Season of Migration to the North (Mawsim al-Hiǧra ilā ash-Shamāl) by Tayyib Saleh

On April 3rd 2006 Kutub met to discuss Season of Mirgration of the North (Mawsim al-Hiǧra ilā ash-Shamāl), a classic post-colonial novel by the Sudanese writer Tayyib Saleh (sometimes written as Tayeb Saleh or Al-Tayyib Salih).  The author passed away in 2009.

Confronting displacement and post-colonial aftermath, this book (originally published in Arabic in 1966) is a modern Arabic classic and a vivid portrayal of racial and sexual tension. A fascinating read that’s strong character belies its slim spine, Season of Mirgration explores anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism, self-destruction, cultural exoticism, and manipulations of power.

For more information about the book and the author, please see below.

Al-Tayyib Salih (Arabic: الطيّب صالح) is a noted Sudanese writer. Born in the Northern Province of the Sudan in 1929, he studied at the University of Khartoum before leaving for the University of London, England. Coming from a background of small farmers and religious teachers, his original intention was to work in agriculture. Except, however, for a brief spell as a schoolmaster before coming to England, his working life has been in broadcasting.

His works are generally political, dealing with themes such as colonization and gender. Salih is also considered one of the best short story writers working in Arabic today. Having studied both western and Arab literature, philosophy, and society, Salih intermingles aspects of both cultures in his works.

When his novel Season of Migration to the North was first published in Arabic, in Beirut in the late 1960s, Salih was acclaimed as “the new genius of the Arabic novel” In 2001, this was declared “the most important Arabic novel of the 20th century” by the Syrian-based Arab Literary Academy in Damascus. His works have been translated from Arabic into more than 20 languages.

Salih has completed three other novels and a collection of short stories. His novella “The Wedding of Zein” was made into a drama in Libya and a Cannes Festival prize-winning film by the Kuwaiti filmmaker Khalid Siddiq in the late 1970s.

For more than 10 years Salih wrote a weekly column for the London-based Arabic language newspaper, “al Majalla,” in which he explored various literary themes. He has 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 finally UNESCO’s representative in the Gulf States.

Books by Salih include:

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