Crossbones, Nuruddin Farah’s somewhat male-centered novel delves into modern history of Somalia as the author portrays his blasted home country. In the wake of Mohamed Siad Barre’s dictatorship and the subsequent civil war, the Union of Islamic Courts has taken control of the capital Mogadiscio and is enforcing Sharia law amidst vying and conspiring warlords, pirates, and Shabaab terrorists.
Farah provides names and faces with which, the reader, probably more or less already ‘informed’ about the situation can look at, listen to and identify with, starting with Young Thing. The youth, dramatic blunders, shedding innocent blood and ultimate death of the young terrorist might be in stark contrast with any mental imagery or representation of a Shabaab fighter one might have.
I am also interested in looking into novelists, including Farah’s “humanizing” history; in other words, attributing particular faces, feelings, agency and sophisticated psychological or societal complexities to the multitudes of anonymous ‘news-actors’ in a way that no statistics or report can possibly do. Other ‘faces’ include Jeebleh, who has returned to Mogadiscio after an absence that lasted a decade accompanied by his son in law Malik, a journalist living in the US, intent on writing a marketable story about his ancestral land, which is a risky move in a country with a history of journalist molestation and assassination. We also follow the itinerary of Malik’s brother, Ahl, who flies from Minnesota looking for his missing stepson, who has supposedly joined the Shabaab forces in the context of an imminent invasion by neighboring Ethiopia.
Besides, I find most intriguing Farah’s using the term ‘religionist’ instead of media consecrated terminology « islamist.» Moreover, his explanatory tone throughout the novel denotes a volonté of depicting “his” Somalia to outsiders. Especially given that outsiders, in this globalized era, have already internalized depictions and narratives manufactured whether accurately or not by mass media and used their imagination to fill the gaps of the unknown regarding the complexities inherent to such a location, infamously plagued by violence, corruption, foreign interference and religious fanaticism.
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