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Award-winning Somali writer Ubah Cristina Ali Farah was recently at a literary festival on the Italian island of Sicily, to promote her new book Le stazioni della luna (Phases of the Moon).

Set in the 1950s when Somalia was under a UN Trusteeship, the novel revolves around the struggle for independence and the writer takes her inspiration from the godfather of the Somali novel,  Nuruddin Farah, whose 1970 novel, from a Crooked Rib in English, won international acclaim.

Paying tribute to Nuruddin Farah, the Somali female novelist centred her story on the main character, Elba, the young female pastoralist who escapes an arranged marriage in his novel, but in her novel, she escapes to a more emancipated world with modern possibilities for Somali women.

“Literature is a dialogue with other texts and novels,” says Farah explains – a conversation between the past and present. She also explores conversations between the men and women through her work, something that is all too often sadly missing in Somali society.

Somalia, known for being the “nation of poets”, kept the tradition of poetry writing for men, yet Somali women are now primary storytellers and the ones taking that mantle in the diaspora.

In her view, Somali women take this role because they have “more space” outside Somalia to pursue their literary ambitions – unshackled as they are from the cultural expectations placed upon them in a male-dominated society.

Farah’s first novel, Little Mother, published in 2007, also centers on two female cousins who are separated and eventually find each other in Europe. Farah believes writing fiction is a way to root herself again in a foreign land.

Source: Adapted from BBC