Nuruddin Farah’s ‘Hiding in Plain Sight’

By LAILA LALAMI  For NYTIMES     NOV. 21, 2014

“Hiding in Plain Sight” begins with a threat. One evening in Mogadishu, Aar, a logistics officer for the United Nations, receives a letter in the mail. It consists of a single, misspelled word, but it’s terrifying all the same: deth! Aar wants to return to his home in Nairobi on the first flight out, but at the last minute, he decides to stop by the office to pick up photos of his children. As he steps out with the pictures in hand, Shabab militants strike the building.

A terrorist attack is a difficult place to start a novel. The writer must compete with a flood of words and images, most of them clichés. But the Somali novelist Nuruddin Farah is used to the challenges of turning fact into fiction. Over the last four decades, he has written about the homeland from which he was exiled, chronicling its contemporary history and struggles.

In his first novel, “From a Crooked Rib,” he wrote about a nomad girl who flees her family’s camp after they attempt to arrange a marriage for her with an older man. That book was followed by a trilogy, Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship, which explored the parallels between colonialism, patriarchy and dictatorship in Somalia, then still under Mohammed Siad Barre’s rule. Another trilogy, Blood in the Sun, examined the effect of internecine conflict, foreign aid and sexual violence on ordinary families. Though different in style from the Moroccan Tahar Ben Jelloun or the Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz, his work shares with them a preoccupation with capturing snapshots of a country in rapid transition.

“Hiding in Plain Sight” may begin with a terrorist attack, similar to the one that shook the United Nations compound in Somalia last year, but this is not a novel about violence. It is, instead, a novel about grief and love. The news of Aar’s death in Mogadishu reaches his half sister, Bella, in Rome, where she works as a photographer. Until now, Bella’s life has been free of responsibilities. Her parents are dead, and she has no children. She keeps lovers in three different countries — a model from Kenya, a sculptor from Brazil and a philosopher from Mali — but she is not attached to any of them. And her work takes her to exotic destinations around the world. But now, with Aar’s sudden death, she travels to Nairobi to take care of his teenage children, Dahaba and Salif.

Bella’s maternal instincts toward the children are strong and immediate; she wants to raise them and is prepared to leave behind her successful career and her wandering life. There are custody issues to sort out, however. The children’s mother, Valerie, who abandoned them a decade earlier, has suddenly returned and wants them back. To complicate matters, Valerie’s lover, Padmini, would like to raise the children in England and is currently mired in a dispute over property that her family owned in Uganda before Idi Amin’s expulsion of the Indian community.

Much of “Hiding in Plain Sight” is devoted to the conflict between Bella and Valerie over Aar’s children and his estate. One would think that starting life in a new city, taking responsibility for two teenagers and handling the complications of a disputed will would be enough to overwhelm anyone. But Bella remains steadfast. She receives legal help from Aar’s lawyer and emotional support from his friends. In addition, she seems to have a sizable fortune, which enables her to pay off people’s debts or get them out of sticky situations with the police. As a character, Bella makes the right choices at every juncture, but her strength proves to be one of the novel’s weaknesses. Her self-possession makes it impossible to care for her.

Though the story is told in the third person, usually from Bella’s perspective, it occasionally suffers from abrupt and ultimately jarring leaps into Valerie’s or Padmini’s point of view. There are also moments when the descriptions feel so distant or improbable that they break the illusion that the reader is in Bella’s mind: “She is a dark-eyed beauty with a prominent nose, heavier in the chest than she likes because of the attention it draws from men, even though she is overjoyed that she boasts the slimmest of waists for a woman her age and an African’s high buttocks. Drop-dead gorgeous, she also strikes most people as charming, well- read and intelligent.”

The rewards of reading “Hiding in Plain Sight” lie in Farah’s sensitive exploration of grief and his depiction of a family’s love for one another. The shock of Aar’s death takes a long time to unfold, and Bella’s feelings of anguish come to her unexpectedly. Farah is particularly adept at evoking the way in which the sight of a familiar face or place can trigger painful memories and how comfort can come to us from unexpected sources, just as Bella finds consolation in her love for Aar’s children.

There are moments when Bella lapses into generalizations about fellow Somalis, but shirks in horror when similar generalizations are made by foreigners. That dual feeling — pride in one’s country mixed with shame at its failures — is familiar to the immigrant, the refugee and the exile. It permeates this novel, which is also, in the end, a novel about displacement. Nearly all the characters have been forced to give up their homelands and live in countries that afford them physical safety and civil rights. What is hiding in plain sight, we come to learn, is their true selves.


By Nuruddin Farah

339 pp. Riverhead Books. $27.95

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Posted by on November 24, 2014 in Uncategorized


Maskaxdii Dunidoo Malaasan…Mawjadaheeda…

Kaftan, tagto xiiso leh iyo aqoon…waayo-waayo iyo xilli duqaydan ugu suntan THE GOLDEN AGE. Waa dib u milicsi ku saabsan Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Science and Neuroscience. Jecliyaa wararkan!

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Posted by on October 29, 2014 in Uncategorized


World University Rankings 2014-2015

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2014-2015 list the best global universities and are the only international university performance tables to judge world-class universities across all of their core missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. The top universities rankings employ 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators to provide the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons available, which are trusted by students, academics, university leaders, industry and governments.

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Posted by on October 23, 2014 in Uncategorized


Ali Mazrui: Godka Lagu Jannee…Geesi buu ahaa



“Ali Mazrui, a scholar and prolific author who set off a tsunami of criticism in 1986 by writing and hosting “The Africans: A Triple Heritage,” a public television series that culminated in what seemed to be an endorsement of African nations’ acquiring nuclear weapons, died on Oct. 12 at his home in Vestal, N.Y. He was 81.

His family announced the death without specifying a cause.

Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of Kenya, where Professor Mazrui was born, said at the time of his death that he was “a towering academician whose intellectual contributions played a major role in shaping African scholarship.”

His books and his hundreds of scholarly articles explored topics like African politics, international political culture, political Islam and globalization. He was for many years a professor at the University of Michigan, and since 1989 had held the Albert Schweitzer chair at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Reflecting his habit of provocation, Professor Mazrui wrote an article in 2012, posted on Facebook, accusing Dr. Schweitzer, the revered medical missionary in pre-independence Gabon, of being “a benevolent racist.” He wrote that Dr. Schweitzer had called Africans “primitives” and “savages,” and had treated Africans in a hospital unit that was separate from, and less comfortable than, one for whites.

Professor Mazrui’s courage transcended ideas. When he was a political-science professor in Uganda in the early 1970s, the country’s brutal dictator, Idi Amin, invited him to be his chief adviser on international affairs — “his Kissinger,” Professor Mazrui told The New York Times in 1986. Instead, he publicly criticized Amin and fled Uganda.

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Posted by on October 21, 2014 in Uncategorized


Reza Aslan: Fariid Faraxalan

Prof. Aslan waxa aan ku jecelahay qaab doodeedkiisa ku salaysan kalsoonida iyo aqoonta. Reza waa libaax miciyo tusay Bill Maher-ka “aan ahayn waxa uu ismooday”. Haddii qaabkiisan loo waajihi lahaa islaam-ka-bacowga – Islamophobia – isla markaana dhagax loo dhigi lahaa sheegashooyinkooda aan aqoonta iyo xaqiiqada taariikhiga ah ku dhisnayn…mugdigan dunidan ka muuqdaa ma waareen. Good job Dr. Reza…I love your style.

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Posted by on October 20, 2014 in Uncategorized


Gaza: The Story in 50 Seconds…

DAD LA DULLEEYEY IYO DUNI DAMIIR BEESHAY…Wael muxuu ku hadli ma hadal baa yaal!

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Posted by on July 24, 2014 in Uncategorized


Bob Davids: Management vs Leadership

In aad labadan kala fahantaa waxa ay kuu furi kartaa duni ballaadhan oo kaa daahnayd.

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Posted by on June 27, 2014 in Uncategorized