Books Of The Year #8: Crossbones

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December 11, 2012 by markstani

By Nuruddin Farah; pub. Granta

This was my first taste of Farah, who wasn’t too far down the betting for this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, which says something about his stature. Written following his return to his native Somalia, it’s a book that both indicts those in charge of, and shatters Western myths about, the country.

It says: A dozen year after his last visit, Jeebleh returns to Magadiscio, accompanied by his journalist son-in-law, Malik. What greets them at first is not the chaos Jeebleh remembers, but an eerie calm enforced by ubiquitous white-robed figures bearing whips. This is… a story of friendship, family and the inescapable ties that bind us to each other – even amidst the destruction of a decades-long civil war.

I say: A vivid portrait of a country clinging onto its nationhood by its fingertips, where chronic paranoia places journalists at the top of innumerable hit-lists, and where religious radicalization is rife among the young, often perpetuated by the clumsy actions of the west. There is no glamour here. While [Farah’s] love for his country shines through, so too does his pessimism for its future.


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