I found some lines in an article. I have failed to understand them fully. Can I get some help?

The novels of the Nigerian author Amos Tutola have on one side been extolled as daring forays into an artful subversion of novelistic structure and on the other been unfairly disparaged as little more than a retelling of Nigerian folktales, which liberally and carelessly supplies embellishments that undermine the integrity of the original story.

I have understood the summery of these lines. They say that, the novels of Tutola have been both extolled and disparaged as they think that those are just retelling of old stories with integrity of those stories being undermined.

But what does author actually mean by- has been extolled as daring forays into an artful subversion of novelistic structure ??

I have understood the meaning of extol (praise), forays(raid or attack) and subversion (destruction). It means some "raid or attack to destroy the novelistic structures". But how does the author relate "Praise" (extol) with destruction? ?

Please explain someone.

  • 1
    Which word don't you understand? What does "daring" mean? What does "foray" mean? What does "artful" mean? What does "subversion" mean? – Hot Licks Sep 2 '18 at 11:40
  • Please include the research you’ve done, or consider if your question suits our English Language Learners site better. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. – Hot Licks Sep 2 '18 at 11:41
  • @HotLicks I understood all these words, I just can't understand how author made the relation between daring forays into artful subversion of novelistic structure. – Zaidur Sep 2 '18 at 12:24
  • So why didn't you tell us you had looked up those definitions and tell us which precise definitions you were using? – Hot Licks Sep 2 '18 at 12:26
  • @Zaidur drop the adjectives and see if you understand it better. "Forays into subversion of novelistic structures" – John Feltz Sep 2 '18 at 12:26

You are using the wrong definition of foray. In literature and arts, it has a more metaphoric meaning, as below.

Foray (MW, definition 2)

an initial and often tentative attempt to do something in a new or different field or area of activity: the novelist's foray into nonfiction

Subversion, in the context of literature and the arts, is also used more metaphorically.

So I could reword your problematic sentence as:

has been (praised) as daring (initial attempts) into an artful (pulling apart) of novelistic structure.


Some praise his novelistic forays (embellishments to the folklore in English), some criticize such as it alters portrayals of the original language.

From wikipedia:

Tutuola's most famous novel, The Palm-Wine Drinkard and his Dead Palm-Wine Tapster in the Deads' Town, was written in 1946. Poet Dylan Thomas brought it to wide attention, calling it "brief, thronged, grisly and bewitching". Although the book was praised in England and the United States, it faced severe criticism in Tutuola's native Nigeria. Part of this criticism was due to his use of "broken English" and primitive style, which supposedly promoted the Western stereotype of "African backwardness".


Think of ‘foray’ as meaning ‘an adventure or side-trip’.

So a ‘daring foray’ is a courageous incursion into an unknown or unexplored area - in this case, into ‘the artful subversion of novelistic structure’.

So the author has ‘bravely explored new territory’ and one imagines him in the secret forest, ripping the rules of novel-writing apart and deconstructing or reconstructing books in a way that is ‘subversive’ - secretly against the accepted norms of society - and ‘artful’ - meaning clever, witty or artistic.

A more arcane and less artistic way of saying this might be ‘he broke the rules of novel writing and pushed the boundaries of social norms, as he came up with new and unconventional structures for writing his books’.

Sounds fun! But I like the way they said it, better.

Subversion is not ‘destruction’ by the way. I think that is what is confusing you. Subvert is when you re-direct others ie society - into a new direction.

The piece is amusing because it asks the question - is he an artistic genius? Or just a rampant book masher? Which is quite funny. A bit like ‘the Emperor’s new clothes’ if you know that story.

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