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Nuruddin Farah: Not all Somalis are pirates and we have been victims too
Metro life books Nuruddin Farah Crossbones
Somalia still casts a shadow over the work of Nuruddin Farah 38 years after he moved away

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Crossbones author Nuruddin Farah tells Metro the truth about Somalia, his misunderstood homeland, and its lingering influence 38 years after he left it.

Your novel, Crossbones, is the 11th you have written about your home country of Somalia. What keeps drawing you back?

Somalia has always unfailingly served as a major source of inspiration. Moreover, it became a guiding light, the mainstay of my thinking, when I went into voluntary exile following the publication of my second novel, A Naked Needle,  in 1976.  

Crossbones is about two brothers who return to Somalia for different reasons around the time Ethiopia invaded in 2006. What story did you want to tell about that?

I wanted to tell various interlocked ones. One brother, Ahl, bases himself in the self-governed Somali State of Puntland, in a bid to locate and bring back home to Minneapolis his 17-year-old stepson, who was purportedly recruited by the al Qaeda-allied Shabaab, in Somalia, as a suicide-bomber. The other, Malik, is a freelance journalist in Mogadishu to write about the momentous events unfolding.

Somali pirates have an understandably terrible press in the West. But you wanted to suggest a different side...

A lot of criminality occurs in the waters of the Somali peninsula. But it is a misconception that most Somalis are criminals who approve of piracy from which they benefit financially, or are killers or hijackers.

In Eyl, a small town described by the BBC as the capital of piracy, I couldn’t find a hotel in which to stay and saw not a single new structure put up in the past 30 years.

In truth, the country has been victim to foreigners degrading the environment, alien vessels illegally fishing there or dumping toxic and other wastes.

Is the novel fairly critical of Western influence in Somalia?

It is fair to say it’s equally critical of the West, as well as everything that points to Somali criminality.  It aims to debunk all hoaxes.

You left your home country in 1974 and now live in Cape Town. What do you miss?

I miss eating the food, walking the sandy beaches, sitting on the terraces of teahouses, listening to Somali music and enjoying the exchange of banter with my friends.


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