Restless city and Christmas gold, with other stories

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Heinemann, 1975 - Fiction - 100 pages
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Restless City
Farewell Nigeria
Come Back Elena

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About the author (1975)

Born in Minna in the Niger State of Nigeria, Cyprain Ekwensi, an Igbo from Nkwelle Ezunaka in the Anambra State, was educated in Nigeria, Ghana, and at the Chelsea School of Pharmacy in London. After quitting the pharmaceutical profession for writing and cultural pursuits, he served as director of Nigeria's Federal Information Services, and during the civil war (1967-70) he was director of Biafra's external publicity. At the end of the war, he briefly traded in plastics and subsequently served as a commissioner in the government of Anambra State (1983). He now lives in retirement at Enugu, the state capital, writing and traveling to give occasional lectures or to attend literary meetings. A popular novelist, Ekwensi has frequently stated that he writes for the masses. One of his earliest works was a highly successful romantic novella, When Love Whispers, published in 1948. Filled with moralistic and sentimental overtones, it typifies Onitsha market literature, a genre that was until recently very popular among the masses, especially in Nigeria and Ghana. Ekwensi's reputation as a novelist was established with People of the City (1953). Urban decay (political corruption, squalor, and overcrowding) is the dominant theme running through this and many of Ekwensi's other works. Consequently, Ekwensi earned the reputation of being Africa's foremost "city novelist." In Ekwensi's best-known city novel, Jagua Nana (1961), he skillfully weaves into the story of a high class, middle-aged prostitute vivid scenes of Lagos high life, against the backdrop of political intrigue. This book earned praise in Africa and abroad, and has been translated into more foreign languages than any of his other books, but it also elicited considerable controversy, especially in Nigeria. Some prudish critics were incensed by the graphic descriptions of explicit sexual encounters in the book and called for a ban. Others, however, considered it a timely portrayal of the realities of Nigerian city life and awaited eagerly a projected but unsuccessful attempt to release a feature film based on it. Although Ekwensi is known as a chronicler (as well as critic) of city life, he is by no means one-dimensional. Burning Grass (1962), for example, is a sensitive look at migratory patterns of the Fulani cattlemen of Northern Nigeria. Ekwensi's firsthand knowledge of the traditional rural areas of the Muslim north of Nigeria surfaces in this work, as well as in An African Night's Entertainment (1962). He has also produced numerous children's books, the best known of which is The Drummer Boy (1960), based on the life of a blind beggar in Lagos. Ekwensi is undoubtedly a pioneer and a major influence in contemporary African literature. His strengths are reflected in his social commitment to the topics on which he has chosen to write, coupled with the relevance of these topics to modern Africa. Indeed, his impact seems broader than one might at first suspect, as evidenced by his being awarded the Dag Hammarskjold International Prize for Literature in 1968.

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