Nuruddin Farah | The Guardian

In a hotel beside a Norwegian fjord, encircled by snow-streaked mountains, the novelist and playwright Nuruddin Farah has his mind on warmer waters.”Are they pirates?” he says of the Somalis who hold ships hostage off the Horn of Africa, where he was born. “What they do has the characteristics of piracy. But that wasn’t how it started.” He fixes his eye on the Arctic trawlers in the harbour. “The majority were fishermen who lost their livelihoods to Korean and Japanese and European fishing vessels, fishing illegally in Somali waters. I’m not condoning the things they’re doing. But there are unanswered questions. Someone is not telling us the truth.”

Over 45 years, Farah has pursued complex, elusive truths as one of Africa’s greatest novelists, and a cosmopolitan voice in English-language fiction. He was driven into exile by the Somali dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, who ruled from 1969 to 1991, and he now lives in Cape Town. But all 11 of his novels (translated into 20 languages) are set in Somali-speaking lands, one impulse being to “keep my country alive by writing about it”. When I first met him in London in the 1980s, he was with Salman Rushdie at a Royal Court play, and his became a staunch Muslim voice against the fatwa. Rushdie writes in his new memoir of seeking his friend’s advice on how to depict a country lost to him: “‘I keep it here,’ Nuruddin said, pointing to his heart.”

For Nadine Gordimer, Farah is one of the continent’s “real interpreters”. Aged 66, he has lived in 10 African countries and is often cited by other African writers as overdue for the Nobel. His novels scourge received opinion – whether of female inferiority (he writes women characters who make their own destinies), religious dogma, nationalism (Maps), foreign aid (Gifts) or clannism (Secrets)…

via Nuruddin Farah: a life in writing | Books | The Guardian.

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