Nuruddin Farah: Variations on the theme of return

Keywords: Nuruddin Farah, Somalia, exile, return, homelands, postcolonial literature, African literature


This article explores the role of the returnee protagonist in selected works of Nuruddin Farah. Nadine Gordimer described Farah as “one of the real interpreters” of Africa and this article argues that Farah’s returnees operate as interpreters themselves, their liminality working to mediate between international readers and “local” subject matter. However, it also observes that Farah, who spent decades in exile, is often as preoccupied with writing non-belonging as he is with rendering Somalia itself. Farah’s returnee narratives are, broadly, novels of redress, in which characters enact their return in an attempt to seek out the missing, rebuild the lost or reclaim the stolen, with imperfect results. In exploring these variations on homecoming, the paper investigates the ways in which Farah’s body of work reflects shifts in identity politics over time, and the unique pressures these shifts exert on the homecoming arc.

Author Biography

Kamil Naicker, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa

Kamil Naicker is an English lecturer at Rhodes University, in Grahamstown, South Africa. Her focus is postcolonial literature: the intersections between form, ideology and world-making in the postcolonial novel.


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How to Cite
Naicker, K. (2020). Nuruddin Farah: Variations on the theme of return. Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 57(1), 88-95.
Research articles