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Inhaltsangabe: Nuruddin Farah is one of the finest contemporary African novelists.” Salman Rushdie
The second novel in Nuruddin Farah's Blood in the Sun trilogy, Gifts is the beguiling tale of a Somali family and the struggles of its powerful matriarch to keep it whole. Duniya is a single mother, raising twins while working as a nurse in a Mogadiscio hospital. Her self-sufficient world is rocked when her rebellious daughter brings home a mysterious foundling infant. And when Duniya accepts a ride to work from a wealthy, romantically interested family friend, her whole life is turned upside down.
Meanwhile, the hospital where she works is besieged by a desperate population ravaged by war, drought, disease, and famine. Western relief agencies have invaded Somalia with their charity, and some Somalis chafe at tainted goods and the burden of debts they can never hope to repay. With lyrical, luxuriant prose, Farah weaves a spellbinding tapestry of reportage, dreams, memory, folktales, and family lore. In his hands, Duniya's tale becomes emblematic of the struggles of an entire people.
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Review: Though he has lived in exile for the last 20 years, Nuruddin Farah's eye never strays far from his native Somalia. In Maps and Secrets, the first and third volumes in his Blood in the Sun trilogy, he explored the devastating effects of tribal hatred and civil war on his society; the middle volume, Gifts, however, is of a different stripe altogether. Though also set in Somalia, it is a sunnier, more optimistic novel, and a love story, to boot. The protagonist is Duniya, a nurse at a maternity hospital in Mogadishu. Once widowed and once divorced, she has experienced the injustices heaped upon women in her culture--as a young girl Duniya was given by her father to an elderly man to be his wife; after his death she remarried, only to have her child taken from her by her alcoholic husband's family when they divorced. Free at last, she has no intentions of getting entangled again--until she meets Bosaaso, an American-educated economist who has returned to Somalia to help his country during its economic crisis:
Duniya thought that marriage was a place she had been to twice already, but love was a palace she hadn't had the opportunity to set foot in before now. If what she and Bosaaso were doing was the beginning of a long courtship that might eventually lead to such a many-roomed mansion of love, so be it. So far she had only seen glimpses of it, in a rear-view mirror, in the eyes of a driver who wasn't a taxi driver.But love is not all Nuruddin has on his mind. He constantly reexamines the theme of gifts, from the personal gifting of one's body or heart to the impersonal "aid" bestowed by wealthy nations upon the poorer ones. But Gifts is hardly a political tract, for it consistently eschews the general in favor of the particular. In tracing Duniya's budding relationship with Bosaaso, Nuruddin not only tells the love story of two individuals but also etches a remarkable portrait of women in Somalia. The relationship between Duniya and Bosaaso is sweet, funny, and tender, but it is in her ties to her women friends and daughters that the book shines. As she learns to swim and drive, to stand up to her overbearing former in-laws and to trust her heart, it is within the context of an extended web of friends and family. Maps and Secrets expose the uglier aspects of war-torn Somalia; Gifts, on the other hand, offers its hidden strengths. --Alix Wilber
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