Glittering City by Cyprian Ekwensi
Glittering City is set in the city of Lagos in the year 1960. This short story is written by the prolific Nigerian author Cyprian Ekwensi (1921-2007) who is considered to be one of the fathers of the modern West African novel. The story was first published in 1966.
Glittering City by Cyprian Ekwensi was part of the new Penguin Mini Modern Classics Series. I had never heard of Cyprian Ekwensi before but he is kind of a big deal. Basically, he was born in the year 1920s in Nigeria. Cyprian Ekwensi published a book ‘People In The City’ 1954 and that was his first book or the first Nigerian book that was published in Britain and had an audience there too. So, it was kind of interesting to learn a little bit more about him and in 2018 Penguin also published another book of his in their General Modern Classics Series that is Jagua Nanna ( originally published in1961) and it is actually a book that I want to pick up because judging this present short story as a short story I thought it was just alright. It was not phenomenal but was also not bad. What I enjoyed was Ekwensi’s writing style. I thought his writings really flowed well and I was very comfortable with it because I am really on the hunt for writers that I can read comfortably.
Summary of Glittering City
It is essentially a jazzy and somewhat melodramatic short story about the life and fall of an inveterate filou (rogue), or rather a voyou( thug), a trickster possessing some thuggish features, dancing through life, swindling in shady businesses and playing trumpet in night clubs, lying and deceiving all and sundry, including his wife and son, his fellow musicians, galvanising from one mistress to another mistress, seducing them with deceptive smile.
The hectic, swift rhythm, the fine evocation of the city’s vibrant chaos, intensity and noise, and the seamy nocturnal nightclub atmosphere along with scenes reminiscent of Godard’s A Bout de souffle are what gives the tale a cinematic tone and a fluid feeling; the blind worship of the women for this protagonist’s windbag was somewhat annoying, making themselves fools by flying at each other because of him, and I must admit that I was unable to sympathise with the protagonist who starred in his empty life, and his irresistible attractiveness as Ekwensi portrayed left me cold.
I witness little more in him than the fictional grasshopper from Jean de la Fontaine’s fable-Fussy Joe, the kind of amoral charmer and lady-killing sponger I’m lucky to know only from stories and hope that my daughter will never meet or if so reject like the plague.
I am unsure until now if I would read Ekwensi’s most renowned and highly praised novel Jagua Nana- maybe I would rather revisit Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood, which in a way could be seen as a sequel to Glittering City, discussing the roles and relationships between men and women in Nigeria as told from the perspective of a woman, and which, to be honest, fascinated me much more than that.
Review of the story Glittering City
Glittering City is a peculiar short story I would say because it follows Fussy Joe and he is kind of jazz player, a blues singer who is like a typical worthless human being, who likes to play with women’s hearts and women who are not smart enough to see through his bullshit. Glad, he did bit getaway.
“Forget all your fears bow. Have a fling this night.”
It is set in Lagos in the 1960s and it is about him and his like unconventional way of life. I would say because he is kind of an asshole, kind of a dickhead and not a kind of the nicest person because he is very manipulative and very untrustworthy and deceitful and he basically feeds off women. He is in various love affairs, relationships with various women who give him money, who give him food. He can sleep there then he sleeps there and he is the kind of person who goes from woman to woman and he is a very unlikable character. He also uses it for his advantage that many people from the village are moving to Lagos in the hope of a better life, kind of fleeing from the village to live in the big city and like with a dream for making a lot of money. He is kind of a person who targets these types of woman who are a little more naive who have just recently arrived in the city. He would go them to say I am going to introduce you to all of these people, I am going to introduce you to this nightlife but then he uses them for sex and lust and it is a lot. He was like incredibly flawed and very unlikeable but the kind of person who only could tell that.
Cyprian Ekwensi was still trying to write to him and his story is a bit of a charming way. His kind of story didn’t work for me because I didn’t found it charming but it was just like okay. But he also gave the perspective of the woman which I highly appreciated because if it had just been focused on Fussy Joe and his attitude I would have been very annoyed but throughout the story, many women emerged as kind of like the voice of reason and they were kind of warning all of these young women to go off with Fussy Joe and telling them that he is tricky and wicked and that he will spoil their lives without any regard for them. You know so we got a little bit of a balance because tourists and kind of the downfall of Fussy Joe is depicted and there is a very good quote in here which I thought had actually quite the depth to it “Only the man Joe was left and he was no man at all”.
It was an interesting story in that sense but it was weird also, it was still very weird-like. I didn’t really love this; wouldn’t even say that I really enjoyed it because the pacing was also a little off-like. It felt rushed in certain places and not all the characters were fleshed out well enough for me to really care but it was still interesting to have that look and that story for me at least didn’t feel like if this was written in the 1960s because it is so free and open especially about sexuality. I was just like oh wow okay cool people also said like yeah this is not genuine. Basically that Cyprian Ekwensi was kind of this scandalous figure back in the day which I find super fascinating.
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