ghosts also intensifies the Christian intrusion into a generic space that glorifies African traditional concepts, playing up the syncretic disposition of the African to religion.
Like Tutuola, Okri employs the omnibus initiative visibly in his combining the “paganist” ethos of the “fantastic” milieu with the Christian setting in Astonishing the Gods. Moreover, he succeeds in establishing a coupling of ontological ideas i.e. merging of the two forms of realism: Western realistic realism and magical realism, in The Famished Road. Azaro’s innumerable flights into space while at the same time communicating with physical characters on the physical plane and the dreamy circumstances of Azaro appearing in Madame Koto’s dreams in Songs of Enchantment are a realisation of post-modernism’s attempt to disperse the mode of apprehending and comprehending reality. Tutuola and Okri may have, therefore, found a support base in Bernth Lindfors’ affirmation that African writers may find some of the Eurocentric theories useful in formulating their own Afrocentric ideas (Lindfors 290).
The choice of the point-of-view of Okri’s narrations is presumably analogous to Tutuola’s narrative propensity and stylistic predilection. Okri’s monumental prize-winner, The Famished Road, and its immediate successor, Songs of Enchantment, are all written in the first person point-of-view stylistic device, but with a deviation in Astonishing the Gods which has the third person as the narrator. The third-person option in this case is a conscious postcolonial strategy to render the visitor-hero helpless before the forces of invisibility that would reorder his mentality towards understanding the benefits of being invisible. All Tutuola’s works, except at least two – Simbi and the Satyr of the Dark Jungle and Pauper, Brawler and Slanderer – have their plots constructed in the first person. These exceptional two works have the third person narrator. Arguably, there is no purposive ideological basis for the third-person design in these two novels because Amos Tutuola himself once admitted that he was just writing for pleasure, the pleasure derived from his story-telling experience in the midst of a listening audience. It is essential to assume that the choice in most cases of the first person by both authors is to identify with the search-for-identity motif that is pervasive in African literature so that the reader will also be impassionedly affected by the modal picture the narrator seems to be drawing.
Most of Amos Tutuola’s novels have both the organic and episodic patterns of plot structuring. In the organic plot, all threads of the plot are linked together almost in a linear manner. On the contrary, the episodic plot structure can be seen as “a series of chapters or stories linked together by the same character, place or theme but held apart by their individual plot, purpose and subtext” (http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://web.lincoln.k12.mi.us/buildings/HS/elstone/WebPage/PDF%2520Files/The%2520Episodic%2520Structure.pdf).
Veritably, Tutuola’s works, from The Palm-Wine Drinkard, through My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, to The Brave African Huntress evidence this organic pattern, the chronology of the heroes from their points of departure to their destinations manifesting the organic process. In many of his works, despite the organic trail, the episodic outline seems to predominate in the generation of events, as the sub-titling of events in his two reviewed works and others shows. This episodic layout is quite perceptible in My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, The Brave African Huntress, Simbi and the Satyr of the Dark Jungle, The Witch-Herbalist of the Remote Town, and Pauper, Brawler and Slanderer. One may, however, argue that the profundity of this organic, cum, episodic constitution is less concrete in The Palm-Wine Drinkard than the other novels mentioned.
Okri charts a contrary plot-constructing course. He mixes both the convoluted and organic forms. In The Famished Road and Songs of Enchantment, the convoluted picture is drawn as events take place in a winding manner. Azaro’s becoming is not tied to a stereotyped series of actions because all his ordeals manifest themselves in a flux and spontaneously. However, in Astonishing the Gods, the organic structure definitely answers the author’s hero-transforming purpose. The protagonist is forced to cross some prepared hurdles, face some orchestrated obstacles, and pass some arranged trials of the “invisibles” on his road to acquiring nuggets about socio-political growth like the stress on “transcendental suffering” as a pre-requisite for spiritual, political, and socio-cultural salvation, lectures on the ideal civilization, and the immateriality of visible things.
Some other Structural Phenomena
Ben Okri’s indebtedness to Tutuola is also recognisable in his introduction of some structural phenomena. The idea of namelessness which is an attribute of the invisibles in Astonishing the Gods is probably derived from the “Nameless Town” (Tutuola, 1954: 113) episode of the Superlady in My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. The namelessness of this town comes from the Superlady’s action of running away from her evil parents and settling down in that town. In other words, she also becomes an “invisible” as she has nobody to take care of her. With her in this town are ladies who have been betrayed and abandoned by their husbands – another mark of “invisibility”. Borrowing of parts by a spirit in The Famished Road could have itself been borrowed from the ‘Complete Gentleman’ episode in The Palm-Wine Drinkard.
Ben Okri’s description of the imposing gate hurdle for the visitor in Astonishing the Gods is a likely adaptation of Tutuola’s analysis of the “God of the state” (Tutuola, 1980: 12) in The Witch Herbalist of the Remote Town. While the gate in Okri’s view is “imposing” (Okri, 1995: 59), the ‘God of the state’ resembles “a sternly-looking giant” (Tutuola, 12). While “the gate is surmounted by a giant dragon with ‘fiery eyes’” (59) and also “truly terrifying” (59), the ‘God of the state’ is “too terrible and fearful for the eyes of human beings to see” (Tutuola, 12). The equestrian figure on the gate holds aloft “a mighty axe” (Okri, 62) and in the same belligerent position, the ‘God of the state’ holds ‘a big and fearful spear (12). In like intertextual context, the-end-of-the-road impossibility story of the three-headed spirit in The Famished Road is presumably an extension of the end-of-the-path travail of the ‘born and die’ (76) hero in The Witch Herbalist of the Remote Town. The semblance here is quite enchanting. For Tutuola’s hero, the end of the path could have meant the death of his dream of reaching the ‘Remote Town’ and equally his inability to have children.
In the same vein and as the three-headed spirit asserts to Azaro, the people of the mysterious valley cannot finish the road they are constructing for he concludes that if they do, “they will perish of completeness, of boredom” (Okri, 1992: 329) and will thus not be creative. In another transtextual scrutiny, Jeremiah the photographer’s creative acumen in imagining, viewing, and constructing reality in The Famished Road strikes a proximity with the Faithful Mother’s photographer character in The Palm-Wine Drinkard. This is because the drinkard says somebody “was focusing us as if a photographer” (Tutuola, 1990: 68). Somebody really does, for the drinkard sees his own and wife’s images after being drawn into the tree by the faithful hands. It can be said that Okri’s character construction of Jeremiah the photographer is another clear case of daemonization, where Jeremiah’s activist engagements with the State make him a more scrutinized character than the Faithful Mother.
This relational discourse on Tutuola and Okri, affirms profoundly not just “a sense of the interpenetration of cultures” (Quayson 101) but also emphasizes the interface and discreteness of personal ideologies about creative susceptibilities, a projection of cross-fertilisation of ideas. The hypo-textual discourse on form about these two writers of Nigerian descent evidences the view that “all literatures in English are now thoroughly hybridized and ‘this strain […] has mutated so profusely (as to produce) the new phenomenon of a worldwide literature that is the product of no single culture, yet exhibits inescapable family semblances, reciprocal borrowings and influences too intimate for the claim of separateness to be possible’” (Quoted in Ogundele, 2001: 31). This submission about imaginative symbiosis is made in the light of the well-worn conviction that though Okri is not a Yoruba man “his work not only articulates the same conceptual resource-base, but, indeed, various aspects of what might be seen as a Yoruba belief system” (Quayson, 101), a thoughtful rumination on the open-ended and indeterminate quest for meaning in the deconstructionist universe, arising from cross-cultural textual liaisons.
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