Book Club: Season of Migration to the North
By listener demand, we re-read Season of Migration to the North, the 1966 classic by the Sudanese novelist Tayeb Salih. Its unnamed narrator returns to his village “on a bend of the Nile” after being educated abroad — and confronts the enigmatic figure of Mustafa Sa’eed, who also once emigrated North, and whose string of sexual relationships with Western women ended in tragedy. This iconic novel was instantly acclaimed in Arabic and in the 1969 English translation by Denys Johson-Davies. But it’s the only one of Salih’s works that have achieved a wide readership in English. What is it about this novel that resists interpretation and demands re-reading? What makes it iconic? And why have his other books received so little attention?
Why is this book so iconic, and why does it overshadow all Salih’s other work, such that his great Bandershah seems to be out of print?
What do you think of Denys Johnson-Davies’ assertion that people are reading this novel all wrong?
What’s the function of Mustafa Saeed’s story? Is he real?