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(Past Imperfect #1)

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  518 ratings  ·  65 reviews
From the internationally acclaimed author of North of Dawn, Links is a novel that will stand as a classic of modern world literature.

Jeebleh is returning to Mogadiscio, Somalia, for the first time in twenty years. But this is not a nostalgia trip--his last residence there was a jail cell. And who could feel nostalgic for a city like this? U.S. troops have come and gone, an
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 29th 2005 by Penguin Group (first published 2003)
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Average rating 3.36  · 
Rating details
 ·  518 ratings  ·  65 reviews

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Debbie Zapata
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: library
"Jeebleh sat unmoving, like a candle just blown out, smoking its last moments darkly."

Yes, that would be a smart way to react when your traveling partner (of sorts) and his armed bodyguards begin to get nervous.

Jeebleh has returned to Somalia after 20 years. But why? Really to visit his mother's grave? Or will he be doing more, some activity that will endanger his life more than simply being in the country has done?

Well, I have to admit I never cared what would happen to friend Jeebleh. Maybe no
Jul 30, 2014 rated it did not like it
The book was very hard to finish. It was overfilled with bad metaphors. The story itself was terrible. Even though everything was explained over and over again I never understood Jeebleh or any other character in the book.

It felt like a 300-400 pages short story. The story never really started. Like flying over a landscape with a heavy dark raincloud beneath you. All you want is to dive under the cloud and see the landscape. I wanted to understand the book but a big dark cloud followed every sin
Ron Charles
Dec 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although most Americans couldn't find Somalia on a map, they all share one clear mental image of the African country: the mutilated body of an Army Ranger being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. The United States had arrived in late 1992 on a humanitarian mission called Restore Hope. Sixteen months later, after bitter humiliation and a new lesson on the complications of intervention, it retreated.

Mark Bowden placed the infamous helicopter battle in Mogadishu at the center of his bestsell
Jul 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: international, africa
From the opening pages, when Jeebleh, a long-time exile, leaves his airplane upon arrival in Mogadiscio, Somalia, and witnesses the random shooting of another passenger and comprehends the danger inherent in all choices he makes, he is assailed by unbearable stress. Mogadiscio is a land in which almost no one can be trusted, where kidnappings and murders are simply part of the day. The opening chapter describes Jeebleh's journey from the airport to a hotel, and its intensity makes other novels p ...more
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
I'd say this is a 2.5 star book. There were occasional moments where I connected with Jeelbeh, or one of the other characters, could overlook the absurdly stilted dialogue and clumsy metaphors/similes, and felt immersed in the atmosphere of mid 90s Mogadishu. Most of the time, though, I felt untethered from the narrative and its characters. The book spurred me to learn a little more about the history of modern Somalia, though, which was welcome.
Jun 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 21st-century
I see complaints from some reviewers about Farah's idiosyncratic, sometimes rather formal, even artificial style. But I find his style, with his offbeat similes for example, to lend an appropriate strangeness to a story in which characters desperately and often unsuccessfully seek to find meaning in a society that has come close to collapse. The book represents various struggles with madness that seem created by the setting of Mogadiscio itself.
Particularly telling for me were the interspersed d
Chloe Crist
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
I'll start off by saying that, even though this is a two-star book for me, I appreciate this new perspective I have on Somalia and the effort that went into the allusions (or Links, if you will) to Dante's Inferno throughout this book. These aspects are the most positive ones I take with me from this book.

Since this was a book I had to read for class, it was expected it wouldn't be something I really wanted to read. I think what was so disappointing to me was just how much this book dragged on,
Nov 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Set during the mid-1990s, Links sheds light on the lurid status of famished Mogadiscio, Somalia, a city where government itself is obsolete, allowing Dagaalka sokeeye, or civil war, to rage madly on. The novel's protagonist, Jeebleh, is visiting his native Somalia for the first time in twenty years in order to settle his mother’s burial and funeral, and he is jaded by the circumstances plaguing his homeland. Clan-based war persists between two major clans, with Strongman South’s clan leading the ...more
May 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Nuruddin Farah’s “Links” has an odd rhythm, building slowly and then dashing madly, even haphazardly, to the finish. Although, Farah’s touchstone is the Inferno, from which he quotes in epigraphs, this novel set in Somalia has more of intra-familial savagery of Greek tragedy, as half-brothers, Jebreel, returning from the United States, the long-imprisoned Bile, and the brutal gangster Caloosha circle around each other. A young niece, daughter of a half-sister, is missing with her friend. Ambiguo ...more
Dec 24, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: place, high-lit
This is the story of a former political prisoner, Jeebleh, who returns to his native Somalia in the 90s after 20+ years living in the United States. Jeebleh goes to Somalia with purpose, but he's not really clear what the purpose is... to reunite with old friends? to settle old scores? to save a kidnapped child? to build a tomb for his mom?

The book was clunky. It was full of images, metaphors, and allusions that maybe if I had an English degree and thought about it for a long time I would under
Oct 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, contemporary
This book was not at all what I was expecting - in a good way. I was nervous about reading it because I thought it would be contain a good bit of painful, graphic devastation and violence. It is, after all, set in Somalia, torn by civil war. However, it turned out to be very much about the psychology of the characters. Certainly there was some violence and devastation described, but not as much as I was anticipating. The writing was almost dreamy at times. I was captivated by the story, which in ...more

Not that it was terrible- I just wasn't feeling it all that much. I like highly metaphorical language and Farah kind of overdid it more than a few times.

The pace of the novel was fast enough, the characters were interesting but not drawn conclusively. It had a lost of epigraphs and I LOVE epigraphs. I was reading it for class, against the clock, admittedly, but I don't really have any desire to check it out again.

It was good to read something from and about Somalia, though. maybe I'll have to c
Dora Okeyo
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
I loved this book for two reasons: It is an account of stories from people, and that Jebeleh-the main character is out on a quest-to find the truth, to reconcile his past-and like the early tragedies (Greek tragedies) he doesn't get the justice he's after because Caloosha-the man who jailed him, dies-before he's made peace with the cruel things Caloosha did to him.

I loved Dajaal the most because he's a friend and also a guard-he listens and knows what's to come but keeps his word too.
He is a good writer but there is a disconnect here. It's as if his heart just wasn't in it. The story flounders in a murky soup of characters and blurry ideas. Themes struggle with their identity crisis. Maybe this is exactly the intent. That's what I believed on first reading the book, that the style was recapitulating life in Somalia. ...more
Vir - Física Lectora
Around the world book challenge #6
Country: Somalia


In this book we follow Jeebleh, a Somali who lives in the United States, and who decides to return to his country to help his friend Bile to find his niece, and to honor his now deceased mother. When he arrives in Somalia, his country is in the middle of the civil war between the clans after the US troops withdrew. Jeebleh turned out to be a strange character, since it described heartbreaking scenes, but he did not seem to feel much
Kim Sasso
Nov 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio
Seeking more exposure to real life outside my middle-aged, middle-ish class American bubble, I asked a fellow truckdriver about books to help me learn about "real life," in his home country of Somalia.

He told me about Somali writer Narrudin Farah, who became internationally famous for challenging his country's prevailing views on women, especially in his book, "From a Crooked Rib." "Rib," was not available to me on audio so I chose "Links."

This book is much slower-paced than I can usually bear;
Angel 一匹狼
It is difficult to review "Links" because even if the topic is quite interesting, and in some moments there seems to be a smart analysis on violence, revenge, fear, etc., there is the underlying feeling all through the book that Farah doesn't know what (or why) he is writing about, that he doesn't care about the characters or the story and that he is writing about this just to fulfill some kind of quota.

The book centers on Jeebleh, a Somali living in the US who goes back to Somalia to see the gr
Sep 05, 2017 rated it liked it
A fascinating read. This story is set in Somalia during the long civil war, after the American presence. The main character is a Somali exiled to the United States during the dictatorship who returns to honor his deceased mother and reconnect with the people he hasn't seen in decades. It is a mesmerizing account of how he falls into the violent chaos of the city.

***Spoiler Alert***

There was so much mystery and tension that I kept waiting for there to be some dramatic turn or revelation near the
Jan 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written page turner set in post-civil war Mogadishu, where cross-cutting allegiances to family, clans, political ideology and self-preservation eschew attempts to separate good from bad. The central character has just returned to Somalia after years of living in the U.S., and Farah (himself exiled for many years) compellingly communicates his simultaneous love for Mogadishu and despair at what it's become. I wish there more strong, three-dimensional female characters in the book, a ...more
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! It is incredibly well written, tells its story in a very engaging way, and provides insight into the conflict in Somalia. More people should know about the history of the conflict and Somalia in general. Reading this enjoyable book is a great start!
Oct 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting look at the Somali civil war and its aftermath. I get the feeling that a lot of the writing mimicked the style of Somali conversation, but I'm not sure. ...more
Christa Ruhnke
Sep 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Historical and fiction.
Well told in translation.
Males one think differently from what is truth vs what others want someone to know.
Stephen Kelly
Jun 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: somalia, 21st-century
MAPS is a superb book--lyrical, experimental, moving, memorable. Since reading MAPS a few years ago, I root for Farah each October when they're about to announce the Nobel laureates.

LINKS, however, seems like it was written by a different person. It's clunky, talky, lifeless. I couldn't wait for it to be over.

An exile arrives in his hometown of Magadiscio for the first time in twenty years, returning to the wartorn city for reasons that are never quite convincing. The first thing he witnesses is
Aug 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: society, family, africa
After spending several years in the US, Jeebleh returns to his native Somalia to find and rescue his best friend's child, and to settle a score with a kid who bullied him in their childhood, and who has turned a dangerous warlord in the meantime.

From that description, many people would think that Links is a Somali version of The Kite Runner. In reality, there isn't any semblance; compared to this book, The Kite Runner appears to be simplistic and sterile. Links is a gritty and immersive novel, p
Very intriguing read. Well written. A bit difficult to follow - not sure if it is because of things being 'lost in translation' or is inherent in the author's style. (Real literature rather than fluff.)

Excellent read regarding the issues of belonging, family, war, blood-ties, friendships, the cycle of revenge... Author actually discusses the use of pronouns - 'we' or 'I' , them.. pronounians is I think the word the author's the main theme - considering identity, loyalty, revenge, grief
Jan 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Good subject matter, compelling images, outstanding set pieces, a complicated plot, and an uneven book. The author has been widely praised, yet I found entire pages awkwardly written. I blame the plot. Too much exposition in the form of dialogue. Characters speak in structured paragraphs that sound more like writing than actual speech. I kept thinking, maybe this is a bad translation, but it doesn't seem to be a translation at all. As far as I can tell, Farah wrote it in English. Hope I'm wrong ...more
Jul 24, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, africa
I struggled with this book, persisting because I am interested in trying to understand something about Somalia and the history of conflict there. I have moved on to another of his novels, Maps, and am reading that now. I find Farah's writing to be indirect and allusive, giving me the feeling that I might understand it better if I were Somali. But having said that, I did come to care about the main characters and to be able visualize the environments where the story took place. I feel like I don' ...more
Apr 19, 2008 rated it liked it
This book was a little too over the top for me. The writer is himself Somali, put I think this book presents a Kite Runner type dilemma, where the author gains legitimacy for writing about his own situation in a way that any foreigner writing about the same situation would be ripped apart for. The book made me feel like Somalia is equivalent to hell and that Somalis are crazed warlords in a country there is no hope for. I am generally suspicious of any tale that has a moral like this and the Som ...more
Nuruddin Farah's writing voice in Links is so perfectly plainspoken. No tricks here, folks. And like Graham Greene, that grandaddy of no-tricks-here realism, he reveals that it is probably the most appropriate voice for writing about a violence-haunted postcolonial milieu. All of that being said, I felt like the story got lost in the fog of double crosses and tentative loyalties. It's not a terrible book, by any means, and Farah's voice is compelling and strong, but I feel like some critical pie ...more
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Nuruddin Farah (Somali: Nuuradiin Faarax, Arabic: نور الدين فرح‎) is a prominent Somali novelist. Farah has garnered acclaim as one of the greatest contemporary writers in the world, his prose having earned him accolades including the Premio Cavour in Italy, the Kurt Tucholsky Prize in Sweden, the Lettre Ulysses Award in Berlin, and in 1998, the prestigious Neustadt International Prize for Literat ...more

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Past Imperfect (3 books)
  • Knots
  • Crossbones

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