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Distinguished Somali Writer Nuruddin Farah To Speak at Bard
“Islam and Modernity” Series Continues with Farah Teaching Open Class on December 2 and Giving Public Lecture on December 9
Jennifer Wai-Lan Huang
Each fall, the “Contemporary Masters” course taught by Norman Manea, Francis Flournoy Professor of European Culture and writer in residence, invites such distinguished literary guests as José Saramago, Saul Bellow, Orhan Pamuk, Philip Roth, Ismail Kadare, Mario Vargas Llosa, Antonio Tabucchi, and Claudio Magris for a brief residency on campus. This year, the course focused on “Islam and Modernity,” hosting the Somali writer Nurrudin Farah this December, and the French-Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun, laureate of France’s Prix Goncourt, this past October. The events represent an extraordinary opportunity to meet two of the world’s most important contemporary writers speaking about one of the hottest topics of today.
Maps is the first novel in Nuruddin Farah’s Blood in the Sun trilogy. It tells the story of Askar, a man coming of age in the turmoil of modern Africa. Having lost his father to the bloody Ethiopian civil war and his mother in childbirth, Askar is taken in and raised by a woman named Misra amid the scandal, gossip, and ritual of a small African village. As an adolescent, Askar goes to live in Somalia’s capital, where he strives to find himself just as Somalia struggles for national identity amidst violence and revolution. The novels of the Blood in the Sun trilogy, each of which stands by itself, form one of the most extraordinary portraits of a nation written in our time. Farah’s first trilogy of novels, Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship, is recognized as one of the great achievements of modem African literature. The New York Times Book Review called it, “a powerful political statement that moves constantly toward song.” Nadine Gordimer says, “Nuruddin Farah is one of the real interpreters of experience on our troubled continent. His insight goes deep, beyond events, into the sorrows and joys, the frustrations and achievements of our lives. His prose finds the poetry that is there.” And Chinua Achebe says, “Nuruddin Farah takes us deep into territory he has charted and mapped and made uniquely his own . . . He excels in giving voice to tragedy in remote places of the world that speaks directly and familiarly to our own hearts.”
Born in 1945 in Baidoa, Somalia, Nuruddin Farah is the author of ten novels, six plays, a nonfiction book, and numerous articles and stories in English; his work has been translated into more than 21 languages. The first novel in his dictatorship trilogy, Sweet and Sour Milk, won the English-Speaking Union Literary Prize in 1980, and in 1998, he was given the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. Long before the collapse of Somalia’s government, he was pushed into exile by the dictator Siyad Barre, and has lived, taught, and written in many African countries. He currently resides in Capetown, South Africa. Because his first novel concerns the plight of a young Somali woman forced into an arranged marriage, and because his work traces relations between dictatorship at the national scale and patriarchal tyranny at the family scale, he has been celebrated as a “feminist” African writer. Having dealt with dictatorship, breakdown, and exile in earlier works, Farah has begun, in his current trilogy (Links, Knots, and a third novel in progress), to imagine possible modes of a return to Somalia. Currently, he holds the Winton Chair in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and is teaching in the English Department.
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This event was last updated on 11-15-2010