Tuesday, 14 June 2016

PEOPLE OF THE CITY. By Cyprian Ekwensi

"One gets the unpalatable impression that the late Cyprian Ekwensi was somewhat undermined as a writer. Yet he was outstanding and beloved by countless readers. He published many excellent novels, including Jagua Nana, Jagua Nana's daughter, Beautiful feathers, Iska, Survive the peace, Burning Grass, and lots of other fiction for children. Indeed, People of the City was published many years before Achebe's Things fall apart. This novel raises many questions, but mainly about survival in the (Nigerian) city over 60 years ago, and multi-faceted, intriguing characters. The main protagonist, Amusa Sango is both a journalist, and leader of a (music) band. Think about it, isn't such a combination highly unusual? So Sango is a striking young man, pulling out all the stops to survive. He is not a bad man by any standards, but he has to confront certain odds and challenges - he is accused of being melodramatic by his (media) superiors, but his approach here seems human, humane and practical, considering the violence that extirpates the life of his fellow young man. The city itself is brilliantly portrayed, the desperation, the wiles of many women. We see the challenges/problems that go with polygamy as exemplified by Sango's landlord. Life is a continuum and though the action here is anchored on many decades ago, is it not the same even now? How do we expect women, young women, to survive in cities, since the reality is that only very few of them can be gainfully employed? There is a lot of drama and melodrama here, but such constitute the warp and weft of life. Those who attempt to compare and contrast Ekwensi and Achebe often miss the point; Achebe is world-famous for depicting pre-colonial African (Igbo) land, whereas Ekwensi is world-famous for focusing on city life, its ravages on the citizens, especially on women. This is a sociological treasure as we are afforded glimpses
into early modern major city (ies) in west Africa." - Eric malome

"Fine, early novel by Ekwensi. Convincing picture of the underbelly of a Nigerian city many decades ago; and the plight of diverse ordinary, private denizens. The focus is on Amusa Sango, who somewhat loves the good life. Though why two separate female characters in this work had to be dubbed Beatrice 1, and Beatrice 2 perturbed me..." - P Lothane

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