Lost years of a nomad: Exploring Indian experience in Nuruddin Farah’s oeuvre
To honor Nuruddin Farah’s fifty-year-long writing journey, this article explores his time in India (1966–69) and the influence it had on making him a leading postcolonial writer. My approach is largely biographical. I begin with his decision to turn down a scholarship at an American University, which some critics view as immature or even eccentric. I challenge this view of his choice instead to enroll for a degree in philosophy, literature and sociology at the Government College of Panjab University at Chandigarh in 1966 and to make what was then a country of poverty and even famine his first diasporic destination. I argue that this was a well-thought-out, politically correct and wise decision in the global context of international relationships in the 1960s. I also explore Farah’s brief association with Indian culture and the knowledge he acquired of Indian philosophy and literature to explain his decision to adopt a feminist perspective to write on injustice against women and the powerless and religious intolerance rather than focus on issues such as independence realpolitik like leading African writers at the time. His first manuscript, published in 1970 as From a Crooked Rib, was a Penguin modern classic by 2004. I argue that this novel was importantly shaped by his Indian experience. I also explore the influence of two novels on the young Farah on his personal life, ideology and writing even before he went to India: W. Somerset Maugham’s novel The Razor’s Edge (1944) and Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai’s classic Chemmeen (1956). This is the first substantial investigation of the effect of Farah’s Indian experience.
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