An exile returning to Mogadiscio discovers he must settle some old scores, in a masterful tale from Somalian expatriate Farah (Maps, 1999, etc.).
Prefacing many chapters with appropriate quotations from Dante, the author tells a harrowing story of moral and physical disintegration in a once-gracious city that, following the brief, failed US intervention and the fall of a dictator, is now a living hell ruled by two rival warlords. Covering actual events with the “skin” of his own imagination, Farah relates the increasingly dangerous and surreal experiences of Jeebleh, a Somali academic married to an American and living in New York. Revisiting Mogadiscio to pay his late mother’s debts and exorcize some old demons, he is shocked by the destruction and the culture of violence. Young boys toting guns and chewing qaat are everywhere; at the airport, Jeebleh watches in horror as they shoot at an innocent family boarding a departing plane and kill a young boy. He wants to see his friend Bileh, a former political prisoner who now runs a refuge for abandoned children, and he also has to contact Caloosha, Bileh’s sadistic half-brother. Not sure whom to trust, Jeebleh fearfully navigates his way around the war-torn city, whose vultures are its best-fed inhabitants. Learning that Bileh’s little niece Raasta and her friend Makka have disappeared, Jeebleh suspects the involvement of Caloosha, who seems to be up to his ears in many vicious schemes, including murders committed to obtain people’s body parts. Jeebleh meets up with both Bileh and Caloosha while dodging assassins and trying to dig up the truth about his mother’s death. As he learns more about his mother, events in the city, and the disappearance of the two children, he reluctantly realizes he has to take action—in ways that will punish his pursuers and eliminate a killer.
A searing portrait of one of Africa’s worst killing fields, by one of her most distinguished writers.