The World's Literature: Latin America discussion

Season of Migration to the North
This topic is about Season of Migration to the North
59 views
Festival of African Lit. 2016 > Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih

Comments Showing 1-50 of 67 (67 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1

Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 75 comments Dear group, from 7th of March we're going to read Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih, a Sudanese writer. The book is first published in Arabic in 1966, and translated to English in 1969. My edition is the NYRB classics with introduction by Laila Lalami (who's born and raised in Morocco) and translated by Denys Johnson-Davies.

When a book comes with the so-called Introduction I always leave it for last, after I read the book, as I'm a bit paranoid about spoilers. I wonder whether this is a common thing for other people or whether it's just me?

Season of Migration to the North is a post-colonial book, that we can sense from the beginning as we meet the main character who just comes back to Sudan after an extended period of studying in Europe. Sudan became independent from the United Kingdom and Egypt in 1956, and these two countries will come up again and again in the book - becoming almost as an important setting as Sudan itself.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments I'm just getting into an edition translated by Denys Johnson-Davies, a book of an older epoch earlier than is his translation with Lalami's introduction.

Wikipedia might have an article about this book, so I intend check there after getting further into the story.

I'm going with the country Sudan. The country of South Sudan evolved after the writing of this book.

"The enigmatic Mustafa Sa’eed" sounds interesting. His literary portrait I expect will be astonishing.

Thank you for your introduction of this book topic, Dioni.


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 75 comments Asma Fedosia wrote: "I'm going with the country Sudan. The country of South Sudan evolved after the writing of this book."

Thanks for pointing that out Asma. Khartoum, the capital, is often mentioned in the book, though much of the story is set in an unnamed village, so I think it is fair to "count" this book as Sudan.


Lagullande | 11 comments Asma Fedosia wrote: "I'm just getting into an edition translated by Denys Johnson-Davies, a book of an older epoch earlier than is his translation with Lalami's introduction. "

My copy (PMC) has an introduction by Tayeb Salih, which is basically a rant about how his book has been published worldwide, but no-one sends him any royalties!


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Lagullande wrote: "...no-one sends him any royalties! "

That really is a chuckle.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

A few years ago I was working my way through a list of "the 100 greatest books ever written" and came to Season of Migration to the North. Really enjoyed it then and am glad to be rereading it.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "Dear group, from 7th of March we're going to read Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih, a Sudanese writer. The book is first published in Arabic in 1966, and translated to..."

I'm like you Dioni, I never ever read introductions first after being spoiled once (and fool me once....) - and I only go back to read them if I'm trying to sort something out or need more context/background.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "...much of the story is set in an unnamed village.."

A map by Hel-hama (2013) depicted in the Wikipedia article "Nile River". On it is the White Nile and the Blue Nile as well as some great bends of the river through the Sudan.

River Nile map


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Don wrote: "...Really enjoyed it then and am glad to be rereading it."

This is my first reading of Season of Migration.... It merits a rereading, followed by a review of it.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "...I never ever read introductions...and I only go back to read them if I'm trying to sort something out..."

I usually read everything in the book. If I skip the introduction to start the story and forget to go back to it and return the book, then I check out the book again to read the missed part. I guess that action is a consuming passion.


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 75 comments I do read the introduction, but only at the end, after reading the text. A lot of the times the so-called introduction seems more fitting to be afterword.

So I finished the book today (don't worry I'm saving in-depth discussions for latter) - and went back to read Laila Lalami's introduction. In this case at least it was the right choice as she goes to summarise everything that happens in the book. But it's a great "introduction" and I recommend it if you have that edition. Lalami had the advantage as she read the text in the original language Arabic and English, and was able to compare them. Not many Arabic books get to be so successfully translated. I thought the translation by Denys Johnson-Davies was amazing, and Lalami thought highly also of the collaboration between Sayih and Johnson-Davis to translate the book.

She noted that Season of Migration isn't the first book in which a writer of color has decided to "write back" to the empire, but it is unique in that it is written in the author's native language, rather than the colonial one. "Indeed Salih stands out among African writers of his generation for his insistence on continuing to use Arabic in spite of having lived the majority of his life outside of Sudan. 'It's a matter of principle,' he once told an interviewer."

Interesting aspect to highlight, considering the books that we've been reading in this group by African writers so far have used the colonial language (Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka - English, Kamel Daoud - French).


message 12: by Betty (last edited Mar 11, 2016 08:02AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "...Laila Lalami's introduction...it's a great "introduction" and I recommend it..."

I read most of that Introduction through Amazon preview because my earlier edition of Season... didn't have it.

You mention several important points from it--the collaboration between the author Salih & the translator Johnson-Davies, and the writer's exclusive use of his birth language. In spite of English-language books and written commentaries, in YouTube documentaries Salih speaks Arabic without an English translation.

The descriptive writing of Season... is beautiful even in the beginning. Some books don't reach that kind of ease until the middle or end of the work. Nevertheless, the story is puzzling, but the author has to write some preposterous scenes to communicate his meaning. One point is clear -- the inability of most Others to act in Another's best interests -- Mustafa's smarmy prey on women, the government's educational committee out of touch with priorities, the Narrator's ineffectual oversight of Hosna and representation of the village, the village's indifference to Hosna's wishes. Recognizing that, then, only the objective sense of "decency" of Mahjoub culminates in effective problem-solving. He suggests that the government build village schools and that the Narrator marry Hosna; in spite of little feeling for her, he properly buries her after the catastrophe. As for the self-effacing Narrator, he seems voiceless in his government job and without resolve in his life. It takes the entire novel for his recognition of it.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments There might be a name for The Narrator of this novel. Wikipedia's link about Season... points the reader to Mohammad Shaheen's article "Tayeb Salih and Conrad". That comparison of literary giants waits until later. In the article, Shaheen calls The Narrator by the name of Muheimid. Apparently, Salih uses the village setting of Wad Hamid in a few novels, finally naming The Narrator of Season in the later Bandarshah. A possibility until the fact can be checked.

Salih wrote some other translated novellas and short stories ("A Handful of Dates"), and his theme probes domination in any context.
"...the migration is the yearning to ascend into a world that is free, not only from the colonisers but from restrictions and limitations posed by society, and most importantly, by an individual's state of mind."
In Season..., it's evident that alienation is a side effect of acculturation. That medical word 'side effect' reflects on the story when Lalami's introduction echoes Salih's allusion to a thousand years ago when the Roman conquest of Britain began in AD 43, "...one of the persistent metaphors in the novel is that of colonialism as a disease...leaving behind it a steady trail of violence and destruction." That inner, and sometimes physical, destruction can occur to or within any individual or society.


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 75 comments Asma Fedosia wrote: "Nevertheless, the story is puzzling, but the author has to write some preposterous scenes to communicate his meaning"

I concur Asma. I'm not one to shy away from "difficult" scenes usually, but Season has a couple that are up there. I wonder a bit whether the shock factor is what made this book to be as well known as it is. What is the meaning and purpose of the psychopathic behaviors of Jane Morris and Mustafa for instance? In fact all Mustafa's women in England seem to be very disturbed individuals. The peak of the craziness is the most bizarre of them all, involving some sort of twisted sexual fantasy.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "...all Mustafa's women in England seem to be very disturbed individuals..."

This book is called a mystery in some quarters. A reader finds a lot of open endings. Salih is said to write in an episodic style. A reader must connect the episodes! Another confusion is the duplication of names: Sa'eed stands for three characters and Mahjoub for two characters. The big mysteries are the outcomes of Mustafa and of the Narrator.

If you recall, he was rumored to be a wealthy, European millionaire (after all, he admitted to the "wanderlust"); or he was drowned during the thirty-year flood, or very unlikely he was discovered to be a double agent during the Sudanese war (some article mentioned that he unscrupulously was so).

Then, there is the outcome of the Narrator. Optimism says that he made it out of the water, however unlikely.

The European women of that historical period perhaps keenly felt social disapproval over their unchaste relationship when Mustafa's promises of marriage proved counterfeit. Their melancholia stemmed from his fabrications: his five, different, false names, and his simultaneous affairs.

He hung those women's portraits, if I correctly recall, in the triangular room of his village house; at least he hung that of Jean Morris. The internet site BookRags mentioned the themes of guilt and of its consequent destructive behavior. Mustafa felt keenly from his mischief even beyond his imprisonment. In the village, his dreams were tormented (his saying 'Jean' in his sleep).


message 16: by Dioni (Bookie Mee) (last edited Mar 13, 2016 06:35AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 75 comments Asma Fedosia wrote: "Sa'eed stands for three characters and Mahjoub for two characters"

I don't recollect multiple Sa'eed apart from Mustafa, but for Mahjoub, there are 2 characters who have very similar names (but different): Bint Majzoub, who is the "manly" old woman, friend of the grandfather. And Mahjoub, who is the childhood male friend of the narrator.

Bint here seems to be a female title, while Wad is a male title (akin to mam and sir). While Hajj I assume is reserved for those who have gone to Mecca for pilgrimage https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hajj

I like how the Islam religion here works more like a backdrop rather than center stage, and how the author didn't feel the need to always explain for Western audience. (There are times when this would be useful of course, but it's also refreshing to find varying style.)

The burial of Wad Rayyes and Bint Mahmoud (here Bint indicates the daughter of Mahmoud) for example, happens very quickly. This is because in Islam the dead needs to be buried on the same day, or as soon as possible.


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

Asma Fedosia wrote: "The big mysteries are the outcomes of Mustafa and of the Narrator.i..."

Very curious the role of the Nile in both mysteries. Lot of parallelisms in this book. The female suicides in England and in Sudan and the relationship between Mustafa and the Narrator in them as well.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "I like how the Islam religion here works more like a backdrop rather than center stage, and how the author didn't feel the need to always explain for Western audience. ..."

Same here. A very earthy book and the various sacrileges seem to convey authenticity. From what I've read about Sudan there seems to persist a good measure of the indigenous animist tradition as well. Wonder if this is present here as well.


message 19: by Betty (last edited Mar 15, 2016 10:18AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "...the author didn't feel the need to always explain for Western audience..."

Apart from some mysteries of plot (because the reader gets only to know what the Narrator knows), the setting is described well. The Sudanese land and customs are well drawn (for example, the reader knows that this is not the U.S. or China or Israel or South Africa or England). My point may sound gratuitous/unneccessary, but I'm reading a story claiming to be set in Algiers; I'm not seeing, like in The Stranger or The Meursault Investigation, a unique time or place. The setting, characters, and plot could very well be Dickens's England or turn-of-the-20th-century NYC. Just to say that the Salih novel is a more convincing piece of literature.

Also, I like that the linked article goes into detail.


message 20: by Betty (last edited Mar 15, 2016 08:22AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Don wrote: "...Lot of parallelisms in this book..."

Tayeb Salih's "Season of Migration to the North": A Casebook by Mona Takieddine Amyuni might deal with "parallelisms" and other features of that novel. One of the articles is "The Father of Lies: The Role of Mustafa Sa'eed as Second Self..."

Another approach to understand this novel might be his succeeding novels, which make use of the same village.


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 75 comments Don wrote: "From what I've read about Sudan there seems to persist a good measure of the indigenous animist tradition as well. Wonder if this is present here as well."

Islam entered Sudan very early, so by 1900s and its independence in 1956 the Muslim comprises 97% of the population, with the remaining 3% Christianity or the traditional animist religions. By the time of the author and the writing of the book, the animist tradition has probably diminished almost completely.

There's however conversation about genital mutilation / circumcision in the book and I wonder if this is a local tradition that seeped in, because it's not really a Muslim thing, though seems more prevalent in Muslim regions.

“I swear to you, Hajj Ahmed,” said Wad Rayyes, “that if you’d had a taste of the women of Abyssinia and Nigeria you’d throw away your string of prayer-beads and give up praying--the thing between their thighs is like an upturned dish, all there for good or bad. We here lop it off and leave it like a piece of land that’s been stripped bare."

FGM map from Wiki:


I read a biography by a Somalian a while back, about her personal experience with FGM, and as you can see on the map, Somalia is pretty close to Sudan.


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 75 comments Asma Fedosia wrote: "My point may sound gratuitous/unneccessary, but I'm reading a story claiming to be set in Algiers; I'm not seeing, like in The Stranger or The Meursault Investigation, a unique time or place. The setting, characters, and plot could very well be Dickens's England or turn-of-the-20th-century NYC. Just to say that the Salih novel is a more convincing piece of literature..."

Good point, Asma! It is really an accomplishment when a novel achieve that sense of place, isn't it? I remember reading a (pretty popular) book that was set in multiple countries, and I didn't get a sense of place for any of them. All the countries seemed interchangeable. Needless to say, I didn't enjoy it..


message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote:Islam entered Sudan very early, so by 1900s and its independence in 1956 the Muslim comprises 97% of the population, with the remaining 3% Christianity or the traditional animist religions ..."

Thanks Dioni. I think that the 97% figure must refer to Sudan post South Sudan independence. South Sudan is predominantly Christian (60.5%) with Traditional African religion (32.9%) and Islam (6.2%). Even though South Sudan's population is only about 12 million compared to Sudan's 40 million, the non-Islamic population would have been more than 3 percent in pre-separation Sudan would have been more than 3 percent.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religio...


message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

Asma Fedosia wrote: "He hung those women's portraits, if I correctly recall, in the triangular room of his village house; at least he hung that of Jean Morris...." If I remember correctly, he actually did marry Jean Morris. I'm not sure how much this "cyst" of memories is due to guilt. From wiki, it appears any guilt about either the in polyamory or going outside his faith would have necessarily been religious in nature. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interfa... ) The notion of his having two natures though, one related to his place of origin and one growing from his European experience, interests me. He seems to have found a way to come to terms with having both rather than forced to choose one or the other.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "...FGM map from Wiki..."

I had heard of that probably during college history classes, but hadn't considered the existence of a comparative map. Historically, women had everything from witchcraft to intellectual inferiority propelled their way.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "...It is really an accomplishment when a novel achieve that sense of place..."

In the other book, the "sense of place" & the doom of historical events, so far, surrender to the Bildungsroman of romance. The protagonist isn't directly experiencing the problems of his ethnicity, for which he carries an awareness but from which he is separated.

By contrast, the protagonist Mustafa of Season of Migration directly experiences the attraction and distraction from northward migration, as do the northern women who experience those problems from their southern migration, of sorts. The other protagonist The Narrator, with a doctorate in poetry instead of in agriculture, is powerless and ineffectual within the government's unmindful education commission and within the practical, daily life of his ancestral village. His outcome is ambiguous in the final scene. His entire life is at issue, dependent on whether his energy holds him up and his words catalyze his rescue.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Don wrote: "...The notion of his having two natures..., one related to his place of origin and one growing from his European experience, interests me..."

Mustafa's "two natures" on account of northward migration is a theme of the story.

His polyamorous behavior in England isn't absolutely out of place in Sudan. Yet, once there in the ancestral village he isn't at all a polyamorist. Perhaps he has the trait of "wanderlust"--a passage in the novel muddles suggestions about his disappearance. That is, his improvements of the village's economy is the cause of his falling out with avaricious dealers; consequently, his life is put at risk. I don't want to be a Pollyanna, suggesting that he doesn't have wanderlust. There possibly is a third or fourth segment for Mustafa after that of the little village.

To me, he is a Renaissance man regarding his scholarly writings, his study of manuscripts, his works of art, and his practical problem-solving; yet his emotional life with English women is a misfortune. In England, he zealously seeks the forbidding woman Jean for years, eventually marrying and murdering her. By contrast, his wife Hosna in the Sudanese village describes him as "good" and "generous".

He calls himself "a lie". His behavior in England is a contrast to his behavior in Sudan.


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 75 comments Don wrote: "I think that the 97% figure must refer to Sudan post South Sudan independence. South Sudan is predominantly Christian (60.5%) with Traditional African religion (32.9%) and Islam (6.2%). "

Very interesting figures! I imagine that's part of the differences that South Sudan has for them to seek separation. I'd love to read book from the perspective of a South Sudanese, especially if it has something about the separation.


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 75 comments Asma Fedosia wrote: The other protagonist The Narrator, with a doctorate in poetry instead of in agriculture"

There's a part where he says his choice of poetry for doctorate is purely to earn money (I don't have the exact quote, but somewhere along that line) -- I laughed at this irony, as for most people it's incredibly hard to make a living as a poet :)


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 75 comments Just when I brought up about book for South Sudan, I stumbled upon a South Sudan poll in another group that brought my attention to Something Is Going To Fall Like Rain. By an odd coincidence, a few years back when the book was published, I was approached by the author Ros Wynne-Jones as she discovered my blog, and she sent me a copy. For various reasons I haven't read it, and almost forgot about it until now.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "Don wrote: "From what I've read about Sudan there seems to persist a good measure of the indigenous animist tradition as well. Wonder if this is present here as well."

Islam entered Sudan very ear..."


A wee plea about posting images - in the forums they resize but for those of us getting the daily digest, they display full-size and render everything else smaller, making text unreadable. Two simple fixes - either resize the image before posting it, or add a little code like width="400". Much appreciated!!


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 75 comments Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: A wee plea about posting images - in the forums they resize but for those of us getting the daily digest, they display full-size and render everything else smaller, making text unreadable."

Noted. But it sounds like something that's worth reporting to goodreads. From my point of view GR allows us to hotlink images on the forum, and I've done my part by clicking "preview" to see that it works fine before posting. Whatever is triggered behind the scene to users out there is GR's responsibility to ensure the view is sensible.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "...I'd love to read book from the perspective of a South Sudanese, especially if it has something about the separation."

One of my libraries has this, There Is a Country: New Fiction from the New Nation of South Sudan, an issue of short stories by McSweeney's.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "...his choice of poetry for doctorate..."

If The Narrator remained in England, then his choice of career might have been profitable through writing and/or teaching. The needs of his birth country required modernized infrastructure.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "a South Sudan poll...brought my attention to Something Is Going To Fall Like Rain..."

You have a better chance to read it because the topic is more relevant now.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "...add a little code like width="400"."

Oh dear. I don't know to which news I subscribe. I don't remember anything being too big or too small. Thanks for the information :)


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "...I've done my part by clicking "preview" to see that it works fine before posting..."

I also preview of my comments. Just makes sense to do so to avoid a disconcerting edit after publication. 'Text with a picture is worth more than a thousand words.'


message 38: by Jenny (Reading Envy) (last edited Mar 19, 2016 07:13AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) I haven't started reading yet but will soon. In the meantime, perhaps you want to whip up a quick Sudanese cake to accompany your reading, baseema.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) I finished the book today - I have the older Heineman edition with zero introduction. It is told in a rather circular manner since he keeps going back in time, but it definitely ended up in a different place than I expected. I thought the majority of the novel would be about the narrator's journey. It almost makes no difference that he went off and went to college, only that Mustafa has. At some points I started wondering if somehow the narrator was Mustafa but that eventually gets cleared up.

Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "I like how the Islam religion here works more like a backdrop rather than center stage, and how the author didn't feel the need to always explain for Western audience. (There are times when this would be useful of course, but it's also refreshing to find varying style.)"

I liked this too. And perhaps this is a good contrast between the Islam of the 60s vs. the Islam of now. Could this book even be published in Sudan in this era of more fundamentalism and governmental control? Considering the amount of sex, etc. My favorite scene is the four old villagers (including the very open woman!) sitting around and talking about sex, only to make a brief "may Allah forgive" type comment at the end. Ha.

Asma Fedosia wrote: "One of my libraries has this, There Is a Country: New Fiction from the New Nation of South Sudan, an issue of short stories by McSweeney's. ."
I'm in two groups reading African lit this year so I get a little turned around, but some of us read that over in the Great African Reads group earlier this year. It's such a different view of Sudan - violence, refugee status, loss. A very quick read.


message 40: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue | 306 comments I finally started the book today and will catch up with the discussion later. I have the NYRB edition from the library and have read the introduction. So far my initial impression is to be very pleased with Salih's writing style.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "...a quick Sudanese cake to accompany your reading, baseema."

The dessert sounds wonderful to the taste buds. I enjoy a similarly light dessert from the vegetarian offerings of the Middle Eastern buffet. The flavor of coconut stands out, and the yogurt is nice, too.

I sometimes bake an Irish soda bread whose main ingredients are flours and low fat yogurt. The low fat yogurt has the right watery consistency.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) Asma Fedosia wrote: "The dessert sounds wonderful to the taste buds. I enjoy a similarly light dessert from the vegetarian offerings of the Middle Eastern buffet. The flavor of coconut stands out, and the yogurt is nice, too. "

It is very similar to the Egyptian basbousa although I'm not sure that typically has the coconut (or perhaps it varies!).


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "...It almost makes no difference that he went off and went to college...Could this book even be published in Sudan...A very quick read"

It "makes no difference..." speaks to the philosophical Absurdity of Camus when his character Meursault doesn't get impassioned by a single idea.

I too read that Salih's novel originally enjoyed acceptance then from 1989 it became banned. I don't know what its current status is, as information from the internet differs.

I'll be considering a read of "There Is a Country: New Fiction from the New Nation of South Sudan" after I pick it up from the library.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Sue wrote: "...my initial impression is to be very pleased with Salih's writing style. "

His style in it is good. His characterizations also are good to the extent that he exaggerates their quirks in the sameness of the traditional village.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "...Egyptian basbousa...I'm not sure that typically has the coconut"

Perhaps no coconut. It's the one with semolina flour and yogurt. Not much semolina, so a tiny bag is enough.


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 75 comments Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "At some points I started wondering if somehow the narrator was Mustafa ..."

I read a review that pondered about this possibility too (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...).

You're such a dedicated baker, Jenny. The cake looks great! I'm always a bit wary with coconut in a cake though as it often makes it dry. But in this case seems the syrup takes care of that :)


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "I...pondered about this possibility [Mustafa & The Narrator as one character] too ..."

In one part of the book, The Narrator is engrossed in Mustafa's story and is temporarily unable to differentiate his own self from that of Mustafa. That brief identification accentuates the otherwise different protagonists' personalities, Mustafa's being full of activity and smoldering passion and The Narrator's being reservedly self-denying and in his friend Mahjoud's description only "talkative". Their common factors are their northward migration for education and their resettlement in the traditional village.


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 75 comments Asma Fedosia wrote: "Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "I...pondered about this possibility [Mustafa & The Narrator as one character] too ..."

In one part of the book, The Narrator is engrossed in Mustafa's story and is tempo..."


Just to be clear, my own view is that they are 2 different characters :). The narrator for me just seems like a literary tool through whose eyes we get Mustafa's story, therefore his character doesn't seem to go through much development.

I read however another view that saw the narrator as unreliable - which may explain why all Mustafa's adventures seem exaggerated. I liked this direction of thoughts more: seeing the narrator as somewhat unreliable.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "...The narrator...doesn't seem to go through much development.
I read however another view that saw the narrator as unreliable..."


Exactly, when someone else tells another's story even the reputed facts might be unjustly interpreted. Or, someone might omit parts of their own story.

Among other artifacts and keepsakes, Mustafa kept diaries and journals in his locked library/museum. The Narrator courageously unlocked room, leafing through some of the effects intending to burn everything in it rather than relinquishing the keys to Mustafa's sons. Maybe The Narrator thought that the room's content about European experiences to be unpleasant for the boys because of their untroubled, provincial lives. Regarding Mustafa's wife Hosna, the story makes the issue of gender equality too thorny for The Narrator. Too much is expected of The Narrator. His formal education prepared him to fill the role of a civil servant, which he did do.


Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3593 comments THANK YOU, DIONI, for your leadership of this discussion and for your perspicacious remarks.


« previous 1
back to top