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Jagua Nana by Cyprian Ekwensi first edition 1961

Jagua Nana by Cyprian Ekwensi first edition 1961


London: Hutchinson & Co Ltd., 1961


8vo., bright orange publisher’s boards, with mask motif blocked in black to upper board, lettered and decorated in black and yellow along the spine; in the vibrant dust jacket designed by Dorothy Brooks; pp. [iv], 5-192; a near-fine copy, slightly pushed to head and foot of spine, one small white mark to upper edge of front board, and one small dent to lower; endpapers lightly offset; in the very good dust jacket, rubbed and shelf-worn, with edges nicked and chipped, particularly along spine, with a little loss to publisher’s name and device at foot; some small closed tears no longer than 2.5cm; lovely otherwise. 


First edition. A classic work of African Literature, and one which formed part of the Heinemann African Writers List. 


Set in Lagos, Nigeria, at the height of the 1960s, the plot revolves around the titular character who, in her vibrant and somewhat hedonistic lifestyle of wild nights and parties, becomes embroiled in a world of shady politics and village feuds. A vivid depiction of West Africa, the novel has sometimes been compared to Dickens in terms of its moral assessment of city life, and the characters living within them.


Ekwensi (1921-2007) was born in Minna, and was himself the son of a storyteller and Elephant hunter. It was perhaps this early influence which led him to the world of writing, and he penned hundreds of short stories, radio and television scripts over the course of his life, but it was for this work that he was most famous. Well versed in Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba cultures, he drew influence from the country around him, and in particular from his work as a forestry officer, with his first adventure books inspired by the wild and lonely environments in which he worked. Other, later stories focused more on people than environments, with Drummer Boy (1960) based on the life of Benjamin ‘Kokoro’ Aderounmu, a blind poverty-stricken street musician and early pioneer of Jùjú music. 


A sequel, Jagua Nana’s Daughter, was published in 1985. 

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