Jamal Mahjoub

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Jamal Mahjoub (born London 1966) is a mixed-race writer of British and Sudanese parents. He writes in English and has published seven novels under his own name. In 2012, Mahjoub began writing a series of crime fiction novels under the pseudonym Parker Bilal.[1]

Published work[edit]

Writing in The Observer, Zoe Heller described Mahjoub's first novel, Navigation of a Rainmaker as providing "a rich picture, both of Africa's vast, seemingly insuperable problems - and of the moral dilemmas faced by a well-meaning, ineffectual stranger".[2] Wings of Dust, Mahjoub’s second novel explores the legacy of the first generation of Northern Sudanese who were educated in the West in the 1950s and inherited the task of creating the newly independent nation. In the Hour of Signs recounts the story of the Mahdi who led a revolt in 19th-century Turko-Egyptian Sudan, expelling the Khedive Ismail’s troops. According to the TLS the novel conveys "A profound awareness that man refuses to learn from history, because he is blind to the guises in which it repeats itself.".[3] In the process General Gordon was killed which led to the British Reconquest and the formation of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan in 1898.

"Mahjoub’s first three novels can be loosely read as a trilogy of political events in Sudan. Emulating the turmoil and uncertaintly of the sudan, his writing distinguishes itself by its dynamism"[4]

The Carrier (1998) is split between the early 17th century and present-day Denmark, where an archaeological find reveals a link to a visitor from the Arab world in medieval times. The novel’s astronomical theme touches on the discovery of Heliocentricity and the work of Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. Travelling with Djinns tells the story of Yasin, a man with a similar background to the author, who absconds with his young son Leo and travels through Europe in a Peugeot 504.[5] In The Drift Latitudes, Rachel, following the death of her son, becomes aware of the existence of a half-sister, Jade; the product of a relationship her father had late in life. The novel depicts life around a jazz club in Liverpool frequented by African sailors in the 1960s.[6] Nubian Indigo addresses the author's Nubian heritage on his father's side. The novel uses a mixture of fable and multiple characters to describe events around the evacuation of Nubian villages as a consequence of the raising of the Aswan High Dam. The novel was first published in French in 2006.[7][8]

Critical reception/Awards[edit]

Mahjoub’s work has been broadly acclaimed and translated. In 1993, The Cartographer’s Angel won a one-off short story prize organised by The Guardian newspaper in conjunction with the publisher Heinemann Books. In the 2000s his work received much attention in Europe. In 2001 in Italy he was a finalist for the La cultura del mare[9] prize started by Alberto Moravia. In 2004 in France The Carrier (French:Le Télescope de Rachid) won the Prix de L’Astrolabe, an award given annually at the Etonnants Voyageurs festival in St Malo. In 2005, "The Obituary Tango" was shortlisted for the Caine Prize. In 2006 a short story, "Carrer Princessa", won the NH Hotels Mario Vargas Llosa prize for short stories.[10]

Parker Bilal[edit]

In 2012 Mahjoub began publishing crime fiction under the pseudonym "Parker Bilal". The Golden Scales is the first of a projected series set in Cairo featuring the exiled Sudanese detective Makana. The second book in the series, Dogstar Rising, appeared in February 2013. The third book in the series is "The Ghost Runner, published in 2014.


As Jamal Mahjoub[edit]

  • Navigation of a Rainmaker (1989)
  • Wings of Dust (1994)
  • In the Hour of Signs (1996)
  • The Carrier (1998)
  • Travelling With Djinns (2003)
  • The Drift Latitudes (2006)
  • Nubian Indigo (2006)

As Parker Bilal[edit]

  • The Golden Scales (Bloomsbury 2012)
  • Dogstar Rising (Bloomsbury 2013)
  • The Ghost Runner (Bloomsbury 2014)
  • The Burning Gates (Bloomsbury 2015)
  • City of Jackals (Bloomsbury 2016)
  • Dark Water (Bloomsbury 2017)


  1. ^ John Crace (17 March 2013). "Jamal Mahjoub: 'My wife says Parker Bilal is much nicer' | Books". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  2. ^ Zoe Heller, factes The Observer, London; 31 December 1989.
  3. ^ The Times Literary Supplement, 28 February 1997.
  4. ^ Caroline A. Mohsen (2000). "Narrating Identity & Conflict: History, Geography, and the Nation in Jamal Mahjoub's Portrayal of Modern-Day Sudan". World Literature Today. 74 (3): 541–554. JSTOR 40155822. 
  5. ^ Maya Jaggi (20 September 2003). "Review: Travelling with Djinns by Jamal Mahjoub | Books". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  6. ^ Kevin Le Gendre (26 February 2006). "The Drift Latitudes by Jamal Mahjoub: Meet me down the Nubian jazz club". The Independent. London. 
  7. ^ Romans et nouvelles. "Nubian Indigo". Actes Sud. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  8. ^ Stéphane Guibourgé (27 February 2006). "Nubian Indigo". Le Figaro. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  9. ^ "Esplora il significato del termine: Premio Premio 'La cultura del mare', 5 finalisti a San Felice Circeo". Archived from the original on 14 December 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2014. 
  10. ^ España. "NH Hotels". Retrieved 28 April 2013. 

External links[edit]