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Reading Nuruddin Farah

Reading Nuruddin Farah: The individual, the novel & the idea of home The individual, the novel & the idea of home

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 220
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  • Book Info
    Reading Nuruddin Farah
    Book Description:

    The Somali novelist, Nuruddin Farah, is one of the most important African writers today. The central question that this book investigates is the relationship between modern identity and the novel as a genre. Nuruddin Farah's novels are shown by Moolla to encompass the history of the novel: from the 'proto-realism' of the acclaimed From a Crooked Rib to the modernism of A Naked Needle and the postmodernism of, most notably, Maps, returning almost full circle with his most recent novel Crossbones. Moolla examines his writing within the framework of Somali society and culture, Islamic traditions and political contexts, all of which are central themesin his novels. She also addresses his engagement with women's lives - his female characters and identities being at the heart of, rather than peripheral, to his stories - something that has always distinguished Farah from many other male African writers. The book finally suggests that through his literary negotiation of the central contradiction of modern identity, Farah comes close to constituting a subject who no longer is transcendentally 'homeless', but finds a home 'everywhere' - a fitting project for a writer who has been in exile for the greater part of his life. F. Fiona Moolla is a lecturer in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Western Cape in SouthAfrica as well as freelance writer and published author of short stories and novels.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-238-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    Somali writer, Nuruddin Farah Hassan (b. 1945), is known in literary circles as a dramatist, novelist, author of short stories, and also as a non-fiction writer and essayist. It is, however, as a novelist that his work receives most attention. Indeed, Farah’s oeuvre seems to compress a history of the novel in his life’s work. His novels trace a trajectory from a kind of proto-realism to modernism and postmodernism returning latterly to realism. What makes his oeuvre particularly compelling is the way his work foregrounds the close connection between the formation of the concept of the individual and the development...

  4. 1 Defining the Individual Conceptual & Historical Limits
    (pp. 16-47)

    This book takes as its point of theoretical departure the argument presented by Charles Taylor inSources of the Selfabout individualism, modernity and morality. Individualism is a term frequently invoked, but rarely defined or used with consistency. In what represents the most cogent elucidation of the topic, Taylor suggests that individualism is the historically limited form of identity constituted by modernity in the societies of the North-Atlantic. Individualism is the form taken by modern identity, which simultaneously constitutes the concept of identity itself. Philosophically, he shows that any enquiry into the subject, requires that the self be situated within...

  5. 2 From a Crooked Rib & the Bildungsroman Developing the Self, Developing the Nation
    (pp. 48-74)

    From a Crooked Rib(1970), Farah’s first published book, drew its author onto the international literary scene, despite what were considered its aesthetic shortcomings. The book is supposed to have been written in less than a month when Farah was a philosophy student at the University of Chandigarh in India. Perhaps because of its perceived inadequacies it has not received as much critical attention as the later fiction, especially the trilogies. This novel is fundamental, however, in defining the boundaries of the novelistic sub-genre, namely the novel of autonomous personal development orBildungsroman, which constitutively embodies Farah’s worldview. The features...

  6. 3 The ‘Gynocentric’ Bildungsroman Sardines & Gifts
    (pp. 75-103)

    Autonomous personality development is so crucial to Farah’s vision thatBildungis an element of most of his novels, even if the formation ideal is invoked only to be in some way challenged. Frequently, however, the challenge to autonomous development paradoxically affirms disengaged subjectivity. Baldly stated, all Farah’s novels areBildungsromanewhich, whether classical or dissensual, “naturalize and normalize” (Slaughter, “TheBildungsromanand International Human Rights Law” 1409-411) the disengaged self. Critics observe similarly that most of Farah’s novels share some generic affinity with the detective novel, the narrative form constituted around the interrogation of a mystery which must be...

  7. 4 Modernism in A Naked Needle & Sweet & Sour Milk Irony, Morality & the Aesthetic
    (pp. 104-121)

    The analysis ofGiftsin the previous chapter suggested resolution of the contradiction of individualist subject formation through the principle of textuality. Aesthetic resolution of the inherent contradiction of individualism, in fact, achieves its clearest expression inA Naked Needle, a much earlier novel. The techniques of modernism employed in this novel ultimately allow form, the aesthetic, to represent the higher order which realism could not, without tension, allow to emerge from the autonomous self.

    Literary modernism is probably the most significant influence on the novels of Nuruddin Farah. With the exception ofFrom a Crooked Ribwhich shares realism’s...

  8. 5 Close Sesame & the Representation of Heteronomy
    (pp. 122-141)

    Close Sesame, the final book of the “Dictatorship” trilogy, is unique in Farah’s corpus. To capture what makes this novel exceptional it is necessary to be reminded of the constitutive presupposition of the classic realist novel, which modernism and postmodernism, through the specific terms of abrogation, ironically reaffirm. The realist novel may better be distinguished against the genre of the epic which, along with lyric, drama, oral tales and journalistic broadsheets, were drawn into a new genre which, in its openness, appears to elude generic definition itself. The epic is the story of how the hero is lost but finally...

  9. 6 Dissolving the Boundaries of Self & Nation in Maps & Secrets
    (pp. 142-154)

    This chapter picks up the thread from Chapter 4 where a modernist resolution of the contradiction of individualism was explored. Chapter 5 was tangential to the argument. It considered the one exception in Farah’s oeuvre, namely,Close Sesame, which attempts to represent a heteronomous subject through the narrative mode of the novel which privileges autonomy. Earlier the central compromise of realism was explored. Realism compromises the contradiction that individual autonomy finally submits to socialisation through irony in closure. Chapter 4 suggests that the techniques of modernism allow irony to reflect on itself. Self-reflexive irony is inherently concerned with aesthetic questions...

  10. 7 Reconstructing the Subject in the Third Trilogy Links, Knots & Crossbones
    (pp. 155-185)

    This chapter focuses on the novels of the “Past Imperfect” trilogy,Links,KnotsandCrossbones.* The chapter shows that the radically fragmented identity which was suggested by the novels of the second trilogy is ultimately at odds with Farah’s commitment to the reconstruction of the Somali state and society, even though this split subjectivity seems to connote freedom. The novels of the third trilogy trace a return to some form of centred subjectivity. The protagonist inLinksis a relatively coherent subject whose quest, in part, involves forming associational bonds with others which do not existentially bind the subject.Knots...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 186-189)

    This book examines Novalis’s observation that philosophy, or the pursuit of truth, is ultimately a form of nostalgia for undivided identity, being one with oneself – being “at home”. Entry into the conception of individual identity however, in itself, fundamentally destabilises the subject thus formed. The question about identity – “Who am I?” – framed as a question asked by the procedurally rational subject, through splitting the observed and observing subjects, fractures the self thus conceived. Novalis perceives very clearly at the historical moment when this form of subjectivity triumphs in European culture that the unity of the subject and, finally also the...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 190-205)
  13. Index
    (pp. 206-210)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 211-211)