A fiftieth-anniversary celebration of Nuruddin Farah’s famed debut novel From A Crooked Rib was hosted at the new Cheche Bookshop and Café, Nairobi on Friday, February 14, 2020.
Nuruddin Farah is one of the most respected names in world literature today. Famous for his many novels, he has also written plays both for stage and radio, as well as short stories and essays. He has lived and taught in many countries like the United States, England, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Sudan, India, Uganda, Nigeria, and South Africa. The Somali-born author now lives in Cape Town, South Africa.
The first of Farah’s novel’s, From A Crooked Rib, was written when he was a young student in India. Published in 1970, as the eightieth novel in the Heinemann African Writers Series, the novel follows the perspective of an orphaned woman and her coming of age. 2020 is the year that the novel is celebrating its fiftieth year in print starting at this event in Nairobi.
The festivities were at the Cheche Bookshop and Café, the newest space making its official appearance to the citizens of East Africa’s largest city. It was a full house that started with entertainment from Boaz Otieno playing his orutu followed by Aleya Kassam reading a poem in honour of the late Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai. The evening proper could then start with a reading from Aleya before she made way for the star of the evening.
Nuruddin Farah, alongside his moderator Dr Tom Odhiambo followed by questions from the audience, proceeded to dazzle us with his brilliance, wisdom, and wit over the next hour or so. He dealt with questions any author would field like on writing challenges where he chose to go to India instead of the USA as a young man and the other challenges of life. He dealt with questions African writers seem to have to deal with nowadays like on what language he wrote, he had to answer the Ngugi question if you may. He said that writers shouldn’t have to be dictated what language they wrote in; what mattered were the ideas they were trying to convey in their stories.
He dealt with questions that only Somali writers have to deal with like his not elevating religion, talking about Somalis drinking alcohol, and glorifying their immigration to the diaspora. To these, he said that religion and the like were a personal decision and it was a fact that Somalis did better when they left a home that was very hostile. This blogger’s favourite take were questions on what ails Somalia and what he considers peace. Peace for him was Somali women being allowed to dress like women from Somalia and not from Afghanistan. He also decried the men of his country of birth who were the cause of the problem of their home because they refused to listen to women. Women were seen not as human but as possessions to be traded, a statement that was warmly welcomed by the many women who were in attendance.
He revealed two things at this event. A movie of From A Crooked Rib was in the works with the protagonist Ebla telling her story as a senior citizen based in Canada. A new book tentatively titled Crabs in A Bucket is also on its way.
After the event, the crowd moved to the outside area where the author signed copies of books that had been sold by Prestige Books who were on hand with copies. They also hang around and had a fine time chatting and enjoying Nairobi’s newest place for chilling.
The Cheche Bookshop and Café is officially here.
Here are videos that we recorded over the event’s period with our trusty cellphone.