From Publishers Weekly
Fagunwa's book was written in 1939 in Nigeria. It is credited as the first novel to be written in the Yoruba language and the only of Fagunwa's books to ever appear in English. Here, Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka presents the English version along with an essay on the Yoruba language and the process of translation. The prose reads like a campfire tale. Akara-ogun, sits with our unnamed narrator who is referred to as "the author" and begins to tell of his life. That life involves a forest full of monsters, a witch-mother who turns into an antelope, and a king who is an ostrich. At each turn, Akara-ogun leaves for the night, only to return and finish the next day. A sort of Yoruba 1001 Nights emerges. This is mythology building for a continent torn apart by colonization, one whose history was upended. This is starting over, foundational writing and as such it is easy to understand how the novel gained its influential reputation. The book opens by asking the reader to "Dance my friends, in harmony, with joy and laughter..." to allow the author to weave his story. Then the reader is asked two things: that we put ourselves in the characters place, and that we take wisdom with us from the story.
"Fagunwa's language has a rolling energy that serves it well."Rudi Dornemann, Rain Taxi
"Readers can only be grateful that Soyinka used his prison time to bring this important Yoruba novel into English."Geoff Wisner, The Quarterly Conversation