Time for My People: Reading Tayeb Salih when you look at the Suburbs


It had been in 2002, while an undergraduate at James Madison University, one of several universities nestled on the list of villes and burgs of southern Virginia, that I first discovered the writer that is sudanese Salih. We still have actually the exact same content of their novel, Season of Migration towards the North, We bought through the college bookstore for a global literary works program: a burnt-orange Heinemann paperback version, translated through the Arabic by Denys Johnson-Davies. in the cover that is front the visage of a female, carved just as if from rock, a sunlight beating like a heart below her neck. In the straight back, a huge bookstore barcode, above that are the language SALIH APPLIED.

exactly What hit me personally many then, and still does, ended up being the writer photograph. It’s a real face that reminds me personally of my dad. Both males have a similar tight curls of black colored locks, similar broad noses, the exact same drooping earlobes. They both wear similar ill-fitting top collars, they both wince once browse this site they smile, as though hesitant to show joy. The very first time I saw that face, i recall experiencing lease by coincidence, by history. There’s me: the first-generation Sudanese immigrant, my genes muddled with those of a American-born mom, scarcely cognizant of this information on their social history. Then there’s my father: now 74, a journalist born in a little nile village two hours away from Khartoum. And, between us, there clearly was now Tayeb Salih: the Sudanese novelist whose only reference to us ended up being that exact same five-letter surname, with the exact same vowel sandwiched like a little individual involving the “l” together with “h.”

I’ve picked up Season of Migration to your North four times when you look at the 15 years since i came across it; or, instead, since it had been thrust upon me personally by way of a teacher. The reading that is first an scholastic one, together with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, to which Salih’s novel reads like an immediate reaction, an easy method for the colonized to seize the narrative through the colonizer and hand it straight back, pretzel-twisted into one thing strange and unique. The reading that is second in 2007, had been prompted by an item we published on overlooked publications when it comes to Baltimore City Paper titled “Sexing Up Colonialism: Tayeb Salih’s Novel Plows a unique Organ into Darkness’ Heart.” The 3rd reading, seven years from then on, had been for no reason at all apart from fascination at seeing the book’s yellowing back while rearranging my bookshelves.

Finally, final thirty days, we exposed Season of Migration towards the North yet again, this time around together with my dad and lots of other Sudanese immigrants. It absolutely was this reading, as well as the discussion that then followed, which provided meaning that is brand new new weight, towards the novel’s magnificent opening line, the one that captured me through the very first time We read it: “It ended up being, gentlemen, after a lengthy absence—seven years to be precise, during which time I became studying in Europe—that We gone back to my individuals.”


In identical finished cellar in the north Virginia house where We invested a great deal of my childhood—playing eight-bit video clip games at sleepovers, sneaking down seriously to watch soft-core cable porn, sitting at an electric powered typewriter and composing absurdist tales about my classmates—my daddy now hosts month-to-month guide club conferences together with his Sudanese buddies. For many hours, the number of 4 or 5 men—journalists, professors—drink tea and coffee, consume snacks and cruditй, and talk. The books they discuss usually are governmental, often esoteric, constantly about Sudan, and always read (and discussed) in Arabic.

1 day, we asked my dad why he along with his buddies never read and talked about novels. He didn’t have a remedy in my situation, therefore alternatively he posed a challenge: locate a novel, in English, about Sudan, and we’ll read it. And you may join us when it comes to conversation.

Even with years of voracious reading, my familiarity with Arab literary works, like my power to read and talk the language, is pathetic at the best. Every thing I’m sure about Arab literature I discovered (in translation) from relative lit classes, where I became first introduced to works like Ghassan Kanafani’s guys within the Sun, the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish, Emile Habiby’s surreal The key Life of Saeed: The Pessoptimist, Miramar by Naguib Mahfouz, and Edward stated and Jean Mohr’s picture essays, following the sky that is last. But of all of the these written publications, it had been Season of Migration towards the North to that we felt many compelled to come back, just as before, such as the novel’s nameless narrator who keeps going back, from their adult life in Khartoum, to your town of their youth. The opportunity to check this out novel outside academia, one of the males whom really lived it, have been quite definitely Salih’s contemporaries and whom shared the exact same life and experiences once the fictional Sudanese villagers who imbue this brief novel with a great deal peoples force and vigor, had been too powerful to shun.