Nuruddin Farah

Author and Lecturer

The European Graduate School

Nuruddin Farah is a prominent Somalian writer. He is the author of over 10 books. Farah did his studies mostly in both India and England. He was born in 1945 in Baidoa in southern Somalia, what is currently known as the Republic of Somalia. However, he grew up in Ogaden, a province of Ethiopia near Somalia. He was the first writer to break with the Somali oral tradition, and his work, which he does in English, is translated into a dozen languages. Today still, Farah is considered one of the most important writers in Africa. He taught an intensive summer seminar at the European Graduate School (EGS).

Farah published his first novel, From a Crooked Rib, in 1970, one year after his native country was taken over by General Mohamed Siad Barre. This one would later become his nemesis whose dictatorial and autocratic policies served as a backdrop to his first trilogy novel, published between 1979 and 1983, and with the overall project title of "Variations on the Theme of An African Dictatorship." These are Sweet and Sour Milk (1979), Sardines (1981), and Close Sesame (1983). They depict a clandestine group fighting against the military dictatorship of Siad Barre.

From a Crooked Rib would earn Farah the 1998 prestigious Neustadt International Prize for Literature, which is an American literary award that started in 1969, and is intended to honor novelists, poets and playwrights. This prize for literature is issued by the journal World Literature Today at the American University of Oklahoma and it has also been held in high esteem by his fellow writers such as Salman Rushdie, Chinua Achebe and Nadine Gordimer. The Neustadt International Prize for Literature is a biennial award and it is a serious competitor to the Nobel Prize. 1998 was the first time that it rewarded a black African writer.

After several years spent studying in India, England and Italy, he published a second novel in 1975, A Naked Needle, which earned him the wrath of the Somalian dictatorial regime and he was finally forced into exile after receiving death threats. He has published two fiction trilogies which are, to date, the bulk of his literary work. The second one, whose overall title is Blood in the Sun, includes the novels Maps (1986), Gifts (1992), and Secrets (1998). Gifts brings us to Mogadishu, the capital, before the outbreak of the Somali Civil in 1991. To date, his latest novel is Knots (2007), which goes into the state of Somalia after the war.

Farah’s numerous essays include: "Do You Speak German?!" (1982); "Do Fences Have Sides?" (1983); "The Creative Writer and the Politician" (1984); "A Tale of Tyranny" (1987); "In Praise of Exile" (1988); "Why I Write" (1988); "Haunted Beauty of the New Uganda" (1989); "Fear Is a Goat" (1990); "The World as a Writer's Home" (1990); "Childhood of My Schizophrenia" (1990); "A Country in Exile" (1992); "Savaging the Soul of a Nation" (1992); "Homing in on the Pigeon" (1993); "False Accounting" (1994); "Travellers' Tales" (1994); "The Women of Kismayo: Power and Protest in Somalia" (1996); "People of a Half-Way House" (1996); "My Father, the Englishman, and I" (1997); and "Country Cousins" (1998).