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Arab World: Mourning Tayeb Salih

The Arab literary world is mourning the death of Sudanese novelist Al Tayeb Salih.

The 80-year-old writer, who died in London, was best known for his novel Season of Migration to the North, which was selected by the Damascus-based Arab Literary Academy as the most important Arab novel of the 20th century. Al Tayeb was buried in Om Durman, Sudan, in a state ceremony, attended by the Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir.

News of his death quickly made it to Arabic blogs and online forums, where some bloggers who have met him and others who were planning to do so, paid tribute to this author.

Sudanese Tajooj2, who lives in Saudi Arabia, notes:

فإنّ عبقريّ الرواية الرائع الطيب صالح .. قرّر الهجرة اليوم ، ومضى
لندن كانت شاهدة الحدثْ ، والموسم للهجرةِ إلى الشمال ، تحوّل للموسمِ للهجرةِ إلى السماء !
The novel genius Al Tayeb Salih decided to migrate today and London witnessed this incident! The Season of Migration to the North became the Season of Migration to Heaven.

Tajooj2 continues:

همومه العربيّة الإفريقيّة ، السياسيّة الاجتماعية ، كانت تحاصر كلّ أحرفه ، هذا الخروج من الإفريقي ، ومرحلة اللادخول العربي ، أتعبته كثيرا ، وكتب عنها أكثر. للسودان أن تفرح كثيرا ، بهذا الابن “الضال” الذي هاجر حيّا وميّتا !

مات درويش قبل ثمانية أشهر بهيوستن ، وكرّر عين الفعلة الطيّب ، ومن قبلهما تدور قائمة المصحّات الغربيّة بأسماء الكثيرين من مبدعين عرب ، يمارسون المنفى حياةُ وموتا ، هل قدر العربيّ المبدع كذلك .. لست أدري !

His concerns were African and Arab, social and political, and they surrounded all his words. This state of leaving the African and not being able to enter the Arab has exerted him a lot and it is something he has written much about. Sudan has a lot to be happy for in this “lost” son, who has migrated dead and alive.

[Palestinian poet Mahmood] Darwish has died eight months before him in Houston, Al Tayeb repeated the same feat, and before them many Western hospitals have been crowded with the names of many Arab intellectuals who have chosen exile, alive and dead. Is this the fate of the Arab intellectual? I am not sure.

About Salih, Yemeni Fadhul Al Naqeeb [Ar] writes:

«الطيِّب» نِسْمَةٌ عَطِرَةٌ في حياتنا كالربيع، ومُنذُ أن قرأناه في رائعته «موسم الهجرة إلى الشمال» انعقدت بيننا وبينه عُرى صداقةٍ عميقة، ومُروج محبَّةٍ شاسعة، ووشائج ثقافةٍ مُمتدَّة، فقد جاءنا بالنيل السُّوداني محمولاً في مُهَجٍ من الحكايات الرائعة ووشائج من العلاقات الإنسانية الدافقة بلُغةٍ باذخةٍ بالغة الأناقة كأنَّها مكسوَّةٌ برقائق الذهب ومُضمَّخةٌ بالزعفران وأجود عُطور جزيرة العرب.
Al Tayeb was a perfumed breeze like spring in our lives. Ever since reading his marvel Season of Migration to the North, a deep bond of friendship was struck between us and expansive pastures of love and infinite cultural relations exanded. He has come to us from the Sudanese Nile full of amazing stories and humanitarian relations which he narrated in an elegant language, as though they have been adorned by gold and expanded by saffron and the best perfumes of Arabia.

The blogger continues:

وداعاً أيُّها «الطيِّب صالح»، وسيبقى طِيْبُكَ ما بقي الحرف والقلم.
Farewell Al Tayeb Salih. Your goodness will continue for as long as there are letters and pens.

Lebanese The Angry Arab Dr Assad Abu Khalil pays a fitting tribute and writes about Salih's work and his experience meeting Salih:

Sudanese novelist, Tayib Salih is dead. I was rather sad to read this news. I read his Season of
Migration to the North (which is available in an excellent English translation supervised by Salih himself) in college and was affected by it. His Arabic style was not what affected me but the themes: the anger and even aggression. I was rather disturbed by the sexual aggression and never understood what Salih was doing with this element, but then understood that it was a 1) metaphor for Arab dealings with the colonizers although I did not like
the use of sex as a weapon; 2) semi autobiographical. I met Salih in the 1980s and he could not have been more peaceful, and mild-mannered, and nice. I liked him instantly. I have said before that some of the most impressive and sophisticated intellectuals I have met in life have been from the Sudan. I don't know what it is: Sudan is a
place brimming with ideas. Remember that in the 1960s, the Sudanese Communist Party was one of the biggest political parties in the region.
Sudanese like ideas and debates, until the US-supported dictator, Ja`far An-Numayri was permitted to impose his Islamist version (assisted by the brilliant but dangerous Hasan Turabi in return for opening up his country for US companies and intelligence, and in return for the smuggling of the Falasha. Sudanese are comfortable in the realm of abstract ideas and would debate in a way that is different from us Arabs in the Mashriq [East]:
we end up shouting and getting agitated, while they can argue for hours while drinking and munching, very calmly. I know, I am engaging in cultural generalizations but I allow myself–but not the White Man–that privilege. I once saw Tayyib Salih in Washington, DC through his friend Halim Barakat. I went with Halim Barakat, Hisham Sharabi and Arab literary critic, Kamal Abu Dib, to hear him talk. Salih (who is one of the best conversationalists I have met […] was most interesting and amusing.

Another author, Moroccan Laila Lalami, who is based in the US, is also moved by the news. She writes:

I was terribly saddened to hear that the great Sudanese novelist, short story writer and literary critic Tayeb Salih passed away in London yesterday. He was eighty years old. A few months ago, when I was preparing my introduction to the new edition of Season of Migration to the North, I had considered going to London to interview him. But then life intervened: I was busy and thought I might be able to meet him some other time. That time never came. He published only a handful of novels, but each had the beauty and complexity of dozens of literary works.

Sudanese Optimist is saddened by the news and writes:

Sudan has lost a dear citizen, who has contributed tremendously to Sudanese and Arabic literature. His most acclaimed work is the 1966 novel “Season of Migration to the North.” The novel was, at one point, banned in Sudan for its inclusion of sexual imagery, yet it was declared “the most important Arabic novel of the 20th century” by the Syrian-based Arab Literary Academy in Damascus.

Earlier this year, The General Union for Sudanese Writers, requested Al Tayeb Saleh to be preliminarily nominated to win the 2009 Literature Noble Prize.

Al Tayeb Salih’s death will definitely leave a big void in the Sudanese literary world. He will be greatly missed.

Like in many online forums across the Arab world, Arabian Leopard, at the Emirates Economy Forum [Ar], notes:

الله يرحمه و يغفر له.

رواياته جميلة تأخذك في رحلة الى الثقافة السودانية و حياة الأرياف هناك

May Allah rest his soul in peace and forgive him.
His novels are beautiful and take you on a Sudanese cultural trip and the life of rural areas there.

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