Nuruddin Farah: Sweet and Sour Milk

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The latest addition to my website is Nuruddin Farah‘s Sweet and Sour Milk, another grim tale from Somalia. Soyaan is feeling decidedly unwell and, by the end of the chapter, is dead. Has he been poisoned and, if so, by whom? The family, not wishing to make a fuss and also because Muslims bury their dead quickly, do not have an autopsy. His twin brother, Loyaan, aware of Soyaan’s role in government, finds out that Soyaan had another side to his life, indeed, more than one side. Firstly, he had a long-standing relationship with Margaritta, a half-Somali, half-Italian woman, by whom he had a son, Marco. Secondly he seems to have been very much involved in the opposition to a man known as the President, but clearly based on General Mohamed Siad Barre. However, the regime seems to honour Soyaan as a hero of the revolution, naming a street after him and writing a tribute to him in the government newspaper, with the help of Keynaan, Soyaaan’s and Loyaan’s somewhat scurrilous father. The more Loyaan investigates, meeting not only Margaritta but various people who may or may not have been involved with Soyaan in the opposition, the more he is drawn into this opposition himself and the more he learns about the nasty side of the Somali regime, including arbitrary arrest, not documented, torture and vicious repression. Farah’s novels invariably paint a grim picture of his country and this one is no different but, as always, he tells his story well.

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