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Links The book was very hard to finish It was overfilled with bad metaphors The story itself was terrible Even though everything was explained over and over again I never understood Jeebleh or any other character in the book.It felt like a 300 400 pages short story The story never really started Like flying over a landscape with a heavy dark raincloud beneath you All you want is to dive under the cloud and see the landscape I wanted to understand the book but a big dark cloud followed every sin The book was very hard to finish It was overfilled with bad metaphors The story itself was terrible Even though everything was explained over and over again I never understood Jeebleh or any other character in the book.It felt like a 300 400 pages short story The story never really started Like flying over a landscape with a heavy dark raincloud beneath you All you want is to dive under the cloud and see the landscape I wanted to understand the book but a big dark cloud followed every single page From the internationally acclaimed author of North of Dawn, Links is a novel that will stand as a classic of modern world literatureJeebleh is returning to Mogadiscio, Somalia, for the first time in twenty years But this is not a nostalgia trip his last residence there was a jail cell And who could feel nostalgic for a city like this US troops have come and gone, and the decimated city is ruled by clan warlords and patrolled by qaat chewing gangs who shoot civilians to relieve their adolescent boredom Diverted in his pilgrimage to visit his mother s grave, Jeebleh is asked to investigate the abduction of the young daughter of one of his closest friend s family But he learns quickly that any act in this city, particularly an act of justice, is much complicated than he might have imagined Although most Americans couldn t find Somalia on a map, they all share one clear mental image of the African country the mutilated body of an Army Ranger being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu The United States had arrived in late 1992 on a humanitarian mission called Restore Hope Sixteen months later, after bitter humiliation and a new lesson on the complications of intervention, it retreated.Mark Bowden placed the infamous helicopter battle in Mogadishu at the center of his bestsell Although most Americans couldn t find Somalia on a map, they all share one clear mental image of the African country the mutilated body of an Army Ranger being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu The United States had arrived in late 1992 on a humanitarian mission called Restore Hope Sixteen months later, after bitter humiliation and a new lesson on the complications of intervention, it retreated.Mark Bowden placed the infamous helicopter battle in Mogadishu at the center of his bestselling book, Black Hawk Down, a finalist for the National Book Award in 1999 A popular Hollywood version followed two years later.Now comes a very different treatment of that conflict from Somali novelist Nuruddin Farah Whereas Bowden s journalistic approach tried to untangle the complexities of Mogadishu, Farah s new novel, Links, aims to convey a sense of the city s impenetrable ambiguity And while the movie, with its Oscar winning soundtrack, brought viewers smack into the grit of battle, Farah raises us into a haze of muffled alliances and conflicted values That approach involves considerable risks, particularly for Americans, who may want their books, like their military interventions, well defined with clear exit strategies, but Farah plays to an international audience Links concerns a Somali named Jeebleh who s come back after 20 years of exile in the United States Mogadishu holds few pleasant memories for him he spent his last years there in prison He watched the American intervention on TV from the comfort of his home in New York City, and later he received word of his mother s death through the mail He might not have ever gone back, but when a Somali taxi driver in New York almost ran him over, the irony of that close call inspired him to visit his war torn country, a land where demons never took a break He arrives full of apprehension, certain that at a conscious level he was not sufficiently prepared for the shocks in store for him On cue, while he s collecting his bags, a group of armed youths drive by, place bets, and shoot into the new arrivals, killing a 10 year old boy.But what interests Farah in this novel is not so much the horror of these random acts of violence, which form the background radiation of life in Mogadishu, but the psychological effects of living in chaos Distrust was the order of the day, Farah writes, and everyone was suspicious of everybody else For people trapped in such a place, the result is a permanently unsettled sense of apprehension, worse even, Farah suggests, than the rule of a cruel dictator.Jeebleh seeks out his old friend, Dr Bile, a pacifist who runs The Refuge, a haven in a city torn between warring clans Bile s niece, a young woman with a mystic aura of peace and a face as ancient as the roots of a baobab, has recently disappeared, and Bile suspects his evil stepbrother may have kidnapped her Jeebleh decides to find the girl himself, but he quickly discovers that, like everything in this country, her disappearance is not what it seems.Communal and familial interests in Mogadishu have been scrambled in ways that make it impossible to separate what s political from what s personal Chaos in the streets, Jeebleh learns, reflects disorder in the home, which reverberates back into society with evendeadly effect Not coincidentally, the Somali term for civil war translates roughly into killing an intimate For Jeebleh, still the pensive academic, this inspires a long consideration of the divisive or inclusive function of pronouns, the we or them that either reinforces clan unity or demonizes others.As Jeebleh searches for his friend s niece, risking his life to pursue mysterious figures and venture down unknown paths, Farah turns the narrative into a kind of nightmare with that alternating feeling of familiarity and dislocation, compromised volition, and a frustrating sense that crucial information is just out of reach Indeed, to enter this novel, we must become something like Jeebleh, repress our need for explanations, and resign ourselves to a murky cloud of suggestions and fears, a land simultaneously distinct and amorphous.This is the slightly abstract, slightly surreal territory where several Nobel laureates hang out, writers like Singer, M rquez, and Saramago, and it s no coincidence that Farah has been held up in their company He won the Neustadt International Prize in 1998, and his command of five languages and a lifetime spent in Africa, the United States, Europe, and India give his work a legendary quality even when the story concerns such a specific place and time.Partly that effect stems from his penchant for African folklore, proverbs, and striking figures of speech For instance, Jeebleh sees the stars a scatter like maize kernels thrown into greedy disarray by two hens quarreling When he s worried, his innards stir with the adrenaline of a daddy longlegs crawling out of a ditch a meter deep And after Bile tells the dark story of his family s troubles, his features take on the darker hue of fabric soaking overnight in water Like these strange and strangely self evident descriptions, this whole story is both alien and familiar, a haunting exploration of the desire to help and the attendant costs of doing so.The impulse to intervene, Farah suggests, is not evil or foolish or even exclusively American But when Jeebleh rises with righteous determination to enter this fray, he learns that bitter American lesson about trying to be good in a conscientious way in a city in which people are wicked and murderous through and through As Emily Dickinson wryly observed, Success in Circuit lies To battle this vague enemy, Jeebleh finally realizes he must fight with the same side glances, altering his principles and permanently compromising his nature in ways he couldn t have anticipated No one, Bile tells him, living in a country in which a civil war is raging is deemed to be innocent Near the end of his journey, Jeebleh thinks that his story is too woven into the Dantean complexity of others stories to serve any moral and political edification, but he s wrong.http www.csmonitor.com 2004 0413 p1 From the opening pages, when Jeebleh, a long time exile, leaves his airplane upon arrival in Mogadiscio, Somalia, and witnesses the random shooting of another passenger and comprehends the danger inherent in all choices he makes, he is assailed by unbearable stress Mogadiscio is a land in which almost no one can be trusted, where kidnappings and murders are simply part of the day The opening chapter describes Jeebleh s journey from the airport to a hotel, and its intensity makes other novels p From the opening pages, when Jeebleh, a long time exile, leaves his airplane upon arrival in Mogadiscio, Somalia, and witnesses the random shooting of another passenger and comprehends the danger inherent in all choices he makes, he is assailed by unbearable stress Mogadiscio is a land in which almost no one can be trusted, where kidnappings and murders are simply part of the day The opening chapter describes Jeebleh s journey from the airport to a hotel, and its intensity makes other novels purporting to describe similar border crossings into dangerous global hotspots, such as those found in books by John Le Carre, seem dull Jeebleh quickly learns how to navigate Mogadiscio s complex and lawless society, where someone who bullied him as a child has amassed power as a warlord, where his movements are constantly monitored, and where people hide their names and their past identities, making his encounters constantly puzzling and fraught with fear Jeebleh determines two projects for himself one is to find two kidnapped children and to reunite them with their parents, long time friends of his One child has Down s Syndrome, the other is attributed other worldly powers simply being in her presence is considered protective The second goal is to find his mother s grave and to honor her memory He is changed by the city and by the company he keeps, a small security force whose heavily armed presence begins to feel empowering and seductive Still, Jeebleh notes small signs of normalcy within the chaos, such as men lining up at the barber s for shaves and haircuts The value of friendship, as well as its limits, is well depicted here This novel is a visit to a place most of us would not care to visit to go there and survive is an accomplishment We don t know the long term impact of living through this hell on Jeebleh or his compatriots, but the character of Raasta, the divinely touched girl, is one form of hope I d say this is a 2.5 star book There were occasional moments where I connected with Jeelbeh, or one of the other characters, could overlook the absurdly stilted dialogue and clumsy metaphors similes, and felt immersed in the atmosphere of mid 90s Mogadishu Most of the time, though, I felt untethered from the narrative and its characters The book spurred me to learn a littleabout the history of modern Somalia, though, which was welcome. I see complaints from some reviewers about Farah s idiosyncratic, sometimes rather formal, even artificial style But I find his style, with his offbeat similes for example, to lend an appropriate strangeness to a story in which characters desperately and often unsuccessfully seek to find meaning in a society that has come close to collapse The book represents various struggles with madness that seem created by the setting of Mogadiscio itself.Particularly telling for me were the interspersed d I see complaints from some reviewers about Farah s idiosyncratic, sometimes rather formal, even artificial style But I find his style, with his offbeat similes for example, to lend an appropriate strangeness to a story in which characters desperately and often unsuccessfully seek to find meaning in a society that has come close to collapse The book represents various struggles with madness that seem created by the setting of Mogadiscio itself.Particularly telling for me were the interspersed dreams of the protagonist Jeebleh Early on he dreams disturbingly of himself as a ruthless young fighter with his clan, despite this representing everything he opposes And the problem of clan allegiances and the use of the pronouns we they and I run through the book And then later Jeebleh dreams he is a crab, and on waking finds himself walking sideways to the ocean, as if to show just how malleable identity can be.Even in this bleak context there are suggestions of possibilities for identity, friendship and community transcending clannish allegiances, but violence, atomization and insecurity are never far away Seekingexposure to life outside my middle aged, middle ish class American bubble, I asked a fellow truckdriver about books to help me learn about real life, in his home country of Somalia He told me about Somali writer Narrudin Farah, who became internationally famous for challenging his country s prevailing views on women, especially in his book, From a Crooked Rib Rib, was not available to me on audio so I chose Links The second book in this trio, Knots, reportedly return Seekingexposure to life outside my middle aged, middle ish class American bubble, I asked a fellow truckdriver about books to help me learn about real life, in his home country of Somalia He told me about Somali writer Narrudin Farah, who became internationally famous for challenging his country s prevailing views on women, especially in his book, From a Crooked Rib Rib, was not available to me on audio so I chose Links The second book in this trio, Knots, reportedly returns to feminist themes The storytelling in Links, is much slower paced than I can usually bear in the absence of lyrical writing However, I decided the pacing was an important element in the narrative itself, and ignored the bail out, impulse this time The setting is the turn of this century in war torn Somalia, where just moving about in public called for an unrushed approach with planning and caution and protection, often in the form.of gun toting children The characters backstory and the central mystery an abduction, addssuspicion and intrigue The tension created by the slow narrative worked in my favor, so far as my experiment is empathy goes.I suspect this book was written with western readers in mind Long expository passages made for some unnatural dialogue but this was very helpful The book and a quick peek at the Wikipedia article on Somalia, put vague memories of news reports into context Links, definitely fulfilled my objective to explore life in this part of Africa It also contributed to expanding my understanding that colonialism, and the dismantling of it, is much, muchcomplicated and ruinous than I understood Little by little, beginning with Trevor Noah s South Africa, and continued here, I m also beginning to grasp the intricacies of ethnic, clan, tribal and class cohabitation and conflict on the African content But did I LIKE the book, you wonder I had the same question when I finished it Having thought about it a day or so, I would say, yes I absolutely feel enriched by having read it The writing and fantastic audible narration, kept me engaged once I adjusted to the pace I thought the characters were mostly well developed and complex, and I had a moderately good handle on the protagonist s emotional journey I do feel like I missed some cultural subtext or symbolic meaning relating to the children at the center of the story, and I am not familiar enough with Dante s Inferno to really appreciate its use as a framing device touchstone here However, I thinkunderstanding will come as I thinkabout Links This book is neither plot driven nor character driven, and the themes as explored herein are not easily grasped by my western mind It will take time and effort to fully appreciate what Farah has to say, and I will endeavor to devoteof both to Links I ll start off by saying that, even though this is a two star book for me, I appreciate this new perspective I have on Somalia and the effort that went into the allusions or Links, if you will to Dante s Inferno throughout this book These aspects are the most positive ones I take with me from this book.Since this was a book I had to read for class, it was expected it wouldn t be something I really wanted to read I think what was so disappointing to me was just how much this book dragged on, I ll start off by saying that, even though this is a two star book for me, I appreciate this new perspective I have on Somalia and the effort that went into the allusions or Links, if you will to Dante s Inferno throughout this book These aspects are the most positive ones I take with me from this book.Since this was a book I had to read for class, it was expected it wouldn t be something I really wanted to read I think what was so disappointing to me was just how much this book dragged on, despite the fact that it was about revenge, war torn Somalia, rescuing kidnapped children, and self identity The plot sounds like there s going to be action at every turn, but there was a lot of conversation and wandering And drinking coffee The main character, Jeebleh, goes through a journey of self discovery as he returns to Somalia the country he was born in and imprisoned in by his close friend s half brother Caloosha After having a near death experience in New York, he recalls the loose ends he wants to tie in Somalia He wants to pay respects to his dead mother, he wants to help recover the kidnapped girls, Raasta and Makka, and lastly, wants to enact his revenge on Caloosha.One of the most confusing things about this book is how the characters seemed to operate They always knew what the other one was thinking and allowed themselves to be taken to places without knowing where they were going I m not sure how realistic this is because if I was in a dangerous country, I m not so sure I would just get in the first car that someone potentially Caloosha had arranged for me There was just a lot of weird tension and behavior that came across as unnatural, rather than situational.I was also unsatisfied with how Jeebleh carried out each of his tasks It was confusing to me that everything played out for him in the end The perspectives shifted around at points where I really wanted to be in Jeebleh s head to know what was going on This was likely intentionally done to add a bit of mystery at the end, but it just made the ending vague and empty to me Jeebleh s whole character was very unpredictable and odd, so I didn t find myself glad that he d achieved his goals.Lastly, I felt as if the female characters in this book were one of two things strangely described or nonexistent I found myself confused when reading descriptors about Bile s sister, Shanta, and the girls Raasta and Makka And the first moment a female character actually speaks in the book, other than a brief line from a phone call with Jeebleh s wife and daughters, is almost halfway in the book While I m not expecting Jeebleh s story to be heavily focused on the female experience in Somalia, I was a little concerned that he didn t once think of the fate of some of the women and feel something He didn t even seem to think about this in relation to the fact that his wife and daughters, had they been Somalian and in Somalia, could be subjected to some of the cruelties experienced there I wouldn t say to write this book off completely due to my taste it s still worth reading to learn about another culture, if nothing else Just don t go into it expecting a lot of action Set during the mid 1990s, Links sheds light on the lurid status of famished Mogadiscio, Somalia, a city where government itself is obsolete, allowing Dagaalka sokeeye, or civil war, to rage madly on The novel s protagonist, Jeebleh, is visiting his native Somalia for the first time in twenty years in order to settle his mother s burial and funeral, and he is jaded by the circumstances plaguing his homeland Clan based war persists between two major clans, with Strongman South s clan leading the Set during the mid 1990s, Links sheds light on the lurid status of famished Mogadiscio, Somalia, a city where government itself is obsolete, allowing Dagaalka sokeeye, or civil war, to rage madly on The novel s protagonist, Jeebleh, is visiting his native Somalia for the first time in twenty years in order to settle his mother s burial and funeral, and he is jaded by the circumstances plaguing his homeland Clan based war persists between two major clans, with Strongman South s clan leading the charge Jeebleh immediately reenters a violent landscape where collateral damage is the norm Upon his return, Jeebleh feels disoriented and alienated and wonders how he can possibly continue to love a land he no longer recognizes He is in fact attempting to become a citizen of the world by returning to his homeland to make peace and to help his family friends who have experienced the tragic kidnappings of their beloved daughters Despite Jeebleh s good intentions, however, he has entered a structure that he was once a part of and becomes sucked into the harshness of the environment He faces an identity crisis that he may be incapable of resolving at a crossroads moment in his life As a whole, Links is both realistic and deeply moving The novel s greatest strengths rest in the desolate, war torn Somalian landscape that Farah vividly paints, as well as his raising of issues of global citizenship and human dignity that haunt the victims of collateral damage Unfortunately, Farah s awkward use of language almost takes away from the novel s poignant message Farah opted to write this novel in English, which is not his first language, instead of utilizing his normal method of writing and then having the novel translated This resulted in repetitive metaphors and recycled plot descriptions throughout the novel Nonetheless, the portrait that Farah manages to create is powerful enough to transport readers to Jeebleh s worldand mind Nuruddin Farah s Links has an odd rhythm, building slowly and then dashing madly, even haphazardly, to the finish Although, Farah s touchstone is the Inferno, from which he quotes in epigraphs, this novel set in Somalia hasof intra familial savagery of Greek tragedy, as half brothers, Jebreel, returning from the United States, the long imprisoned Bile, and the brutal gangster Caloosha circle around each other A young niece, daughter of a half sister, is missing with her friend Ambiguo Nuruddin Farah s Links has an odd rhythm, building slowly and then dashing madly, even haphazardly, to the finish Although, Farah s touchstone is the Inferno, from which he quotes in epigraphs, this novel set in Somalia hasof intra familial savagery of Greek tragedy, as half brothers, Jebreel, returning from the United States, the long imprisoned Bile, and the brutal gangster Caloosha circle around each other A young niece, daughter of a half sister, is missing with her friend Ambiguous and dangerous characters lurk around the edges the sinister brother in law Af Laawe, whose non profit has a stated purpose of burying the dead in the quick but clean Muslim manner but may be a front for organ harvesting the elders who say they are visiting Jebreel to welcome him but actually covet his American dollars to keep up their ard SUVs in competition with other clans the leaders of the warring clans, here called Strongman North and Strongman South For all the violence of Somali against Somali, the death of the American soldiers in the Black Hawk Down incident lingers in the background, but from the Somalian perspective Throughout Farah meditates on what it means to come from a land that cannot really be called a country Is a whole country responsible for the crime of one of its citizens Jeebleh asks of the United States, but the same could be asked of what remains of Somalia This is a country whose greatest poet wrote, as Farah quotes him, All you can get from me is War If you want peace, go away from my Country Farah sets up his mean streets down which Jeebleh must walk and populates it with traps, duplicity and danger to himself and to the innocent missing girls and then for some reason suddenly resolves it with the off stage death of Caloosha and the miraculous re appearance of the missing girls If only it were that way in reality


About the Author: Nuruddin Farah

Nuruddin Farah Somali Nuuradiin Faarax, Arabic is a prominent Somali novelist Farah has garnered acclaim as one of the greatest contemporary writers in the world, his prose having earned him accolades including the Premio Cavour in Italy, the Kurt Tucholsky Prize in Sweden, the Lettre Ulysses Award in Berlin, and in 1998, the prestigious Neustadt International Prize for Literature In the same year, the French edition of his novel Gifts won the St Malo Literature Festival s prize In addition, Farah is a perennial nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature.


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