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Somali writer wishes to make ‘Pather Panchali’ like film


Nadifa Mohamed, a Granta best young British novelist, likes images formed in the mind to take a physical shape

NadifaNew Delhi: Nadifa Mohamed, a Granta best young British novelist, likes images formed in the mind to take a physical shape and says she would love to make something as honest and beautiful as “Pather Panchali” but set in her birthplace Somalia.

“I have always loved films and used to watch Bollywood movies in Hargeisa as a child, I would love to make something as honest and beautiful as ‘Pather Panchali’ but set in Somalia,” the London-based writer of “Black Mamba Boy” and the recent “The Orchard of Lost Souls” says.

“I think it would be amazing to see images that you formed in your own mind take a physical shape, and for many other people to collaborate on that vision. There are things of such beauty in Somalia/Somaliland that outsiders never see and a film would illuminate them,” Nadifa, who aspires to be a filmmaker, told PTI in an interview.

She has already started the process of adapting “The Orchard of Lost Souls” into a feature film.

Nadifa was born in the Somali city of Hargeisa in 1981 while Somalia was falling deeper into dictatorship. In 1986, she moved to London with her family in what she thought was a temporary move but a couple of years later it became permanent as war broke out in Somalia.

Her father’s stories were the basis of her debut novel “Black Mamba Boy”.

“The Orchard of Lost Souls”, published by Simon & Schuster and set in Hargeisa, is the story of three women – nine-year-old Deqo, an orphan born and raised in the Saba’ad refugee camp; Kawsar, a well-off widow in her 50s whose late husband was the city’s chief of police before the public offices were purged; and Filsan, an ambitious young soldier in her late 20s.

And as the country is unraveled by a civil war, the fates of the three women are twisted irrevocably together. “It was a desire to look back on the world I left behind as a child,” Nadifa says about her new book.

“I was and am much more interested in how people, particularly women, cope with conflict rather than in the historical details of what caused the conflict and how it progressed. I narrowly missed being caught up in the civil war but all of my extended family have stories of the destruction and suffering it engendered.

“It’s fascinating to me that these ordinary people have such incredible stories of courage and despair and I wanted to focus on how anonymous individuals relate to the violence that’s all around them.”

She says the Granta recognition gave her a “boost of confidence when I really needed it and encouraged to me finish the book rather than giving up and joining the circus or something!”

Nadifa, who was educated in London and went to Oxford to study history and politics, is working on her third novel that “begins in the hospital ward I was born in during the Somali dictatorship and then takes many crazy turns”.

She is also interested in music and is learning the oud. On present Somali writings in English, she says, “It’s an expanding world. I was delighted to see that Warsan Shire, an incredible Somali poet, has been appointed Young Poet Laureate of London and there is a real community of Diaspora Somali writers growing from Italy to the US.

There are also plenty of female poets in the Horn of Africa who are turning a traditionally oral literary culture
into a written one.”


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