Exploring the Breath, Range, Character, Scope and Reception of Cyprian Ekwensi’s Writings


Ekwensi one of Africa’s most prolific writers who died late last year and was buried early this year, maintained a vibrant writing activity throughout his life, publishing a collection of short stories, Cash On Delivery, his last work of fiction and completing work on his memoirs, titled, In My Time for several years on to his death. With over twenty novels, collections of stories and short novels to his name, Ekwensi’s thematic preoccupation equally covered the Nigerian Civil War from the perspective of a journalist and life in a pastoral Fulani setting in Northern Nigeria.

Ekwensi’s first published work was the novella, When Love Whispers, published in 1948, ten years before the great African novel, Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, appeared in London. He was inspired by sorrow over his unsuccessful attempt to court a young woman whose father insisted that she makes a marriage of convenience to write it. This short, light romance formed part of what became known as the Onitsha Market school of pulp fiction, and its success inspired Ekwensi to continue in that same mode.

Ekwensi had already distinguished himself by the several short stories he had written for broadcast on radio. These he later put together, within ten days, while on his way to Chelsea School of Pharmacy, London, to realize his first novel, People of the City, which Nigeria’s premier newspaper, The Daily Times, published in installments before it appeared in book form in 1954. but which pay for essay reddit was not published in the United States until 15 years later. People of the City (1954) was the first West African novel in modern style English to be published in England. It’s publication thus marked an important development in African literature with Ekwensi becoming one of the first African novelists to receive much exposure in the West and eventually the most prolific African novelist.

The fact that Cyprian Ekwensi started his writing career as a pamphleteer is reflected in the episodic nature of People of the City (1954) a collection of stories strung together but reading like a novel, in which he gives a vibrant portrait of the fast-paced life in a West African city, Lagos. People of the City which recounts the coming to political awareness of a young reporter and band leader in an emerging African country is filled with his running commentary on the problems of bribery and corruption and despotism bedeviling such states. In it and several others, Ekwensi explores the lure, thrills and challenges of urban life, and the extreme permissiveness and impersonal relationships permeating the lives of migrants to the city, where close-ties normally fostered by the extended family system of their traditional societies constitute a serious check on the deviant lifestyles that find full expression in the city.

 


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