Friday, February 09, 2007

Nuruddin Farah

Nuruddin Farah's reading last night at the Loft was totally impressive, and this is coming from a long-time veteran of hearing readings. Fiction readings in particular are difficult because the author is usually reading from the middle of a novel, and the audience is likely to go bored and restless, much as they claim to like literature. Farah was not in the least boring: there were sex and domestic violence and poverty and child raising and women stronger than men and other themes, covering 1981 to 2007, two dates of the novels from which he read. After, he took questions from the beautiful people who filled the theater, one third of whom were Somali. Only Somalis asked questions. He faulted the Somali men for not taking opportunities (in the west) and for talking politics too often and long over coffee and praised the women for being strong but not for wearing their head covers, which he said was a Saudi interpretation of Islam, and not native to Somali culture. Some of the men and women got restless when he said all this; others were just glad they had the chance to hear someone like him read from his work. I don't know Somali history very well, at all, but they mentioned many wars: one they had forgotten was in 1987. Personally, I like seeing the Somali men discuss politics at the Starbucks near my doctor's office -- for us, it's a sign of male bonding (which we promote here) and of counterculture since so many people refuse to discuss politics no matter what -- they are bringing it in like an ethic. But, as the author insisted, much work needs to be done for people new to a country; they must establish themselves. I did not know that the women did not use to wear head scarves in their native country but donned them here. One woman argued in favor of the head scarves saying that they had endured many hardships, and the scarves serve as protection and a sign of their devotion to the Koran. The author lives in S. Africa and seemed to be a wonderful, peace-loving and gentle man. He is an international. Overall, it was a great reading experience for me.

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