BOOK REVIEW / A gift horse with a nasty bite: Gifts by Nuruddin Farah, Serif pounds 9.99
Sunday 02 May 1993
Farah's heroine Duniya was herself a 'gift', given by her dying father as a bride for his blind crony, who was old enough to be her grandfather. She made the best of it and had quite a diverting set of twins, but was subsequently wary of all offerings, especially between those with power - ie, the men in her society - and those without - ie, the women.
Having been married twice and then watched over by various male relations, Duniya is at last largely self-supporting as a midwife in a Mogadishu hospital. She is determined that her three children should not accept charity from self-appointed benefactors or extended family. Extra strain is put on her scruples when she falls genuinely in love with a financially successful man called Bosaaso, who has worked in New York for 25 years and comes equipped with the video her children crave and a car she finds increasingly useful. While Bosaaso's motives are genuine, too, he must learn to tiptoe round Duniya's premise that gifts are suspect. The negotiations are tense.
The novel's strongest points are the nuance of characterisation, the richness of its symbolism and the unselfconscious interweaving of the mythical with the mundane. It is set in 1985, and its domestic and romantic drama is punctuated by press reports of rain failure and escalating famine. There are implications of collusion between donor countries, multi- nationals and local rulers undermining the country's self-determination and dignity - a subtextual examination of the nature of giving that finds EC countries supplying 'only slightly' Chernobyl-contaminated milk, and Western banks draining profits from hard currency-producing cash crops just to service their loans.
The book was conceived and drafted before the latest wave of Somali famine and civil war, certainly before the US marines were sent in last year on Operation Restore Hope, to which Farah apparently nodded grudging approval. He is said to deplore news pictures which show Somalis only with 'faces empty of everything, save the pains of starvation', and his novel, at least, displays faces full of personality and the expressions of a still-proud culture.
game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers
North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Oxygen-starved 'dead zones' with no marine life up to 100-miles long discovered in the Atlantic Ocean
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
- 4 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 5 Tory activist asked to step down after Labour candidate Rupa Huq is 'manhandled' while questioning Boris Johnson on the campaign trail
The C-Word - review: Sheridan Smith shines in a warm, honest adaptation of Lisa Lynch's book about living with cancer
X-Men Apocalypse: First look at Jubilee and Jean Grey played by Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner
American Horror Story: Hotel Angela Bassett set to make 'lots of trouble' with Lady Gaga in season 5
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 4 - review: Sansa is in danger of becoming another footnote in Westeros' bloody history
Adam Sandler's The Ridiculous Six: Make-up 'used to darken skin of actors to make them look Native American'
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils