In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Nuruddin Farah

African Studies Nuruddin Farah
F. Fiona Moolla
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 November 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0199


Nuruddin Farah (b. 1945 in Baidoa, southern Somalia) is an award-winning African author. He is internationally known, with an international literary reputation. His literary career stands slightly outside of the circle of the more canonical troika of African authors (Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o), who came to represent, in its first phase, the face of African literature worldwide. From the beginning of his career, the hallmark of Farah’s work has been his interest in women’s experiences and rights, and his ability to capture female subjectivity led some of his early readers to assume he was a woman. Because of his novels’ allusive criticism of the Somali dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, Farah was unable to return to Somalia in 1974, and he has lived outside of the country for most of his life. Continuing political upheavals in recent times have allowed Farah to return to Somalia only on short visits. As a result, exile is a dominant trope in his more recent work. Farah is a polyglot who speaks four languages, but, except for one very early work, he has only ever written in English. His works have been translated into over thirty-five languages, but only in 2016 was a Somali translation of one of his works done: From a Crooked Rib, his first novel. Except for two early freestanding novels, Farah’s novels are all composed as trilogies in which a range of ideas are explored from different points of view.

Primary Texts: Fiction and Nonfiction

Farah has proven to be a highly versatile writer whose career, spanning almost five decades, has yielded fiction and nonfiction across a range of genres. Although it is as a novelist that Farah is best known, he started his career as a dramatist, with plays for both the stage and radio. After his first two novels, his novels have been written as part of trilogies, three of which have been completed, with one later novel published in 2014. Farah has also written a few short stories that have not garnered significant scholarship. As an essayist, Farah has distinguished himself with a range of topics spanning both literary and sociopolitical perspectives. Following the massive diaspora of Somalis after the civil war of the late 1980s and 1990s, Farah wrote a nonfiction reflection on the experiences of displaced Somalis based on extensive personal travel and interviews. As an author and public intellectual, Farah has participated in a large number of important individual and group interviews and discussions.

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