Nuruddin Farah’s Secret, the third in a suite of three novels called ‘Blood in the Sun,’ was written in Berlin in 1990. It was originally dubbed ‘Awake, When Asleep,’ an evangelical plea for social and political redemption whose idealism Farah did not walk out on but camouflaged under an uncompromising exploration. Somalia had become a nightmare and has stayed a life-long trauma for Farah himself. With the Wall collapsing outside the windows at Potsdamer Platz and the jubilant demonstrators’ catch phrase "We are the people" metamorphosing into "We are ONE people,” the novel’s title and language changed. Farah’s documentation of the collective horror of Somalia in decay, the converse of German unity (as it seemed), could only be searched through a radical literary diagnosis that shattered ‘normalcies’ that bound together family-clan, man-woman, right-wrong, sanity-insanity, God-gods-fathoms. Farah deconstructs, unveils, ruthlessly the mechanisms of patrilineal genetics, patronymics, rape, blood binds, foster children, down to their minutest, most mazelike particulars; even the interlinguas of animals. All is made transcendent. This is what the ‘secrets’ connote. Cultural taboos and religious codes of loyalty, normalcies, kill.
In monologues, all the five narrators, Kaaman, Sholoongo, Yaqut, Damac and Nonno, tell stories about themselves, about each other. They do it through fables, innuendos, whispers, wrong-sayings, rumors, lies, voyeurism. As readers we have to endure Farah’s fragmented world, simply for it to make sense for us. To achieve this, his fable tells us, we have to understand that there is no secret if life is here to be lived. That the collective mystery of Somalia is a lie: no one understands why someone shoots another human being; why you eat locusts; that no one knows that God does not exist.
Now, a quarter of a century later, dysfunctional Somalia is still there, unchanged, but so also, increasingly, the out of Somalia world, from Damascus in the east to Berlin and Stockholm in the north. Farah’s Secrets concerns us all.
Stockholm: Modernista , 2015. v-x p.