Last week, students at City Honors School experienced a round-table book talk with Somali author Nuruddin Farah about his novel “Links.”
Farah was born in Somalia to a storyteller mother and a merchant father. He studied philosophy, literature and sociology in India before being forced into exile by Siad Barre’s regime.
Farah started the discussion by giving insight into his life and many works, including three trilogies. When talking about his exile from Somalia and eventual death sentence, he said, “To be sentenced to death I must have done something really terrible or really good.”
Farah said he enjoyed writing about different viewpoints of issues such as war and dictatorship and how they affect different groups such as women, children and the elderly.
“People change in a period of war,” he said, and that is highlighted in “Links.”
Later, Farah gave the floor to the students, requesting that they ask him questions. One student wondered why Farah chose to write his novels in English even though it is his fourth language. Students learned that the Somali language had no written script when Farah began writing, and he did not want to write in Ethiopian, “the language of the enemy.” Additionally, Farah said the Arabic typewriter was very complicated and difficult to use.
Farah said he wrote based on his own experiences. Alienation, Farah said, was not different from “keeping things to yourself or not sharing things with others, self-distancing.”
Later, at Kleinhans Music Hall, Farah delivered a talk more focused on his early life and specific aspects of his writing. He talked about living with oppression under a totalitarian regime. He said he strives to keep his “country alive by talking about it.”
Additionally, Farah discussed growing up in an aural culture with a mother as a poet and traditional storyteller. He was educated, unlike many in his culture, which opened him up to more work and education opportunities. Farah talked about how his writing always “got him in trouble,” starting with refusing to write a violent letter, and ending with his exile.
Through Farah’s open conversation with the students, they were able to gain valuable insight into his mind and works. His eloquent speech paralleled his insightful and thoughtful style of writing.
Lillian Kahris is a sophomore at City Honors.