|Born||12 July 1929|
|Died||18 February 2009 (aged 79)|
London, United Kingdom
|Occupation||Novelist, columnist, civil servant|
|Alma mater||University of Khartoum, University of London|
|Notable works||Season of Migration to the North, The Wedding of Zein|
Born in Karmakol, a village on the Nile near Al Dabbah, Sudan, in the Northern Province of Sudan, he graduated from University of Khartoum with a Bachelor of Science, before leaving for the University of London in the United Kingdom. Coming from a background of small farmers and religious teachers, his original intention was to work in agriculture. However, excluding a brief spell as a schoolmaster before moving to England, he worked in journalism and the promotion of international cultural exchange.
For more than ten years, Salih wrote a weekly column for the London-based Arabic language newspaper al Majalla, in which he explored various literary themes. He worked for the BBC's Arabic Service and later became director general of the Ministry of Information in Doha, Qatar. The last ten years of his working career, he spent at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, where he held various posts and was UNESCO's representative for the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.
Salih's writing draws important inspiration from his experience of a Sudanese village; life that is centered on rural people and their complex relationships. "At various levels and with varying degrees of psychoanalytic emphasis, he deals with themes of reality and illusion, the cultural dissonance between the West and the exotic orient, the harmony and conflict of brotherhood, and the individual's responsibility to find a fusion between his or her contradictions." Furthermore, the motifs of his books are derived from his Islamic background and his experience of 20th-century Africa, both pre- and post-colonial. Another, more general subject of Salih's writing is the confrontation of the Arab Muslim and the Western European world.
In 1966, Salih published his novel Mawsim al-Hijrah ilâ al-Shamâl (Season of Migration to the North), for which he is best known. It was first published in the Beirut journal Hiwâr. The main concern of the novel is with the impact of British colonialism and European modernity on rural African societies in general, and on Sudanese culture and identity in particular. His novel reflects the conflicts of modern Sudan and depicts the brutal history of European colonialism as shaping the reality of contemporary Sudanese society. Mawsim al-Hijrah ilâ al-Shamâl is a story told to an unspecified audience by the unnamed narrator, a “traveled man,” and an African who has returned from schooling abroad. The narrator returns to his Sudanese village of Wad Hamid on the Nile in the 1950s after writing a PhD thesis on ‘the life of an obscure English poet’. Mustafa Sa'eed, the main protagonist of the novel, is a child of British colonialism, and a fruit of colonial education. He is also a monstrous product of his time.
Mawsim al-Hijrah ilâ al-Shamâl is considered to be an important turning point in the development of postcolonial narratives that focus on the encounter between East and West. The Damascus-based Arab Literary Academy named it one of the best novels in Arabic of the twentieth century. The novel was banned in Salih's native Sudan for several years, because of its partly sexual content, and despite the fact that it won him prominence and worldwide fame. The novel was also adapted into a theatre production in Israel.[according to whom?]
Urs' al-Zayn (published in English as The Wedding of Zein) is a comic novella, published in 1966, centering on the unlikely nuptials of the town eccentric Zein. Tall and odd-looking, with just two teeth in his mouth, Zein has made a reputation for himself as the man who falls in love over and over with girls who promptly marry other men, – to the point where mothers seek him out in hopes that he will draw the eye of available suitors to their eligible daughters. "The Wedding of Zein" was made into a drama in Libya and won Kuwaiti filmmaker Khalid Siddiq an award at the Cannes Film Festival in the late 1970s.
Awards in honour of Tayeb Salih
In 1998, a group of Salih's friends formed a committee to honour him, and collected $20,000 for his personal use. He chose to use the money to establish the Tayeb Salih Creative Writing Award.
Since 2010, the al-Tayeb Salih Award for Creative Writing has been granted to outstanding modern Arab writers in the fields of novel, short story, and critical studies. The award has been sponsored by telecommunications company Zain Sudan and has been critically seen by some Sudanese intellectuals, calling it “an attempt to control the Sudanese cultural scene” by the Ministry of Culture.
Awarded since 2002, the al-Tayeb Salih Prize for Literary Creativity is a literary prize for fiction and short stories, presented by the Abdel Karim Mirghani Cultural Center in Omdurman, and is dedicated to fictional works by emerging Sudanese writers.
- نخلة على الجدول [Nakhla 'ala al-jadwal] (1953). "A Date Palm by the Stream"
- دومة ود حامد [Douma wad Hamid] (1960). "The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid", trans. Denys Johnson-Davies (1962)
- حفنة تمر (1964). "A Handful of Dates", trans. Denys Johnson-Davies (1966)
- عرس الزين [Urs al-Zayn] (1966). The Wedding of Zein, trans. Denys Johnson-Davies (1968)
- موسم الهجرة إلى الشمال [Mawsim al-Hijra ila ash-Shamal] (1966). Season of Migration to the North, trans. Denys Johnson-Davies (1969)
- ضو البيت / بندرشاه [Bandarshah I: Daw al-Bayt] (1971)
- مريود / بندرشاه [Bandarshah II: Maryud] (1976)
- Complete Works (1984)
- منسي إنسان نادر على طريقته (2004, memoir). Mansi: A Rare Man in His Own Way, trans. Adil Babikir (2020)
Compilations in English
- The Wedding of Zein and Other Stories (1968). Trans. Denys Johnson-Davies. Includes: "The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid", "A Handful of Dates" and The Wedding of Zein.
- Season of Migration to the North / The Wedding of Zein (1980). Trans. Denys Johnson-Davies
- Bandarshah (1996). Trans. Denys Johnson-Davies
Themes of some of his magazine articles, published in Arabic:
- The shining stars are like the stars of the Arab and Frankish flags, 2005
- For cities, uniqueness and modernity - East - 2005
- Cities have uniqueness and modernity - the West - 2005
- In the company of Al-Mutanabi and his companions, 2005
- In Janadriyah and Assilah, 2005
- My homeland, Sudan, 2005
- Memories of the seasons 2005
- Thoughts of travel 2005
- Introductions 2009
He died on Wednesday, February 18, 2009 in London. His body was buried on Friday, February 20 in Sudan, where the funeral ceremony was attended by a large number of prominent personalities and Arab writers, as well as the then Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, writer and former Prime Minister Sadiq Al Mahdi, and Muhammad Othman Al-Mirghani.
A quote from his novel
"We are by the standards of the European industrialized world, poor peasants, but when I embrace my grandfather, I feel rich, as if I were a tune from the heartbeat of the universe itself." Quoted from Tayeb Salih's Season of Migration to the North.
- "Tayeb Salih, 80, Cross-Cultural Arabic Novelist, Dies". The New York Times. 23 February 2009.
- Waïl S. Hassan, Tayeb Salih: Ideology and the Craft of Fiction, Syracuse University Press, 2003.
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- "Book Prize Publications". www.akmcc.com. Retrieved 14 January 2021.
- "A handful of dates": English translation
- Lynx Qualey, Marcia (11 November 2020). "Adil Babikir on 'Mansi': A Rare Book, and a Joy to Translate". ArabLit & ArabLit Quarterly. Retrieved 26 February 2021.
- Flood, Alison (19 February 2009). "Sudanese novelist Tayeb Salih dies aged 80". the Guardian. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
- "Tayeb Salih's 88th Birthday". Google.