Synopses & Reviews
A new novel from one of the world's great writers-an extraordinary work set in Mogadiscio, Somalia-that both breaks new ground and brings him back to his literary roots.
A strong, self-reliant woman who was born in Somalia but brought up in North America, Cambara returns to Mogadiscio to escape a failed marriage and an overweening mother. Her journey back to her native home is a desperate attempt to find herself on her own terms-however ironically, in a country where women are expected to wear veils. And she has given herself a mission to reclaim her family's home from the warlord who has taken it as his own.
Cambara finds emotional refuge and practical support with a group of Somali women activists working to broker peace in a country that has been savagely riven by its drug-addled, power-hungry men. Farah's novels have been famous for their unique African feminism since his debut, From a Crooked Rib (just reissued by Penguin); Knots represents his most powerful return to that legacy.
Knots also presents a penetrating portrayal of Somalia's capital city-a city that's changed from the city Westerners saw on CNN and in 'Black Hawk Down,' transformed into a state of violent anarchy and psychological disrepair that has never been more important to understand. An especially intimate portrait of Mogadiscio, it's informed by Farah's own recent efforts to reclaim his family's property there, as well as his experiences trying to negotiate peace among the city's warlords.
Now more than ever, Farah's deeply wise and worldly inside look at the Muslim world is valuable and necessary.
"Somalia-born Farah's ninth novel (after Links, first in a trilogy of which this is the second book) tells the spellbinding story of Cambara, a Somalian migr to Canada. Cambara is mourning her only son's drowning death in the Toronto pool of her abusive lawyer husband's mistress. In the aftermath, Cambara resolves to leave her husband, journey to Somalia and wrest control of her parents' property from warlord squatters. Her journey is mesmerizing.Cambara's first stop in Mogadiscio (aka Mogadishu, where the novel opens) is the filthy home of her foul-smelling cousin Zaak, a narcotic-chewing churl to whom she was briefly married. Zaak brings her up-to-date on the devastation to Somali society wrought by civil war and warlord rule: murderous AK-47 wielding youths; collapsed, empty theaters whose props have been burned for firewood (Cambara has worked as an actress and a makeup artist); constant mortal danger, despair and boredom. Cambara soon decamps for the relative luxury of an upscale hotel managed by Kiin, an unflappable woman who links Cambara to the Woman for Peace network, an organization of strong-willed activists that facilitates her daring production of a 'play for peace.' Kiin's web of connections also includes battle-hardened bodyguard Dajaal, who mobilizes others to drive the warlord's troops out of Cambara's family residence, which she then reoccupies to rehearse her play. Farah's depiction of the riotous urban madness that is Mogadiscio, where youth militias roam the ravaged streets of a once-cosmopolitan city, is both relentless and remorseful. But there is hope, too, in how Farah writes about the everyday heroics of people attempting to lead normal lives in the midst of savagely abnormal times. Farah describes these events in a lilting, poetic prose that is hypnotic in its ability to trace both the contradictions and hesitations of his protagonist and the complexities of Somali life. Despite its heavy subject, joy suffuses the novel. There have been Nobel rumblings about Farah for some time: certainly his ability to create a heroine whose power and depth of personality almost overwhelms the book written to contain her recalls the Australian laureate Patrick White. Few readers who let Cambara into their lives will easily forget her." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A literary vision both broad and deep, the vision of an exile and a patriot."
-The New York Times Book Review
"A brutal, beautiful, unforgettable unveiling of a volatile city and a complex woman 'risking her life in order to get the better of her loss.'"
"This is an intriguing, poetically intense and deeply pleasurable read."
-Los Angeles Times
Set in Mogadiscio, Somalia, this novel breaks new ground and brings the author back to his literary roots. He presents the story of a woman raised in North America who returns to her homeland in a desperate attempt to find herself and reclaim her family's home from the warlord who has taken it.
From the internationally revered author of Links comes "a beautiful, hopeful novel about one woman's return to war-ravaged Mogadishu" (Time)
Called "one of the most sophisticated voices in modern fiction" (The New York Review of Books), Nuruddin Farah is widely recognized as a literary genius. He proves it yet again with Knots, the story of a woman who returns to her roots and discovers much more than herself. Born in Somalia but raised in North America, Cambara flees a failed marriage by traveling to Mogadishu. And there, amid the devastation and brutality, she finds that her most unlikely ambitions begin to seem possible. Conjuring the unforgettable extremes of a fractured Muslim culture and the wayward Somali state through the eyes of a strong, compelling heroine, Knots is another Farah masterwork.
About the Author
Nurudin Farah is the author of nine novels, including From a Crooked Rib, Links and his Blood in the Sun trilogy: Maps, Gifts, and Secrets. His novels have been translated into seventeen languages and have won numerous awards. Farah was named the 1998 laureate of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, "widely regarded as the most prestigious international literary award after the Nobel" (The New York Times). Born in Baidoa, Somalia, he now lives in Cape Town, South Africa, with his wife and their children.