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Season of Migration to the North: A Novel 59860th Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0894101991
ISBN-10: 0894101994
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

One of the classic themes followed in this complex novel, translated from the Arabic, is cultural dissonance between East and West, particularly the experience of a returned native. The narrator returns from his studies in England to his remote little village in Sudan, to begin his career as an educator. There he encounters Mustafa, a fascinating man of mystery, who also has studied at Oxford. As their relationship builds on this commonality, Mustafa reveals his past. A series of compulsive liaisons with English women who were similarly infatuated with the "Black Englishman," as he was nicknamed, have ended in disaster. Charged with the passion killing of his last paramour, Mustafa was acquitted by the English courts. As he unravels his complicated, gory and erotic story, Mustafa charges the listener with the custody of his present life. When Mustafa disappears, apparently drowned in the Nile and perhaps a suicide, another door in his secretive life opens to include his wife and children. Emerging from a constantly evolving narrative, in a trance-like telling, is the clash between an assumed worldly sophistication and enduring, dark, elemental forces. An arresting work by a major Arab novelist who mines the rich lode of African experience with the Western world.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

A beautifully constructed novel by an author whose reputation in Arabic is deservedly vast. --london tribune

An Arabian Nights in reverse, enclosing a pithy moral about international misconceptions and delusions." --the observer

An Arabian Nights in reverse, enclosing a pithy moral about international misconceptions and delusions." --the observer
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 169 pages
  • Publisher: Lynne Rienner Publishers; 59860th edition (July 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0894101994
  • ISBN-13: 978-0894101991
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,055,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ronald Scheer on December 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
Postcolonial and more than a little postmodern, this short novel tells a story within a story and goes through a variety of different styles of storytelling, representing a range of perspectives on being African in an Africa both bound in tradition and transformed by the influence of Europe. Born of both worlds, the North and the South, the novel calls to mind Joseph Conrad from its first words, its unnamed narrator speaking to an unseen audience of "gentlemen." And that is only the beginning of many ironies, as the novel interweaves mystery, melodrama, travelogue, bawdy humor, politics, sociology, history, topography, Faustian tale, confession, and some very racy material that comes close to being pure potboiler.

Set in Arab Sudan in the mid-20th century, the book can be read for any of several themes: the exoticism of Africa in the European imagination, the subjugation of women, the peril in the triumph of reason over compassion, the difficulty of determining truth in a world of secrecy and lies, the transformation of tribal village life with the introduction of foreign ideas and technology, and so on. Like the work of literature that it is, the book can be read more than once for its richly complex layers of meaning, where literal and figurative trade places at will. The knife-like edge of a dangerously superior intellect, for example, reappears later in the novel as a murder weapon - not once but twice. Earns a place on any shelf of 20th-century world literature.
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Format: Paperback
Tayeb Salih's great novel is a compelling satirical rewrite of Joseph Conrad's HEART OF DARKNESS. In Salih's version, instead of a European intellectual travelling to Africa to be corrupted by his contact with "primitive savagery," the protagonist starts out as an idealistic young man from Sudan who travels northward to Europe, where he is undone by corruption, decadence, and the mutual destructiveness of unhappy love affairs. The novel is cleverly written and well translated, with terrific insights into the relationships of southern and northern hemispheres; the colonized to their colonizers; Arabs and Europeans; and men and women. I've read a lot of Arab novels (and many more African ones); A SEASON OF MIGRATION TO THE NORTH is the best I've read to date.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's interesting to read reviews of this short novel. Half of the readers see it as a satirical version of Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness". The other half - who perhaps have never read Conrad - think it's a vain, silly (although lyrically written) tale of a sex-maniac guy who likes to seduce and abandon women. This is one of the inherent problems in a novel which is meant to reference another work. If you were to read "Bored of the Rings" (an awesome parody of Lord of the Rings) without ever reading Lord of the Rings you might think it silly. Read them side by side and you realize the brilliance at work. Not only is that true here as well, but I also do think that Season of Migration to the North stands alone as a work in its own right.

First, if you've never read "Heart of Darkness", look it up on the web and read it. It's online in its full text (it is out of copyright now) and you can read it for free. It's a short novel, just like Season, and should only take you an hour or two. It is a brilliant work, well deserving of its high acclaim. Go on, we'll wait for you to come back.

Now, having read Heart, you can see the many similarities with Season. Both tell of someone starting from their own civilization and venturing out into the "opposite", and being changed by the experience. In Heart, an Englishman ventured into the Congo. In Season, Mustafa - a brilliant but anchorless student - is sent for education up to Cairo and then to London. Rather then becoming "refined" by the experience, he quickly bores with the women continually throwing themselves at his "exotic excitement". He deliberately lies to them about his background, his country's history, the meaning of his culture, and they don't care - they just want to be held by his ebony hands.
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Format: Paperback
This novel was published in Arabic in 1966 and translated into English in 1969 by Denys Johnson-Davies. It's been called one of the major Arabic novels written in the 1960s as well as an important novel on the subject of a non-Westerner's journey to and return from the West.

The first 30-odd pages were superb, introducing deftly the world of the present-day village in Sudan and one character's earlier years and travel to Europe. Throughout the novel, the atmosphere of the village was conveyed well, particularly -- as mentioned by an earlier reviewer -- in the earthy bantering of a group of old villagers.

After the beginning, though, the novel developed in ways that this reader just couldn't find credible. The body count in England seemed laughably high, and I was thrown by the author's skipping over the decades of the older man's life and education in England, schematic accounts of his adventures, and the lack of a firm conclusion of his part of the story presented in his own voice. The younger man functioned well as a narrator, but why he ended up where he did was also beyond me.

The author seemed to be setting up parallels between travel to the West and the journey inward, between the local village and Western ones, between the two men, and between the behavior of the foreign and local women. Yet many of these were too subtle for this reader to see exactly what the author might be suggesting in each case. That some people risked misfortune if they entered the West without a firm grounding in their own culture? That some wasted their potential if they went abroad without bringing back something of value to their own culture? (And yet the older man seemed to do fairly well for the village for a time after returning.
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