Virtual Event: Cyprian Ekwensi's "People of the City," with Emmanuel Iduma and Edwin Frank

June 9, 2020, 6:00 PM

Join us for a virtual conversation about Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City, with author Emmanuel Iduma and NYRB Classics editor Edwin Frank. This program will take place on Zoom. Register here: 

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A vivid coming-of-age tale set in a big Nigerian city about a young man trying to make his way as a journalist and band leader in the big city.

Chinua Achebe was the author of the first book published in the legendary Heinemann African Writers Series that, starting in the 1950s, brought contemporary African literature to the attention of the world. The second was by Cyprian Ekwensi. People of the City, Ekwensi’s early masterpiece, is the tale of Amusa Sango, a young man who travels from the country to a great and crazy city that is not named but might well be taken for Lagos, where he means to make a career as a crime reporter while leading a dance band whose calypsos and konkomas “delight the heart of city women.” Amuso is a man on the make, looking for stories, success, sex, maybe even love, and he finds a lot of what he’s looking for, though whether he can hold on to what he has and get what he wants is another story altogether. Ekwensi’s delicious novel has the swagger, bravado, and elation of the great bands of West Africa.

CYPRIAN EKWENSI (1921–2007) was from Nkwelle Ezunaka, Anambra State, Nigeria, and his father was a well-known storyteller and elephant hunter. Ekwensi worked at the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation and the Ministry of Information, which he directed during the First Republic. He resigned from his position at the ministry before the Nigerian Civil War in the late 1960s. Ekwensi wrote hundreds of short stories, radio and television scripts, and several dozen works of fiction, including Drummer Boy and Jagua Nana. In 1968, he won the Dag Hammarskjöld International Prize in Literature, and in 2001 he was made a member of the Order of the Federal Republic. He became a fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters in 2006.

EMMANUEL IDUMA is the author of A Stranger’s Pose, a book of travel stories, which was longlisted for the 2019 Ondaatje Prize, and The Sound of Things to Come, a novel. His stories and essays have been published widely, including in The Millions, LitHub, Aperture, British Journal of Photography, Art in America, Guernica, and The New York Review of Books. He was awarded an arts writing grant from the Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation, for his essays on Nigerian artists. In 2017, he was associate curator of the Nigerian pavilion at the Venice Biennale. He teaches at the School of Visual Arts, New York, and divides his time between Lagos and New York.

EDWIN FRANK was born in Boulder, Colorado, and educated at Harvard College and Columbia University. He is the author of Snake Train: Poems 1984–2013 and the editorial director of the NYRB Classics series.