Anxiety and influence in Nuruddin Farah and younger Somali writers
During his exile, Nuruddin Farah believed that he would return to a democratic Somalia once Muhammed Siyad Barre had been removed from power. However, this vision was lost when civil war followed the dictator’s fall. Since then, Farah has made several return visits to Somalia. He claims in interviews and articles that he continues to care about Somalia whereas others have abandoned the country. The emotional engagement that Farah shows in his book on Somali refugees, Yesterday, Tomorrow: Voices from the Somali Diaspora emerges again in his Past Imperfect trilogy. This can be seen in the ways in which older Somali characters interact with a younger generation, seeking to instruct, develop and protect them. This shows a certain anxiety about influence. It is as if Farah is attempting to re-assert his long-held position as the pre-eminent author and interpreter of Somalia and the Somali diaspora during a period in which there has been a proliferation of literary writing by younger Somalis. This essay examines Farah’s trajectory from exile to cosmopolitan writer and his anxiety in the Past Imperfect trilogy and other writing. It further considers whether there are constructive linkages between Farah’s work and that of selected younger Somali writers.
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