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Biography of Farah NURUDDINE

Somalia > Literature : Farah NURUDDINE

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Biography :

Nuruddine Farah (b. in 1945), is a Somalian novelist, dramatist, short story writer, and translator. He writes books near the southern tip of Africa, but his thoughts are often the length of a continent away, in his homeland of Somalia.

Nuruddin Farah is known as one of the most stimulating contemporary prose writers in Africa. His works typically address the theme of individual freedom in the face of arbitrary power that is relevant to Africans and non-Africans alike. Farah's novels demonstrate a facility with poetic language and great intellectual depth, and frequently focus on political and social issues in his homeland of Somalia, a nation in the Horn of Africa. While Farah's work contains an undeniable political element, he does not preach a particular political vision for his nation. Farah's experiences as a young person in Somalia give his writings an international appeal. The history of colonization and border conflicts in Somalia, coupled with Farah's travels and educational opportunities, gives him access to a wide variety of cultures and enables him to write about Somalia with a detached perspective.

Nuruddin Farah was born in Baidoa, the Italian-administered region of Southern Somalia, in 1945. His mother was a traditional storyteller, his father a merchant who later worked as an interpreter for the British governor. As a child he attended the Koran school as well as the British colonial school. Through his family’s escape to Ogaden, he grew up in a multi-lingual environment: Farah speaks Somali, Amharic, English, Italian and Arabic. He studied philosophy, literature and sociology at Punjab University in Punjab, India, and later theatre in London.

Farah’s first novel, From a Crooked Rib (1970) earned him the reputation of a "male feminist". In 1974 the publication of his novel Tallow Waa Telee Ma in a government magazine was discontinued after being censored. He was awarded a grant from the UNESCO, left Somalia and worked for two years in a London theatre. After being sentenced to death in absentia by Siad Barre’s regime in the late 1970s, Farah decided to remain abroad. He did not return to his home country for 22 years and lived in England, Italy, Sweden, Germany and the US. In 1996 Farah returned to Somalia for the first time.

Nuruddin Farah’s literary purpose is "to keep my country alive by writing about it." He is the author of several books and dramas. In addition, he works as a political commentator. His novel trilogies, Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship (1980-1983) and Blood in the Sun (1986-1999), are the core of his work.

His novel, Maps, studies the pain of cultural uncertainty in postcolonial reality and Somalia’s violent recent history. Recurrent themes in his writing are women’s rights, the relationship between industrialized and developing countries and the pre-Islamic understanding of religion in Somalia. Farah’s writing is inspired by the oratur, a mixture of orally transmitted knowledge such as proverbs, allegories and legends, theatre and music. His  novel, Links was published in South Africa in June of 2003 and will be released in the USA a year after.

He was awarded the Premio Cavour in Italy, the Kurt Tucholsky Prize in Sweden, the prize for the best novel in Zimbabwe and in 1998 the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. In the same year the French edition of Gifts won the St. Malo Literature Festival’s prize.

Nuruddin Farah’s books have been translated into 17 languages. He is father of two sons and a daughter and lives in Cape Town.

Last update : 06/22/2010

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