Tayeb Saleh’s “Season of Migration to the North” Review

In Tayeb Saleh’s Season of Migration to the North, the protagonist Mustafa Said is a man who is divided between two worlds. He is a man who has migrated from the South to the North. He then returned to the South but only to search for the North which he could not belong to. In order to make up for his loss, he created his own world of North in his small private room which he considered to be his own world.

Mustafa Said is a representative of the lost generation of the South, those young men who were trying to blend the traditions and ideals of the South with the attractive modern aspects of life in the North.

When Mustafa Said left the South, he was actually giving away his roots, looking for himself for new soils where he would be planted like a new plant. He simply forgot that once a plant is removed from its soil, then it cannot grow new roots, and that even if it survives somewhere else, it would never be the same again.

The young Mustafa Said who was infatuated by the British and their clothes when they ruled Sudan was trying to go to Britain itself where he would conquer this country that humiliated his own country and people. But is he really that concerned? Does he really feel that he belongs to Sudan? This is not very certain, especially that Mustafa Said never affiliated with the people of his country. He always considered himself to be superior to them since he was very intelligent and good at school. But school to the Sudanese was a western tradition. Therefore, Mustafa Said did not really belong to his own people, but rather, he was trying to find some kind of belonging for himself, one in which he would be recognized as a superior person, just like the west he was influenced with.

But when Mustafa Said lands in England, he discovers that he is nothing but a black man, that is, a second class person. His intelligence is insulted, but more importantly, he fails to find the roots he has been looking for. He did not belong in Sudan and now he cannot belong in England, so where should he belong?

He can simply belong nowhere because he is the hybrid of two conflicting cultures, and therefore, it is the storm that rules inside him, the storm of a conflict that never comes to an end. In his internal conflict, and trying to come to grips with his reality, Mustafa Said tries to conquer the great empire of England by dominating its women in bed, and making sure that he can rule them. However, even at this task, he is not totally successful. He succeeded in destroying every English woman who was crazy about his African wildness, but only one destroyed, him, and this one was nothing but a representative of the old powerful England that still ruled him in his mind. He was finally forced to kill her, as if he was trying to get over his own defeat, by resorting to violence and eliminating the source of his inferiority.

When he returns to Sudan, Mustafa Said establishes a reputation among his people, but does he really become one of them? Not at all, in fact he becomes more estranged among them than an English man would. He has his own kingdom in that small room of his where no one is allowed in.

And then, all of a sudden he disappears. Where did he go? We know the answer at the end when we guess what happened. He was swallowed by the currents of the Nile.

It is the Nile that swallows everything in the end, the representative of civilization in the South. But we can also think of the water of the Nile as the sacred water that cleanses the soul and creates man into a new person, even if it has to swallow and destroy him as it did with Mustafa Said.

Did Mustafa Said represent the South or the North? Actually, neither this nor that. He only represented himself and a long list of young men from the South who were swallowed by the currents of conflicts between the civilizations. We can call him an eastern man with western vision, but this makes him neither an Eastern nor a western. He remains himself, that is, a man lost in a world of his own, a world where only conflict dominate and where defeat and victory are a matter of existence of nihilism, but in the end, he achieves neither. He simply gets swallowed by the Nile and its currents that represent the real conflict of civilization in which Mustafa Said was lost into from the very beginning.

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