Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih is a classic postcolonial Arabic novel by the Sudanese novelist Tayeb Salih, published in 1966; it is the novel for which he is best known. It was first published in the Beirut journal Hiwâr. The main concern of the novel is with the impact of British colonialism and European modernity on rural African societies in general and Sudanese culture and identity in particular. His novel reflects the conflicts of modern Sudan and depicts the brutal history of European colonialism as shaping the reality of contemporary Sudanese society. Damascus-based Arab Literary Academy named it one of the best novels in Arabic of the twentieth century. Tayeb Salih was fluent in both English and Arabic, but chose to pen this novel in Arabic but in this article will get access to Season of migration to the North by Tayeb Salih epub English version as translated and published by Denys Johnson-Davies as well as do the following:
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Summary of season of migration to the north by Tayeb Salih
After years of study in Europe, the young narrator of Season of Migration to the North returns to his village along the Nile in the Sudan. It is the 1960s, and he is eager to make a contribution to the new postcolonial life of his country. Back home, he discovers a stranger among the familiar faces of childhood—the enigmatic Mustafa Sa’eed. Mustafa takes the young man into his confidence, telling him the story of his own years in London, of his brilliant career as an economist, and of the series of fraught and deadly relationships with European women that led to a terrible public reckoning and his return to his native land.
But what is the meaning of Mustafa’s shocking confession? Mustafa disappears without explanation, leaving the young man—whom he has asked to look after his wife—in an unsettled and violent no-man’s-land between Europe and Africa, tradition and innovation, holiness and defilement, and man and woman, from which no one will escape unaltered or unharmed.
Season of Migration to the North is a rich and sensual work of deep honesty and incandescent lyricism. In 2001 it was selected by a panel of Arab writers and critics as the most important Arab novel of the twentieth century.
About the author season of migration to the north pdf – Tayeb Salih
Tayeb Salih (1929-2009) was born in northern Sudan in 1929 and educated at the University of Khartoum. After a brief period working as a teacher, he moved to London to work with the BBC Arabic Service. Salih later worked as director general of information in Qatar in the Arabian Gulf, and then with unesco in Paris and the Arab Gulf States. Along with Season of Migration to the North, his books in English include The Wedding of Zein (which will be published as an NYRB Classic) and Bandarshah.
Information about the book (Amazon)
- Publisher : NYRB Classics; New York Review Books Classics edition (April 14, 2009)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 139 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1590173023
- ISBN-13 : 978-1590173022
- Item Weight : 7.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.03 x 0.41 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #46,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #15 in African Literature (Books)
- Customer Reviews: 4.7 out of 5 stars 395 ratings
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Editorial reviews about the book
“This depthless, elusive classic …explores not just the corrosive psychological colonisation observed by Frantz Fanon, but a more complex two-way orientalism, in which the charms of western thought, embodied in its poetry and liberal ideals, prove irresistible, even as the novel’s Sudanese narrators understand these as the tempting fruit of a poisoned tree.” —Greg Jackson, The Guardian
“Season of Migration to the North is an engaging and complicated novel, by turns combative and wistful, about two men who leave Sudan to study in England and afterward belong in neither place.” –Maude Newton, NPR.com
“Season of Migration to the North is remarkably compact, really a novella rather than a novel. But woven into the brief text is a dense tracery of allusions to Arabic and European fiction, Islamic history, Shakespeare, Freud, and classical Arabic poetry—a corpus that haunts all his writing. Salih, who died this past February in London, packed an entire library into this slim masterpiece. It is literature to the second degree. And yet it is anything but labored. Rather, it is alive with drama and incident: crimes of passion, sadomasochism, suicide. It is a novel of ideas wrapped in the veils of romance.” —Harper’s Magazine
“This is the one novel that everyone insisted I took with me. Set in a Sudanese village by the Nile, it is a brilliant exploration of African encounters with the West, and the corrupting power of colonialism. The narrator is a man returned to his native village, after university in England, and he gradually unpicks the horrifying story of a newcomer he finds in his old home. This man had been a brilliant Sudanese student and had also gone to England with terrible consequences. I never got this book out to read without someone coming up to tell me how brilliant it was.” –Mary Beard
“Season of Migration to the North, by Tayeb Salih, is an eloquent and restrained portrait of one man’s exile. It is a rare narrative in that it charts a life divided between England and Sudan. Without a doubt it is one of the finest Arabic novels of the 20th century, and Denys Johnson-Davies’ translation…does the original justice.” –Hisham Matar
“Emerging from a constantly evolving narrative, in a trance-like telling, is the clash between an assumed worldly sophistication and enduring, dark, elemental forces. An arresting work by a major Arab novelist who mines the rich lode of African experience with the Western world. An arresting work by a major Arab novelist who mines the rich lode of African experience with the Western world.” –Publishers Weekly
“A beautifully constructed novel by an author whose reputation in Arabic is deservedly vast.” –London Tribune
“It is certainly time that [Salih] be better known in America.” –The Christian Science Monitor
“An Arabian Nights in reverse, enclosing a pithy moral about international misconceptions and delusions…Powerfully and poetically written and splendidly translated by Denys Johnson-Davies.” –The Observer (London)
“Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih, a Sudanese novelist, and one of the most important Arabic-language novelists. It’s the story of a man who has studied abroad and returned to life in Sudan–about the sort of cultural conflict and internal conflict from colonization. It’s a very short novel and a number of people had recommended it to me based on what I had written. The subject matter is interesting: the story of this crisis of someone returning from life in the West.” –The Christian Science Monitor
“This book was given to me some time ago by a librarian who had to replace her fiction shelves with an information centre. I was completely captivated by the story…the writing is extraordinarily hypnotic. First published in Arabic in 1966, and in English in 1969 by Heinemann’s African Writers Series, it was much acclaimed but did not gain as wide a readership in English as it deserved.” –The Guardian
“Inevitably, Aboulela has been compared to Tayeb Salih, whose brutal novel Season of Migration to the North is considered a classic among postcolonial texts and covers the same geographical distance as Minaret (Salih’s fiction has been widely translated from Arabic; Aboulela writes in English.)” –The Daily Star (Beirut)
“The prose, translated from Arabic, has a grave beauty. It’s the story of a man who returns to his native Sudan after being educated in England, then encounters the first Sudanese to get an English education. The near-formal elegance in the writing contrasts with the sly anti-colonial world view of the book, and this makes it even more interesting.” –Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of Purple Hibiscus
“In this extraordinary 1966 novel, a young man returns to his Sudanese village after studying abroad…Salih’s own distinguished career with Unesco only sharpens this nightmare of a cultural singularity that twists into a lie. His sweet foreword remarks that he never made much money from fiction, so this reissue is doubly welcome.” –The Guardian
“The Sudanese classic novel Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih’s inversion of Conrad’s journey into Africa.” –The Guardian
“Though Salih’s work is deeply rooted in local culture, Johnson-Davies says it has a universal appeal: ‘He writes in the main about simple peasant people living in a village on the Nile, but they are individuals with very much the same preoccupations as anyone else. I recollect a scene where several of the characters boast about the merits of the donkeys they are riding, as though one was driving a Porsche, another a Maserati, and so on!’” –The New Yorker
“The meeting of the East and the West as a narrative of romance is not new territory: E.M. Forster, and lesser lights like M.M. Kaye and Paul Scott, have also presented the colonial encounter as a romance, at times failed, at other times forced. More important, writers from the other side of the colonial divide have come to prominence in recent decades through their own, perhaps more contested, portrayals. Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North was an early classic of this genre.” –The Nation
“Tayib Salih’s Season of Migration to the North is a clever inversion of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness: for in this case an Arab worker leaves his people and goes to Europe in search of employment, finding in the process that he has indeed entered his own heart of darkness.” –The Irish Times
“This story might seem like a village tragedy from the Sudan, the homeland of the writer Tayeb Salih, but its resonances carry far beyond the setting. Season of Migration to the North is a brilliant miniature of the plight of Arabs and Africans who find themselves no longer sustained by their past and not yet incorporated into a viable future. Swift and astonishing in its prose, this novel is more instructive than any number of academic books.” –The New York Times
“A modern Arabic classic.” –Reuters
“Denys Johnson-Davies…the leading Arabic-English translator of our time.” –Edward Said, The Independent
“Davies has done more than anybody to translate modern Arabic fiction into English and promote it.” –Nagib Mahfouz
Reviews from community readers on goodreads for season of migration to the north by Tayeb Salih
Petra X is a fool for love
Edited July 13, 2018
I liked the book quite a lot. It’s beautifully-written. But that is despite the misogynistic viewpoint that was probably true in the life of the village and the people in the countryside of Sudan. I disliked how that was amped up with racism when it came to the ‘Northern’ women. I don’t want books to be written from a pc point of view but when half the world’s worth is judged by looks, sexuality and their usefulness to men it doesn’t enhance my enjoyment of it. Do African Americans like reading about the slaves in Gone with the Wind?
I want to say two things, the first is to quote a GR author, Emer Martin: “I asked them why when they persecute men, for religion or colour it was seen by the world as oppression and when they persecute women, it was dismissed as tradition.”
Secondly, if the book had been written from any other point of view, it would have been dishonest. And this honest point of view didn’t make me dislike the characters or the book or the author, but gave me more insight into where the Rotherham and other grooming gangs came from and why their communities didn’t give them up.
We all share this tribal, wanting to protect our own, feeling, but hopefully we have moved on enough to out those whose who are criminally evil. That’s my point of view. Perhaps another culture would give a different weight to that, or think of it in a different way. Books like this help me try and understand that, but I don’t really understand it, not at all.
There are a lot of good reviews of this book. I only mentioned one aspect. Don’t let it put you off just because the world view is one that I find difficult to pass over when reading. It’s a very good read that made me think.
On advice I have had to rewrite a considerable part of this review so I remain pc and don’t give offence to anyone who might misinterpret what I mean, so I did. I’m not really happy about this. I don’t see why some cultures should get a free pass, and especially so when they are brought into and maintained in a country that does not support them. But I have to have some friends left to buy me drinks!
Edited February 9, 2022
موسم الهجرة الی الشمال = Mawsim al-Hijrah ilâ al-Shamâl = Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih
Season of Migration to the North is a classic post-colonial Arabic novel by the Sudanese novelist Tayeb Salih. In 1966, Salih published his novel, the one for which he is best known. It was first published in the Beirut journal Hiwâr.
The main concern of the novel is with the impact of British colonialism and European modernity on rural African societies in general and Sudanese culture and identity in particular. His novel reflects the conflicts of modern Sudan and depicts the brutal history of European colonialism as shaping the reality of contemporary Sudanese society. Damascus-based Arab Literary Academy named it one of the best novels in Arabic of the twentieth century.
Mawsim al-Hijrah ilâ al-Shamâl is considered to be an important turning point in the development of postcolonial narratives that focus on the encounter between East and West. Mawsim al-Hijrah ilâ al-Shamâl is a story told to an unspecified audience of the “traveled man,” the African who has returned from schooling abroad by an unnamed narrator. The narrator returns to his Sudanese village of Wad Hamid on the Nile in the 1950’s after writing a PhD thesis on ‘the life of an obscure English poet’.
Mustafa Sa’eed, the main protagonist of the novel, is a child of British colonialism, and a fruit of colonial education. He is also a monstrous product of his time. The unnamed narrator is eager to make a contribution to the new postcolonial life of his country. On his arrival home, the Narrator encounters a new villager named Mustafa Sa’eed who exhibits none of the adulation for his achievements that most others do, and he displays an antagonistically aloof nature.
Mustafa betrays his past one drunken evening by wistfully reciting poetry in fluent English, leaving the narrator resolute to discover the stranger’s identity. The Narrator later asks Mustafa about his past, and Mustafa tells the Narrator much of his story, often saying “I am no Othello, Othello was a lie,” as well as “I am a lie.”.
Edited July 13, 2020
Salih is an astonishing prose stylist (it’s comforting to know that he worked closely with the translator), and his ability is on full display here, using a mix of mediums that tell a seemingly classic story in a modern way. The plot occurs obliquely – wonderful to have a passive lead and an incredibly active, handsome subject – and the retold stories of Mustafa’s sexual escapades in London are, as many have pointed out, a conscious subversion of Othello and HEART OF DARKNESS. But I’m more interested in the conscious overlap with DON QUIXOTE, which I haven’t seen written about anywhere.
The narrator is much like Cervantes’s Cide Hamete Benegeli, an involuntary transcriber of someone else’s epic story, and the plot takes a very similar turn. Toward the end of the book, we have a wonderful scene with Mustafa’s library, and the narrator is disappointed to see that all the books are in English – they are listed in catalogue, as in QUIXOTE. Mustafa temporarily lost his mind and morality in an attempt to perpetuate the western perception of him as Othello, before, finally, after a long journey, regaining sanity and enjoying a homecoming and a brief, intentional return to normalcy. That is very much the Quixote move, and Salih’s conscious choice to write in Arabic, not English, feels like a rebuke of countrymen who only read in English, much like Cervantes was taking on the ghastly chivalric novels of his time.
The problem with indirect books is that sometimes one gets the sense that plot is being withheld for no reason than to withhold it. The outermost frame is written in direct address, and I would be frustrated listening to this storyteller. “Why did you wait 60 pages to tell me that critical plot point?” But there are long descriptive passages here that are as good as anything:
“I lingered by the door as I savoured that agreeable sensation which precedes the moment of meeting my grandfather whenever I return from a journey: a sensation of pure astonishment that that ancient being is still in actual existence upon the earth’s surface. When I embrace him I breathe in his unique smell which is a combination of the smell of the large mausoleum in the cemetery and the smell of an infant child. And that thin tranquil voice sets up a bridge between me and the anxious moment that has not yet been formed, and between the moments the events of which have been assimilated and have passed on, have become bricks in an edifice with perspectives and dimensions. By the standards of the European industrial world we are poor peasants, but when I embrace my grandfather I experience a sense of richness as though I am a note in the heartbeats of the very universe.”
Reviews from customers on Amazon
3.0 out of 5 stars Colonialism’s After Effects
Reviewed in the United States on March 13, 2017
This novel is very well written and has a flowing style. The story centers around two main characters who both leave Sudan to study in London with very different results. These men seem to be stuck in one of two modes, aggression or apathy.The story addresses several themes during the course of the book. They key theme is the after affects of Colonialism on a country and its people. The novel shows a lot of brutality toward women. There is some playful character development in a group of the village elders, however, the book overall is not one that will leave you uplifted or whistling a happy tune at its conclusion. I read the English translation, in which the translator worked extremely closely with the author, however, there is also one in Arabic which is said to have beautiful wording. My suggestion would be to read this book if you are interested in this topic, otherwise, you may find something of more interest elsewhere.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Human Condition in the Middle East
Reviewed in the United States on August 17, 2014
As a scholar on an NEH Institute on the topic “Arabic Literature in Translation” I studied this book and subsequently taught it in a high school humanities classroom. As the senior classes in TAG AP literature approached graduation, one student asked for my desk copy as a souvenir, and I gladly gave it to him before I also “graduated” to retirement. Now, over a decade later, I was searching for another copy and was elated to be able to buy a paperback copy at such a reasonable price. At this time of relative ignorance of the history of many parts of the Middle East and its myriad histories and populations, I am still impressed by the metafictional insights and perspectives that such a small book can give the reader. In addition, the language of the translation is amazingly lovely and poetic, yet clear and meaningful. Despite its compact size, it calls for multiple readings: once for the breathtaking personal stories and scenic descriptions, and at least two more to annotate the contrasting historically political perceptions of human beings who lived the times.
HALL OF FAME
5.0 out of 5 stars Read Heart of Darkness First
Reviewed in the United States on October 20, 2008
It’s interesting to read reviews of this short novel. Half of the readers see it as a satirical version of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. The other half – who perhaps have never read Conrad – think it’s a vain, silly (although lyrically written) tale of a sex-maniac guy who likes to seduce and abandon women. This is one of the inherent problems in a novel which is meant to reference another work. If you were to read “Bored of the Rings” (an awesome parody of Lord of the Rings) without ever reading Lord of the Rings you might think it silly. Read them side by side and you realize the brilliance at work. Not only is that true here as well, but I also do think that Season of Migration to the North stands alone as a work in its own right.
First, if you’ve never read “Heart of Darkness”, look it up on the web and read it. It’s online in its full text (it is out of copyright now) and you can read it for free. It’s a short novel, just like Season, and should only take you an hour or two. It is a brilliant work, well deserving of its high acclaim. Go on, we’ll wait for you to come back.
Now, having read Heart, you can see the many similarities with Season. Both tell of someone starting from their own civilization and venturing out into the “opposite”, and being changed by the experience. In Heart, an Englishman ventured into the Congo. In Season, Mustafa – a brilliant but anchorless student – is sent for education up to Cairo and then to London. Rather then becoming “refined” by the experience, he quickly bores with the women continually throwing themselves at his “exotic excitement”. He deliberately lies to them about his background, his country’s history, the meaning of his culture, and they don’t care – they just want to be held by his ebony hands.
Both novels create meaning in the power of the river, with the way it twists and turns around obstacles and keeps going. It is water which brings new life and destroys existing ones. Both novels use a second hand narration style, so you are hearing a lot of the story from a more neutral observer.
Some people take exception with Season’s focus-character, Mustafa, being a playboy. Really, he is in no way any worse than many novel protagonists! The only difference here is that the women he abandons then all decide life is not worth living 🙂 Hopefully nobody was taking that as a serious fact-ridden narration, that this beautiful dark man was waltzing through London society leaving a trail of dead bodies in his wake and it was another common happening. To me it was a social commentary on how certain types of individuals glamorize “powerful savages”, give themselves over fully to the fantasy and then cannot deal with reality when it rears its head. Wrap this up with the aforementioned tongue-in-cheek references to Heart and you begin to understand where this was all coming from.
I loved the lyrical beauty of the telling, the wealth of details about Sudan life, about how individuals felt about the colonization of Sudan and the subsequent social upheavals. Changes are coming – they are hinted at throughout the story. Wooden water mills are turning into pumps. Cars are traveling roads once only seen by camels. Even so, a 30 year old widow who does not want to marry is forced into a wedding with a man 40 years her senior, solely because her father orders her to.
I think there’s a lot to learn here, and that the journey is full of beautiful imagery. If you’ve read this once and it didn’t make sense to you, then read Heart of Darkness. Read a book or two on the history of Sudan. Then come back to this, and see what new layers present themselves.
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