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review of Season of Migration To The North,
This review is from: Season Of Migration to the North (Heinemann African Writers Series) (Paperback)
Season of Migration To The North has famously been described as the Heart of Darkness in reverse, where an African protagonist travels to London inadvertently exploiting and destroying the women he befriends. But it became apparent to me, reading this masterpiece, albeit in English translation, that Tayeb Salih had created something more fantastical than Conrad had done in his original, but arguably flawed novel. Salih plays with temporal linearity, jumping back and fore between Knightsbridge and a small but intensely socially rich Sudanese village on the banks of the river Nile; the identity of the narrator changes, a common device in Arabic literature; the climax to the story is brilliantly hinted at throughout the book, and previewed in a false, or dual, climax, a horrible love murder. Season really bowled me over, and it absorbed me from the moment I started reading it; the peripheral details, descriptions and detours interested me as much as the main plot, which was an unlikely though fascinating concoction. There is a memorable description of an English District Commissioner: [he] "...was a god who had a free hand over an area larger than the whole of the British Isles..." But there is no resentment of the British in Salih's tale; resentment is saved for the Sudanese comprador class, referred to as "nonentities" and "nobodies" by a character in the village. An examination of the complex East-West relationship, an artificial construct, lies at the core of the book, and simple, sweeping judgments are not held by any of the characters. Reading Season of Migration To The North takes the reader on a journey into the enormously complex, psychologically fraught, and deeply emotionally intertwined relationship between coloniser and colonised.