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Secrets Paperback – 2 Dec 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 298 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Australia; Reissue edition (2 Dec. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140280456
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140280456
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 257,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Praised for his grasp of literary English, one of Africa's most distinguished novelists illuminates the culture and ideology of his native country through a novel set against the background of Somalia's civil war. Reprint.

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Rave Reviews
In his bewitching saga, "Secrets," Somalian novelist Nuruddin Farah conjures a strange and densely spirited world. Immediately, the reader is immersed in a jumble of folklore, allegories, visions and sorcery. This is Somalia in 1995, and the echoing gunfire of clan violence and civil war is creeping into the capital of Mogadishu. But even more portentous are Farah's characters, whose consciences are as troubled as their country...With "Secrets," Farah, who was awarded this year's Neustadt International Prize for Literature (the most prestigious literary award after the Nobel), continues to delve into the hearts and minds of a people remembered by the West only when terror bubbles to the surface. The fault lines of tragedy, however, run much deeper. (Time Out New York, May 21, 1998)

Nuruddin Farah's hypnotic new novel, "Secrets" is...a shape-shifter--murder mystery, family saga, magical-realist thriller...Suspense builds secret upon secret..."Secrets" is rich with figurative language and parable. (New York Newsday, May 3, 1998)

Spellbinding, luminous prose. (Baltimore Sun, May 10, 1998) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 July 1998
Format: Hardcover
I've read and enjoyed most of Farah's novels over the years - this is his finest so far. Kalaman's journey back into his family and his memories enthralled me. The writing is physical, earthy and always unexpected. I read the book one Sunday afternoon in a sitting. I couldn't find a place in the narrative where I wanted to pause, so just read and read. I'll be the first in line to buy his next book.
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By ijebuman on 16 Oct. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
full of secrets indeed,intrigue,suspense
a huge window into another culture,even though am an African myself
i cannot deny the differences btwn west Africa and Somalian, i enjoy and could not put down this book
its pure joy to read this book,well constructed and the narration is that of a master story teller
excellent book,The author is a brilliant mind who dissected and reveal the secrets of a secretive/conservative people
its open sesame,is anything hidden under the sun where Farah is?
Farahs pen is a big whip .
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 16 reviews
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Birthed in Blood 16 July 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Before its independence in 1960, Somalia was the bloody battleground for power between the fading British and Italian empires; in the late 70s it became a staging ground for the cold war maneuvering between the US and the USSR. In 1991, after Somalia's genocidal dictator was overthrown, equally bloodthirsty warlords began vying for control and, tragically, Somalia collapsed into anarchy. Ironically, this racially, ethnically, religiously and linguistically homogeneous people are now controlled by clans and subclans. Unless and until the country confronts its past, Somalians will render Somalia into nothingness.
Nuruddin Farah places responsibility for Somalia's plight on Somalian's themselves: "If you take the Somali nation as a family, the betrayal is no longer that of colonialism, it is no longer from outside, but from within. And the cure must also be found from within."
Farah strives to keep his homeland alive through his writing and his most recent trilogy, culminating in Secrets, is polemic disguised as obituary disguised as parable disguised as local drama.
In Secrets, one family serves as a metaphor for Somalia, itself; a family whose own checkered past and its members failure to understand one another tears apart and destroys their lives.
Kalaman, the protagonist of Secrets, has always wondered about the secrets surrounding his origins, beginning with his own name. For the name, Kalaman, came from the cry of a bird heard at his birth and, as such, is devoid of any sense of history or family heritage. Family heritage, though, is essential to Kalaman, for he was a child who had always been "interested in the origins of things, how rivers came into being and why they ran and where."
As a result of the secrets surrounding both Kalaman and his family, his grandfather, Nonno, cannot die, his mother suffers from violent nightmares and Kalaman's world is filled with an ever-increasing emptiness.
On the eve of Somalia's collapse into anarchy, Kalaman's sensual and demanding childhood sweetheart, Sholoongo, appears in his home and announces her intentions of bearing his child. Her presence incurs the wrath of Kalaman's mother and pulls Kalaman back into a despair-filled past where he disassembles the myth that represents his family and unleashes all of its long-held secrets.
Secrets displays Farah's superb talents to the fullest. The plot is rich, the language sophisticated and exotic without being overwrought. Displaying elements of magic realism, totemic animals drift through scenery, dreams are symbolic, folktales, prophetic. When Kalaman asks Nonno about Sholoongo's own secrets, Nonno gives him the enigmatic reply: "A man shuts himself away in a dark room, raises his index finger, pointing at the ceiling. Reemerging, he challenges the community members to tell him what he did in the dark room. Another man describes accurately what he did in the dark room when alone."
Conceived in violence rather than in love, and ignorant of his own history, Kalaman is a metaphor for Somalia, itself. Sholoongo, who was born a "duugan," a baby to be taken to the desert and buried, represents Somalia's festering, unspoken history and like that history she "lived to haunt the villagers conscience." Sholoongo is the book's catalyst and her arrival brings back an ugly past for each of Farah's characters, yet, once confronted and embraced, this ugliness is transformed.
Nonno tells Kalaman his "undealt-with troubles began the instant he introduced a decisive element of blame-the-other syndrome into his guilt ridden sorrow." Nonno then begins to associate Kalaman even more closely with Somalia: "There are moments in a person's or a nation's life when collapses can be avoided, even if at first they seem inevitable...Kalaman could have brought an end to this rigamarole sooner, if he had been true to his own instincts, if he had been forthrightly frank with Sholoongo herself: the Somali collectivity could have reversed the coming decline. He had no right to blame his parents or Nonno or others for his own failure...Give people a chance to speak their pieces, and many will display their personal and collective hurts: they all see themselves as ill-used by the dictatorship. Press them further into the corner, ask them for their contributions to the struggle against one-man tyranny, and they fall silent, many unable to deny being accomplices in the rain."
Secrets is a magical story, evocative of the beauty and tragedy that is Africa today. Its politics are metaphorical and never intrusive, for Farah is not a politician but a storyteller extraordinaire.
His life-affirming message, however, to the family that is Somalia is clear: Heal your wounds, Sister. Shout your secrets from the rooftops as loud as you can.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A Fine Example of an African Novel 7 July 2000
By R. M. Calitri - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I learned about author Nuruddin Farah while researching contemporary African writers and was immediately intrigued by him. This novel won the 1998 Neudstadt International Prize for Literature which has also been awarded to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Octavio Paz, and this year to David Malouf. Secrets is well-deserving of this prize for a multitude of reasons.
Not many people have read African authors, especially contemporary African authors, and this is a shame. Nuruddin Farah's work is a perfect representation and a very strong introduction to the obscure African literary canon. This is a bold and challanging work--one that will teach readers an awful lot about Somalian life and engage them in a brilliant story, as well.
The story is set in Mogadiscio, Somalia during the horrific civil war, but readers should not let the setting frighten them away. One need not know anything about the conflict in order to enjoy the book. Farah has taken care of all of the details readers require. The plot involves the protagonist Kalaman's experiences upon receiving a visit from a childhood friend Sholoongo who wishes to bear his child. Her mysterious appearance causes Kalaman to confront his past's secrets and discover his own true identity.
Farah's writing almost outshines his own story with its jewel-like descriptions and sensuous, organic details. His poetic and magical writing is engrossing as are his curious characters who are unlike any I have met in other novels. This is a novel that will transport the reader to a particular time and place in Africa and fill it with spellbinding details that are both very real and very magical. Animals have totemic significance and secrets, as the title suggests, are the focus of many, many mysteries in the book. In fact, the word "secret" appears hundreds of times and is used in as many ways in this book. That, in itself, is amazing indeed.
This is a multi-layered, and multi-faceted novel, and its subplots, magical realism, and variety of speakers make this a challenging book, but if you are intrigued with African or are looking for an extraordinary story written in a very unique style, this book will not disappoint you.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Worth the effort! 28 Mar. 2002
By Penny de Vries - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
While this book is about secrets, as its title proclaims, so is it also about family; family and the ties that bind its members sometimes into convoluted knots, sometimes into neat unison. Early in the book we are thrust into the fable-rich nature of this culture where dreams are the life-blood, myths inform decisions and names have significance beyond the obvious.
The central character, Kalaman, is the only son of Somalian Muslim parents. A childhood lover, Sholoongo, returns to Mogadiscio to seek him out and hold him to a childhood promise. This event stirs up a hornet's nest, ` making the family behave like scorpions whose hiding place has been disturbed.' Many old grievances rise to the surface and many previously unanswered questions now demand resolution.
Kalaman embarks on a search for answers by returning to his roots through his own and his family's memory. An undercurrent throughout the book, that runs parallel but submerged, is the civil strife in Somalia. The question asked is whether the breakdown in Kalaman's family is a symbol or a cause of the breakdown in greater society. In trying to make sense of himself, Kalaman, is also trying to make sense of Somalia.
The story is intriguing and whets the reader's curiosity regarding these secrets and what they could be. In the first half of the book, one feels quite bemused as many of the allusions are yet to be explained. Perseverance through this deliberate maze will be amply rewarded as things fall into place in the second half of the book.
Another striking aspect of this book is the convincing way the writer represents the relationships between the different characters. Kalaman's relationship with his grandfather, Nonno, hit a particular chord of recognition with me. It is Nonno that has coloured his life from birth onwards with myth and legend, tradition and values. His grandfather is his touchstone and his security and he cannot imagine `what life would be like if [he] ceased to see Nonno in [his] dreams'. Kalaman too holds a special place in his grandfather's heart and mind. This renders the outcome of the secrets all the more poignant as well as highlighting the tragedy and irony when brother rises against brother.
This story is a universal one but what makes Secrets a special and remarkable read is the beautiful, sonorous, lyrical language. Never have I read a book as rich in metaphor and simile as this. Every phrase is finely crafted yet none seem contrived. The whole flows with a beauty and elegance that is startling. The characters are colourful yet realistic. A strong theme of sexuality sometimes bordering on the erotic runs through their lives and many taboos are transgressed. This all adds to the rich fabric of Secrets, making it a real find.
Farah possesses that rare ability of drawing the reader into the lives he has created until one believes that one is part of the action, indeed thinking the thoughts of the narrator. I only discovered after reading this book that it is the third in a trilogy, the first two being Maps and Gifts. I will certainly be doing my best to find them.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Captivating 16 Mar. 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Secrets is the somalian tribal civil-war analyzed from a postmodernist, theoretical perspective. If this sounds bleak, don't worry. Farah makes no mistake as he drapes this defence for modernization in evocative mythical clothing. Engrossing and rich, Secrets is part crime story part fable of the origin of culture, but never boring. Friends of Shakespeare will appreciate the obvious nods to Lear and The Tempest at the end. And note: one of the editorial reviews was concerned over the sexual politics of this book, but that is simply a result of a sloppy reading.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Wow. I love this book. 16 Sept. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I've just posted rave reviews of Maps and Gifts, the other books in the Blood in the Sun trilogy, but Secrets is I think the best--the deeply textured, invigorating climax to a series of books that has literally changed the way I read literature. It's also probably the most controversial, but that shouldn't keep anyone away. These books should be required reading for living in our new Global Village, and they're already necessary for anyone who cares about reading future classics, about reading books that, if there is any literary justice, will forever change the way every writer from every country will write novels.
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