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Hosted by English Department, famed Somali author Farah visits Carleton

<uddin Farah doesn’t argue with the claim that his writing style can be “cinematic.”

“If you let the mind go free, unrestrained, a lot of different things can happen at once,” Farah told a packed meeting room at the Weitz Center for Creativity on Oct. 25.

Farah, a Somali novelist acclaimed for his portrayals of his native land, came to Carleton to read from his newest novel, “Crossbones,” and to answer questions in an event sponsored by the Carleton College English Department.
The New York Review of Books has called Farah “one of the most sophisticated voices in modern fiction,” and his work has received numerous awards.

Farah was introduced by English professor Arnab Chakladar, who is teaching Farah’s novel “Secrets” as part of his English course, “The Postcolonial Novel.”  Farah visited the class the next day to speak with the students. Chakladar said that Farah’s work is important because it “questions established patterns of thought.”

During the event, Farah read a chapter from “Crossbones” that takes place days before the Ethiopian invasion of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, in 2006. In the chapter, a teenaged fighter for al-Shabaab, the Islamist militia, is part of a group that attempts to secure a safe house for the Islamists in Mogadishu, with tragic results.

Farah sold and signed copies of the novel after the event concluded.

“Crossbones” is the last book in a trilogy, and one of the first questions for Farah after the reading was why he tends to write books in trilogies.

“I’m long-winded,” he said. “I like to be fair to the characters, situations and themes I write about.”

Farah addressed his role as a representative of Somalis by saying that he tends to avoid it, claiming that he can only represent himself rather than the Somali experience. And when one audience member asked him about reviews of his books, Farah said that he not only avoids reading reviews but also tends to avoid bringing up his work in everyday life.
“My name is a conversation-killer,” Farah said.

Farah, who lives in South Africa, is teaching this year at the University of Minnesota. He wrote his first novel, “From a Crooked Rib,” in 1970 when he was in his twenties. After his work earned the unwanted attention of the Somali authorities, Farah was forced into exile but continued writing about life in Somalia and the country’s troubled present.

His work has tended to highlight the plight of women in Somalia, and some of it has been used as an example of feminist literature.

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