Nuruddin Farah

(1945- )


Nuruddin Farah was born in Baidoa, a city in Italian Somaliland in 1945. His father worked as a translator for the British. Soon after Nuruddin's birth he was transferred to Ogaden in western Ethiopian where he worked for the governor. Farah received his primary education at schools in Kallafo, Ogaden. He spoke English, Arabic, and Amharic, the official Ethiopian language. After studying literature and philosophy in India at the University of Chandigarh, he returned to Somalia and taught in Mogadishu. In 1979 he published his third novel, “Sweet and Sour Milk”. Critically acclaimed and the first installment of his trilogy, “Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship”, the ruling government of Siad Barre banned the book and ordered that the author be killed
Forced into exile, Farah continued to write and devoted himself to the project of keeping his country alive through literature. In “Maps” he continues the effort, depicting Somalia's history and filtering it through the domestic struggles of his main characters. “Maps”(1986) became the first part of another trilogy, followed by “Gifts” (1992) and “Secrets” (1998).


The central theme in his work is women's liberation in postcolonial Somaliland, which he sees as a precondition for political and individual freedom. The majority of his essays, novels, short stories, plays, and film scripts are written in English, but he has also translated children's stories from Arabic, Italian, French, and English into Somali.


His published works include:


• Links, (Novel, 2003)


• Yesterday, Tomorrow : Voices from the Somali Diaspora (Academic Literature, 2000)


• Secrets (Novel, 1998)


• Bastards of Empire, (Academic Essay, Transitions 5.1 (Spring 1995), 1995)


• Gifts (1992)


• Why I Write, (Academic Essay, Third World Quarterly (10.4), 1988)


• Maps (Novel, 1986)


• Close Sesame, (Novel, 1983)


• Sardines (Novel, 1981)


• Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship. Sweet and Sour Milk (Academic Literature, 1979)


• From a Crooked Rib, (Novel, 1970)


• Why Die So Soon? (Novel, 1965)


Farah has held teaching positions at universities in the United States, Germany, Italy, Nigeria, Sudan, Gambia, and India and has lived in London and in Rome. He visited Somalia again in 1996, after 22 years in exile. He moved to Capetown, South Africa in1998.

He was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1998.