Season of Migration to the North – Al-Tayyib Saleh

Season of Migration to the North

My rating: 3 3/4 out of 5

Season of Migration to the North is a mysterious novel by the well-known Sudanese writer, Al-Tayyib Saleh.

It was originally written in Arabic, but is translated into English and French (I read the English version).

It tells the tale of a young Sudanese man who had come back to his local village after spending seven years in England, studying poetry at a university there.

Among all the people who had greeted him, he spotted one, Mustafa Sa’eed, a stranger whom he did not know. All the villagers knew very little about him, only that he had a business in Khartoum.

One night, after the young man hears Mustafa narrating some English poetry when he was drunk, he grows more suspicious and curious about him until he urged Mustafa to tell him his true identity, which Mustafa had never told to anyone before.

It turns out that Mustafa Sa’eed was a brilliant student who was sent to England on a college scholarship, where he had complicated relationships with various women. Mustafa Sa’eed does not tell the young man his whole life story, but instead gives him a key to a ‘secret room’ in his house for the young man to explore and learn more about him.

After Mustafa Sa’eed unexpectedly dies, the young man opens his secret room to discover the past of the stranger who had settled in his village.

I enjoyed reading Season of Migration to the North, but I took pleasure in the little hilarious bits and dialogues more than the actual story. To be frank, I didn’t understand some parts of the novel, especially when the young man enters Mustafa’s room.

While Season of Migration to the North is more of a “Dorian Gray” ghostly novel, it depicts in depth what the Sudanese society was like in the past and how ignorant villagers used to think and treated their wives.

In 2001, Season of Migration to the North was selected as the most important Arab novel of the twentieth century. (Read more on BBC)

This is an enjoyable, entertaining novel that will cover some History, African studies and culture.

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