Surviving the outbreak of the Somali civil war; academic finds modern-day parallels to 19th century Muslim leader

Audio 25:13

In this month's Africa: Stories in the 55, we take a look at two award-winning writers - Somali author Nadifa Mohamed, and Leila Abulela, Sudanese novelist - who speak about the influences on their craft.


Life in Somalia becomes increasingly difficult before the start of the country's civil war. The lives of two women and a girl intertwine in the final days before chaos breaks out in The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed. Partially inspired by her own grandmother, Mohamed speaks to Stories in the 55 about her novel, current writing and reads an excerpt from her award-winning work:

LISTEN to the interview with Nadifa Mohamed and hear her read from her novel "The Orchard of Lost Souls"

Manoeuvering within British academia is something Natasha Wilson (née Hussein) struggles with while working on research about Imam Shamil, a 19th century Caucasian Muslim leader. But life becomes increasingly difficult when her favourite student is accused of jihadist tendencies. Showing Shamil's personal struggle with Russian imperialists in parallel to Khartoum-born Natasha's own identity crisis, novelist Leila Aboulela talks about her writing process in The Kindness of Enemies: a Novel. She also speaks about her own return to Khartoum and why her next novel is a Scottish-based fantasy:

LISTEN to Leila Aboulela talk about her book, "The Kindness of Enemies: a Novel"

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