6/3/2020
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50 years ago, ‘From a Crooked Rib’ was born, telling a feminist story


Saturday March 7, 2020

Nuruddin Farah is one of East Africa’s most prolific writers. He has written novels, short stories, plays and essays. His work has been translated into several languages.

Nuruddin’s first novel, From a Crooked Rib has been in print for slightly more than half a century. It was first published in 1970 by James Currey. This novel counts among the first African stories that dealt with the question of women in the society.

A Crooked Rib should be read alongside Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter and Nawal el Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero as Africa’s ‘feminist’ narratives.

FEMALE PROTAGONIST

The story of Ebla, the female protagonist of the novel, is a tragic one. It is the tale of a woman trapped in a society that always tilts the scales against her. She runs away from an ‘arranged’ marriage to an older man, ends up sexually abused in the city where she thought she would gain freedom from control by men, and is perpetually struggling to retain some dignity in her life.

Nuruddin was in Nairobi recently to celebrate the 50th anniversary of From a Crooked Rib at Cheche Bookshop, Lavington. In a conversation with Tom Odhiambo, he reflected on a number of issues relating to why he wrote the story, what the novel has become since it was published and the subject of African women in the past and today.

On the origins of From a Crooked Rib

"....From a Crooked Rib is not my first novel. There were two novel manuscripts before From a Crooked Rib. I have no idea where the manuscripts are. I had sent the manuscript of the first novel called To Make a Deal to a publishing house in New York.

They looked at it and asked me to revise it and I lost interest. There was another novel and again I lost interest in it. But the one novel that kept me grounded was From A Crooked Rib. Now, From a Crooked Rib has become, in a way, mythical because when I sent it to the publishing house, the editor, James Currey, wrote a letter to me. In those days there were no emails. So, he wrote a letter to me and he said, ‘We would like to ask you one simple question, are you a man or a woman?’

How was the novel received when it was published?
No From a Crooked Rib is not my first novel. There were two novel manuscripts before From a Crooked Rib. I have no idea where the manuscripts are. I had sent the manuscript of the first novel called To Make a Deal to a publishing house in New York.

They looked at it and asked me to revise it and I lost interest. There was another novel and again I lost interest in it. But the one novel that kept me grounded was From A Crooked Rib. Now, From a Crooked Rib has become, in a way, mythical because when I sent it to the publishing house, the editor, James Currey, wrote a letter to me. In those days there were no emails. So, he wrote a letter to me and he said, ‘We would like to ask you one simple question, are you a man or a woman?’

How was the novel received when it was published?





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