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Sweet and Sour Milk

Nuruddin Farah
Winner of the prestigious Neustadt International Prize for Literature, Nuruddin Farah is often praised as Africa's greatest contemporary novelist. The trilogy, Variations on the Theme on an African Dictatorship, in particular, has earned him enormous critical acclaim and is considered "the centerpiece of Farah's achievement" by The Guardian.

Farah often states that his intention is to "keep his country alive by writing about it." And his remarkable novels, at the cost of exile from his homeland for over 25 years, strip bare the political and social horror of a country wrought by civil war. Loosely linked through characters, each novel brings forth the inescapable reality of those who live in an atmosphere where public and private justice is always obscured.

The first novel in Farah's universally acclaimed Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship trilogy, Sweet and Sour Milk chronicles one man's search for the reasons behind his twin brother's violent death during the 1970s. The atmosphere of political tyranny and repression reduces our hero's quest to a passive and fatalistic level; his search for reasons and answers ultimately becomes a search for meaning. The often detective-story-like narrative of this novel thus moves on a primarily interior plane as "Farah takes us deep into territory he has charted and mapped and made uniquely his own" (Chinua Achebe).

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The acclaimed first novel in the Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship trilogy

About the Author

Nuruddin  Farah
Credit: Arja Teikola
Nuruddin Farah is the winner of the 1998 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. He is the author of ten novels, including Sweet and Sour Milk, Sardines, and Close Sesame. Farah, who was exiled from his native Somalia twenty-five years ago, lives in Cape Town, South Africa, with his wife, daughter, and son.

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  • “Farah is in control of his enormous talents as a novelist, writing in the best tradition of Solzhenitsyn and Gabriel García Márquez.”—World Literature Today 
  • "Nuruddin Farah is a writer who is not limited to the issues facing his homeland. No matter what his future concerns will be or where he chooses to write them from, his is a voice that demands to be heard."—Seattle Weekly
  • "Farah's trilogy isn't simply a period piece. There are still dictators in the world, and as they topple one by one, people still struggle against their legacies. 'What I never could have predicted,' says a character in Close Sesame, 'is how easily governable we are. . . . The Grandest Actor performs in front of an applauding audience that should be booing him.' Such an expression overflows the boundaries of Somalia."—Utne Reader


This book is made possible through a partnership with the College of St. Benedict, in honor of the legacy of S. Mariella Gable, a distinguished teacher at the College, and by the generosity of Graywolf Press donors like you.
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