I have been meaning to write this post for a few days now to pay homage to Sudan’s more ubiquitous literary figures… Mr. El Tayib Salih. I’ve been swamped lately but needed to get this post through. Mr. Salah passed away on Feb. 18th at the age of 80 in London after a long battle with kidney complications.They say a picture says a 1000 words, and the Saudi Gazette summed up this loss so beautifully:
For me this author really helped me define my Sudanese roots and opened a door to my heritage that I lacked growing up outside the country. Although he published numerous novels and short story series, I have only gotten the chance to read 2 thus far; his most renowned book “Season of Migration to the North” and “Wedding of Zein”.Mr. Salah was born in Northern State, Sudan and travelled to London to continue his studies. As a result his book Seasons of Migrations draws heavily on his experiences of trying to reconcile two very conflicting cultures and realities. His work is a bold post-colonial statement that took me, as it did for many other readers, along for a journey where the young character is caught in the cross-waves of small, conservative agrarian society and the urban sprawl and ever expansive reach of Western Culture. This book was once declared “the most important Arabic novel in the 20th century”. Unfortunately his great work was never properly given its due, where many called for Mr. Salih to receive a Nobel prize for his exceptional work.Wedding of Zein, which is a collection of 3 stories (Wedding of Zein, A Handful of Dates & The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid). This collection, for me was much more powerful as it provided me with a compelling glimpse of traditional eccentricities of “al balad” the home country or indigenous culture. Despite its accurate portrait and specific descriptions of traditional Sudanese society, it has a universal feel. In the end they are small town folk, that can be anywhere around the world. The themes that are intertwined in these “folktales” can strike a chord with any reader, anywhere.The meticulous descriptions of the characters made me believe as my grandmother was sitting and narrating the tales of Zein and his tribulations to win Ni’ma’s affections.He is an iconic Sudanese figure, that truly gives and exemplary representation of Sudan and its people. At a time when this nation is known for civil wars, displaced peoples and oh so many political shortcomings, it is figures like El Tayib Salah that speak out for the voiceless peoples of Sudan. For that we owe him a so much gratitude.Allah yar7amak….