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Prof Nuruddin Farah

Department Affiliations


Born in 1945 in Baidoa, Somalia, Nuruddin Farah is the author of ten novels, a nonfiction book, and numerous articles and stories in English; his work has been translated into more than 20 languages. The first novel in his dictatorship trilogy, Sweet and Sour Milk, won the English-Speaking Union Literary Prize in 1980, and in 1998, he was given the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. Long before the collapse of Somalia’s government, he was pushed into exile by the dictator Siyad Barre, and has lived, taught, and written in many African countries. He currently resides in Capetown, South Africa. Because his first novel concerns the plight of a young Somali woman forced into an arranged marriage, and because his work traces relations between dictatorship at the national scale and patriarchal tyranny at the family scale, he has been celebrated as a “feminist“ African writer. Having dealt with dictatorship, breakdown, and exile in earlier works, Farah has begun in his current trilogy (Links, Knots, and a third novel in progress) to imagine possible modes of a return to Somalia.

Educational Background

  • BA: Panjab University, Chandigarh, India, 1970.
  • DLitt (honoris causa): Literature, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK, 2000.


  • "Why Dead So Soon?" (Somali News, 1965)
  • A Dagger in a Vacuum (play, 1969)
  • From a Crooked Rib (Heinemann, 1970)
  • A Naked Needle (Heinemann, 1976)
  • Sweet & Sour Milk: Variations on the Theme of An African Dictatorship (Allison & Busby, 1979)
  • Sardines: Variations on the Theme of An African Dictatorship (Allison & Busby, 1981)
  • Yusuf and His Brothers (play, 1982)
  • Close Sesame: Variations on the Theme of An African Dictatorship (Allison & Busby, 1983)
  • Maps: Blood in the Sun (Arcade, 1986)
  • Gifts: Blood in the Sun (Arcade, 1993)
  • Secrets: Blood in the Sun (Arcade, 1998)
  • Yesterday, Tomorrow: Voices from the Somali Diaspora (Cassell, 2000)
  • Links (Riverhead, 2004)
  • Knots (Riverhead, 2007)
  • Antigone (play, 2008)
  • Refugees (play, 2009)
  • Crossbones (Riverhead, 2011)
  • A Stone Thrown at the Guilty (play, 2012)
  • "Why I Write." Third World Quarterly (Routledge, 1988) Download
  • "Childhood of My Schizophrenia." Times Literary Supplement (1990) Download
  • "Further Thoughts on Childhood." (1991) Download
  • "Bitter crumbs and sour milk: a nation betrayed." Interview by Maya Jaggi. Manchester Guardian Weekly (April 18, 1993) Download
  • "My Father, the Englishman, and I." Under African Skies: Modern African Stories, edited by Charles R. Larson (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1997) Download
  • "Chronology (Nuruddin Farah)." World Literature Today (University of Oklahoma Press, 1998; updated, 2011) Download
  • "How Can We Talk of Democracy?" Interview by Patricia Alden and Louis Tremaine. Emerging Perspectives on Nuruddin Farah (Africa World Press, 2002) Download
  • "Nuruddin Farah." Interview by Kwame Anthony Appiah. Bomb Magazine (#87, Spring 2004) Download

Professional Activities

  • Juror, Berlin International Film Festival: 2010
  • A partial list of where Farah has taught includes Berlin Freie Universitat, University of California at Berkeley, Paris L’Ecolde des Hautes Etudes en Science Sociale, University of Texas at Austin, St. Antony’s College Oxford, Brown University, Uganda Makerere University, University of Minnesota.
  • Farah has contributed to The Guardian, The New African, Transition Magazine, The New York Times, The Observer, The Times Literary Supplement, The London Review of Books, and The New Yorker, among other publications.


  • Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage for Yesterday, Tomorrow 2002
  • St Malo 1st Prize (French) for Secrets 1999
  • Neustadt International Prize for Literature 1998
  • Mondello Prize (Italy) for Doni (Gifts) 1996
  • Premio Cavour (Italy) for the Variations on the Theme of An African Dictatorship trilogy 1993
  • English-Speaking Union Literary Prize for Sweet and Sour Milk 1980
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