(1920-1997) Nigerian writer, of Yoruba origin. AT spent some time in missionary school, but stopped formal education early and worked in various manual jobs. His first English-language novel, The Wild Hunter in the Bush of the Ghosts (written 1948; 1982) was only accidentally rediscovered in the 1980s. His first published – and most popular – novel was The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952), about the wanderings of Drinkard to the Deads' Town, where his favourite, already-dead palm-wine tapster now dwells; there he meets dozens of supernatural creatures. A 7-year-old boy narrates My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1954), another novel about wandering, this time in a spirit world with towns populated by Ghosts. In Simbi and Satyr of the Dark Jungle (1955) AT changed style, for the first time organizing his adventures into chapters and narrating in the third person, but the novel lacks the freshness of its predecessors.
His later fantastic novels – The Brave African Huntress (1958), Feather Woman of the Jungle (1962), The Witch-Herbalist of the Remote Town (1981) and Pauper, Brawler and Slanderer (1987) – likewise lack his former vigour, but remain interesting examples of fantasy not based on European myths and legends. His only collection to contain mainly fantastic stories is Ajaiyi and His Inherited Poverty (coll 1967). All the above-cited works are written in an infectious form of basic English. [JO]