Call for Papers: “Literary Pro-vocations: Nuruddin Farah Five Decades On”


2020 will be the 50th anniversary of the publication of From A Crooked Rib, Nuruddin Farah’s first novel and the first Somali novel, which put this Horn of Africa author and his country on the world literary map. Farah was disconcerting to the establishment at the outset. Was the author a man or a woman – Mr or Ms Farah? As an unknown young writer from the periphery of the periphery, what entitled him to trouble the literary and political status quo?  When African writers wrote the postcolony through male subjectivity, why did Farah fictionally inhabit the body of a young nomadic girl? When realism was the dominant African narrative mode, why was Farah resolutely (post)modernist? With the publication of his forthcoming novel, North of Dawn in December 2018, Farah will have written 13 novels, a non-fiction work on the Somali diaspora, and play scripts. His early and mid-career fiction has elicited considerable scholarship tending to foreground feminist and thematic readings, weighings in of the politics-aesthetics debate, and considerations of literary techniques. The later Farah has also generated studies from geocritical, ecocritical, and animal studies vantage points, with notable attention to Farah’s Mogadiscio by scholars of literary urbanism. 

“Provocateur” Farah has unsettled the face of African literature; but how might an alternative pro-vocation of Farah present itself?  What is called forth from the career that spans five decades, and the novels as artefacts? What will present itself if we provoke Farah’s literary provocations? Points of departure may include and go beyond the following: 

  • Literary cliques: Farah is slightly younger than the triumvirate of Achebe, Soyinka and Ngugi. What, apart from roughly ten years, keeps him outside of the centre of the African literature canon? What might the contours of the conversation be among Achebe, Soyinka, Ngugi and Farah?
  • Frames of reference: Why think Farah with Achebe, Soyinka, and Ngugi? Why not think Farah with desert and international nomad networks including writers like the Libyan Ibrahim al-Koni, the Saudi Abd al-Rahman Munif and the Egyptian Sabri Moussa? Why think Farah with Achebe, Soyinka, and Ngugi? Why not think Farah with Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Ama Ata Aidoo and Mariama Bâ? What might the contours of these other conversations be?
  • Teaching Farah: Why teach Farah? Why not teach Farah? In a literature class, in a history class, in a gender studies class, in an African studies class, in an Islamic studies class, in a creative writing class.
  • The journey out: Farah has been in exile from Somalia since 1974. Farah’s fictions have gradually moved from a claustrophobic location in Mogadiscio, with forays into the Somali countryside, to the Horn of Africa and East Africa more generally, with the forthcoming novel set in Norway. Why the telescoping out? Why does Farah not count among the growing roll call of diasporic Afropolitan writers?
  • Generic Farah: Reflections on Farah the novelist. Reflections on Farah the essayist.
  • Farah and the growing Somali literary scene: Farah’s place in the development of a Somali national literature.
  • Farah and the growing Somali literary scene: Farah’s place in the development of a post/transnational Somali literature.
  • Posthumanist Farah: Sensing the more-than-human.
  • Post-Cartesian Farah: Affective twists and turns.
  • New-materialist Farah: Novels as artefacts. Privileging process over product – HOW do we read Farah? HOW does Farah make us read?

Research essays of no more than 6 500 words, including notes and works cited, or creative engagements with Farah’s oeuvre in the form an essay of not more than 3000 words are invited for submission by 30 April 2019. All submissions should be in English, using MLA 8th edition citation guidelines. (Please note that 8th edition MLA varies considerably from earlier MLA guidelines.) Authors must also ensure that their submissions adhere to all the requirements listed in the author guidelines of Tydskrif vir Letterkunde.  

PLEASE SUBMIT FOR CONSIDERATION AN ABSTRACT OF NOT MORE THAN 250 WORDS BY 30 NOVEMBER 2018. Your abstract should be accompanied by a cover letter indicating your name, institutional affiliation, full contact details, and a brief biography. All queries and submissions should be sent to Fiona Moolla at

No page fees will apply for this special issue. 

For full TL author guidelines, please visit the website: 

Editor Biography: Associate Professor F. Fiona Moolla is a lecturer in the English Department at the University of the Western Cape. She is the author of Reading Nuruddin Farah: The Individual, the Novel and the Idea of Home. Woodbridge, Suffolk: James Currey, 2014, among other publications.