Africa-American & African Studies: Season of Migration to the North

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Africa-American & African Studies: Season of Migration to the North

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  1. Reading Mustafa Sa’eed’s relationship with the English women as a metaphor for contemporary (1960s) power struggles, what does Seasons of Migration to the North say about either (a) the relationship between east and west, or (b) the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized?

‘Season of migration to the north’ is a Sudanese post colonial novel written by Tayeb Salih. The novel is a tale of two parallel postcolonial characters.  The anonymous narrator returns to his native home Sudan after spending seven years furthering his education in England. In his village, he encounters Mustafa Sa’eed, a villager who is less concerned about his achievements unlike the others. Mustafa Sa’eed recites a poem in English while drunk and betrays his past. The narrator resolutely discovers their similarities with Mustafa who likewise studied in Europe although he violently harbors hate of his western acquaintances that had a complex relationship.  He in fact confessed killing his British woman while in England and exploited a number of them sexually where three of them committed suicide. The narrator’s discovery of Mustafa’s experience in England triggers anger, curiosity, and despair in him. Mustafa drown in River Nile and disappears mysteriously leaving the narrator to take charger of Mustafa’s wife and his two sons. The novel emphasizes on the troubled past of Mustafa in Europe where he hunts a number of women and finally falls for a British woman. His marriage with the woman is consummated with violence and imprisonment. He finally moves to his village in Sudan along the banks on Nile where he remarries and bears children. Mustafa is used to reveal the narrator’s past indirectly where he befriends him and makes him his sons’ guardian and his enigmatic life repository before committing suicide. The narrator is passive and is subdued by sought of a concealed relationship with parents and villagers. The novel touches on sexual mores, status of women, colonial arrogance and Sudan’s Independence.

            ‘Season of migration to the north’ attempts to lay criticism on imperialism as a way to expose it. The title north is used not only as a direction but an ideology. “In her eyes I was a symbol of all her hankerings. I am south that yearns for the North and the ice” (Salih 30). This  shows the icy nature of Mustafa since he is portrayed as having no emotions or feelings showing the competitive nature between South and North for instance “ I was like something rounded, made of  rubber: you throw it in the water it doesn’t get wet, you throw it on the ground and it bounces back” (Salih 20). “…a southern thirst being dissipated in the mountain passes of history in the north” (Salih 42)  portray Mustafa’s  desire to leave  South and become part of North and his attempt to do this by marrying a Briton, leads him in Jail and ends up in Sudan or South. However, he did not entirely detach from north since he had photographs, collection of books for study and spoke fluent English. Alienation hunts the narrator until the end. The author condemns the effects of colonialism. The life of Mustafa tells the nature of contamination and cultural contact between British which is the former colonial power of Sudan. The sexual exploits upon women could be vengeance towards the British colonizers as noted “This is a fact in my life: the way chance has placed people in my path who gave me a helping hand at every stage,, people for whom I had no feelings of gratitude: I used to take their help as though it were some duty they were performing for me” (Salih 23). His misapprehension of his inviolability indicates the consequence of attempt to be assimilated in civilization as contradicted by his culture.  Sa’eed’s mind absorbed Western civilization which in turn ended up breaking his heart. This shows an opposition between civilization or West and savagery or Africa which could not unite due to the differences in economic, political and social status.

Individuals who have developed inferiority complex as a result of colonization try to imitate the west as in the case of Sa’eed who comes to realize that no level of education would equalize him and ‘them’. From the novel, Mustafa Sa.............


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