(alternative spelling: Salih, al-Tayyib) (Sudanese, 1929– )
Born in the north of Sudan, Tayeb Saleh studied at London University and later became Head of Drama in the Arabic Service of the BBC. His novel Season of Migration to the North (1971) has been described as one of ‘the six finest novels in modern Arabic literature’ and as ‘an Arabian Nights in reverse’. In it an unnamed narrator recounts his meeting with Mustafa Saeed who has been a brilliant student and lecturer in Britain. But Mustafa Saeed has been imprisoned for killing his female lovers; killing them at climax of sex. Put like this, Season of Migration to the North seems like an exotic penny dreadful. In fact, it is a masterpiece about the contradictions of colonialism and post-colonialism written in a supple and hypnotic prose, brilliantly translated by Denys Johnson-Davies.
Naguib Mahfouz, Abdulrazak Gurnah IP