Join us for the next meeting of our new reading group, Books from Banned Lands, which will read contemporary literature (in English translations) from the seven Middle Eastern and North African countries targeted by the “Muslim ban” executive order of January 2017.
For our fifth meeting, on Saturday, November 18th at 3 pm, we're reading the postcolonial Sudanese novel Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih. Originally published in Arabic in 1966, it has since been translated into more than twenty languages. The novel is a counter narrative to Heart of Darkness, and was described by Edward Said as one of the six great novels in Arabic literature. In 2001, it was selected by a panel of Arab writers and critics as the most important Arab novel of the twentieth century.
We'll continue with books from Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia, finishing the series around the one-year anniversary of the attempted ban. This reading group comes out of a desire to do something, specifically as a bookstore, to resist the dehumanization of refugees, immigrants, Arabs, Arabic-speakers, and Muslims in the United States. All readers are welcome for any and all of the meetings!
The Books from Banned Lands reading group will meet on the third Saturday of every month at 3:00 pm, on the following schedule.
Saturday, July 29: SYRIA
Damascus Nights, by Rafik Schami
Saturday, August 19: IRAQ
A Sky So Close, by Betool Khedairi
Saturday, September 23: LIBYA
In the Country of Men, by Hisham Matar
Saturday, October 21: IRAN
Sin, by Forough Farrokhzad
Saturday, November 18: SUDAN
Season of Migration to the North, by Tayeb Salih
Saturday, December 16 (earlier for the holidays): SOMALIA
Black Mamba Boy, by Nadifa Mohamed
Saturday, January 20 (One year since the Executive Order!): YEMEN
Hurma, by Ali Al-Muqri
All books will be available in advance at the Penn Book Center.
Born in Karmakol, near the village of Al Dabbah in the Northern Province of Sudan, he studied at the University of Khartoum before leaving for the University of London in England. Coming from a background of small farmers and religious teachers, his original intention was to work in agriculture. However, excluding a brief spell as a schoolmaster before coming to England, his working life was in broadcasting.
For more than ten years, Salih wrote a weekly column for the London-based Arabic language newspaper al Majalla in which he explored various literary themes. He worked for the BBC's Arabic Service and later became director general of the Ministry of Information in Doha, Qatar. He spent the last 10 years of his working career with UNESCO in Paris, where he held various posts and was UNESCO's representative in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.
Tayeb Saleh's writing is drawn from his experience of communal village life that is centered on people and their complex relationships. "At various levels and with varying degrees of psychoanalytic emphasis, he deals with themes of reality and illusion, the cultural dissonance between the West and the exotic orient, the harmony and conflict of brotherhood, and the individual's responsibility to find a fusion between his or her contradictions."
Mawsim al-Hijra ila al-Shamal was published in Arabic in 1966, and in English as Season of Migration to the North in 1969. It is narrated by a young man who returns to his village of Wad Hamad in the northern Shamaliyah province in Sudan, after studying in Europe for seven years, eager to make a contribution to the new postcolonial life of his country. Once back, the narrator discovers a stranger among the familiar faces of childhood: the enigmatic Mustafa Sa’eed. Sa'eed takes the young man into his confidence, "telling him the story of his own years in London in the early part of the twentieth century, of his brilliant career as an economist, and of the series of fraught and deadly relationships with European women that led to a terrible public reckoning and his return to his native land." Salih achieved immediate acclaim when Season of Migration to the North was first published in Beirut. In 2001, the book was declared “the most important Arabic novel of the 20th century” by the Arab Literary Academy. The novel was banned in Saleh's native Sudan for several years despite the fact that it won him prominence and fame worldwide.