A voice from Africa来自非洲的声音
Sep 17th 2011 | from the print edition
Crossbones. By Nuruddin Farah. Riverhead; 389 pages; $27.95. Buy from Amazon.com
NURUDDIN FARAH went into self- imposed exile from his native Somalia in 1976, during the 22-year dictatorship of Mohamed Siad Barre. He now lives in Cape Town and Minnesota and writes in English. Yet the ten novels that have earned him recognition as a sophisticated voice in modern fiction—and one of Africa’s most important writers—are all set in Somalia. They combine an intimate dissection of power within the family with a strong dose of scepticism about the machinations of national and global power.
In his third and latest trilogy, “Past Imperfect”, Mr Farah proves a penetrating interpreter of the chaos that ensued when Siad Barre was ousted by warlords in 1991. In the concluding novel, “Crossbones”, which has just been published in America, a Somali-American professor named Jeebleh goes back to the capital, Mogadishu. A Dante expert, Jeebleh had first returned to his homeland in the mid-1990s after 20 years abroad—just as the author did—to find rival strongmen jostling in the Italianate city’s infernal ruins, a scene that was described in the trilogy’s opening volume, “Links” (2004). Ten years on, he finds white-robed men with beards and whips imposing order. These Taliban-inspired “religionists”, as Mr Farah calls them, had already made an appearance in the second book, “Knots” (2007), foisting “body tents” on women. These female targets include Cambara, an actress and one of the author’s many robust heroines, who has returned from exile in Toronto to reclaim her family home from its squatting warlords.