Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A voice from the wind

  • Neely Tucker profiles Nuruddin Farah in The Washington Post.
He's lived in Europe and America, always in pursuit of the meaning in fiction, and always just below the radar line of international fame. He speaks English, Italian, Amharic, Arabic and Somali. He tried a stint as a Hollywood screenwriter 30 years ago, an adventure that left him a collapsed film project and not enough money for a plane ticket back to Africa. "I haven't been back to L.A. since."

But mainly, he sits alone in a rented apartment he uses for a writing studio in Cape Town and maps out novels. He works from 8:30 a.m. till 4 p.m., on the theory that it's the hours and discipline that matter. Going for a word count encourages hasty work to fill a quota, he figures.

He writes about women. There was Ebla, fleeing an arranged marriage in his first novel, "From a Crooked Rib." It's still in print after 37 years. Most recently, there is Cambara, a Somali living in Canada who returns to Mogadishu, in "Knots." (Publishers Weekly, in giving it a starred review, dubbed it "mesmerizing.")

In between was "Maps," named one of the best 100 African books of the 20th century (a category encompassing fiction, nonfiction, plays, poems, children's books, the works), winning the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1998 (and a $50,000 award, one of the richest in world lit) and becoming that rarest of things, a full-time creative writer.

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