“Season of Migration to the North” of Tayeb Salih

This article is also available in: Italiano

By Noemi Linardi

An intense, involving, violent and metaphorical story of the freedom and difficulty of being oneself. The story of a generation between colonization and independence, between “East” and “West”, and the strength to remain intact between two worlds, to build on an identity level.

A story in Sudan

I confronted Tayeb Salih for the first time in my second year of university and it was love at first sight, or rather at first reading. A strange discovery, I who did not even know where Sudan was, much less that in this country, half African half Arab, where millenary traditions are intertwined, a milestone of Arab fiction was born almost a century ago.
tayyeb salih
Khartoum, the capital of Sudan
The story tells of a young man who returns to his home, in a small village on the banks of the Nile, after 7 years spent in the “country where one dies of the cold”, England, to study. But in his old village something has changed, a foreign presence, an unknown man and different from the people of the village: Mustapha Said. The two men gradually intertwine their destinies and find themselves more similar than expected, so much so that, little by little, the narrator, or the young man, gives way to the first-person narrative of Mustapha Said, his alter ego.

More than a colonial criticism

More than a proper colonial criticism, such as that of Edward Said’s Orientalism, Tayyeb’s book is more a criticism of the inevitable arrival of modernity, which obviously also passes through colonization, but which should be periodic and slow and not imposed from above, because it creates destructive effects. Afterwards what needs to be highlighted is that the book is really focused on the identity construction of Mustapha Said since most of the narration is occupied by the story of his life.

Tayeb Salih

Son of a dead father and a woman who has now become apathetic, a symbol of the land raped by the colonizer, M. S. grows up without love and without feelings but with a highly developed intelligence. Arrived in England, he will implement his revolt plan: to conquer young English women and then induce them to commit suicide. In this sick seduction game the young Mustapha uses all the stereotypes that the British have on Africans to conquer the girls. But once he returns to Sudan he will build a secret chamber, in the English way, where the narrator thinks he will see his reflex once Mustapha Said is gone.

The end of the novel is also highly symbolic. The narrator swims from north to south until he loses consciousness, without knowing if he is alive or dead, trapped between these two worlds.

A story of migration

“Season of migration to the North” is thus the story of a migration, like that of birds, from South to North, and the inevitable arrival of modernity in traditional society, with its inevitable disturbing effects.
A book that will speak to all those who have migrated, like the flight of a bird, poised between two worlds, in continuous effort but free, light.
tayyeb salih

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