From a Crooked Rib

by Nuruddin Farah | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0141187174 Global Overview for this book
Registered by Sirah of Helsinki, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on 1/30/2006
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10 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by Sirah from Helsinki, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Monday, January 30, 2006
`God created Woman from a crooked rib; and any one who trieth to straighten it, breaketh it.’

Ebla, an orphan of eighteen, runs away from her nomadic encampment in rural Somali when she discovers that her grandfather has promised her in marriage to an older man. But even after her escape to Mogadiscio, she finds herself as powerless and dependent on men as she was in the bush. As she is propelled through servitude, marriage, poverty and violence, Ebla has to fight to retain her identity in a world where women are ‘sold like cattle’. Written with complete conviction from a woman’s viewpoint, Nuruddin Farah’s spare, shocking first novel savagely attacked the traditional values of his people, yet is also a haunting celebration of the unbroken human spirit.


Somali novelist, writing in English and Somali. Farah has ofted dealt the history of his country throught the fates of his characters. The central theme in his work is the women's liberation in postcolonial Somaliland, which he sees as a precondition for political and individual freedom. The majority of his essays, novels, short stories, plays, and film scripts are written in English, but he has also translated children's stories from Arabic, Italian, French, and English into Somali. Farah received in 1998 the Neustadt Award.

--...Nasser believed she could remove her props of age and mask of beauty whenever she wanted; it was as easy for her as undressing before a near-stranger had been, a near-stranger whom she imagined would make carry the seed which would multiply in her womb and flourish the actress's splendour. She said, her voice calm as her delivery had been rehearsed:
--"Some of us have been catapulted into the centre-stage of a century we actually don't belong in and have nothing in common with. Some of us have been forced by circumstance to accept conditions and the dictates of the century's needs. It's like living all your life natural darkness or in an area bathed in moonlight. Then suddenly powerful electric bulbs are switched on and you become the spot on which the light falls, upon whom all the world's eyes meet." (from Sardines, 1981)

Nuruddin Farah was born in Baidoa, a city in Italian Somaliland, which was at the time under British control. His father worked as a translator for the British. Soon after Nuruddin's birth he was transferred to work for the governor in the Ogaden (the Ethiopian West). In 1948 the British restored the Ogaden to Ethiopian rule, and a year later the recently formed United Nations returned the south to Italy. Farah received his primary education at schools in Kallafo, Ogden. He spoke English, Arabic, and Amharic, the official Ethiopian language.

Somalia was granted independence by the British and Italians in 1960. Three years later Farah moved to the southern region to flee from border conflicts in the Ogaden. After studying literature and philosophy in India at the University of Chandigarh, he returned to Somalia and taught in Mogadisho. He lived then in England for a time. In 1974 Farah escaped from Somalia after authorities had condemned his second novel, A NAKED NEEDLE. Siyad Barre's regime banned all of his works in Somalia and ordered that the author be killed. Farah has held teaching positions at universities in the United States, Germany, Italy, Nigeria, Sudan, Gambia, and India and has visited the former Soviet Union. He has lived years also in Rome. When Farah met his sister and father in Mombasa's Utange refugee camp he asked himself in YESTERDAY, TOMORROW: VOICES FROM THE SOMALI DIASPORA (2000): "what would become of us without mitigation, the kindly interventions of our women?" Farah saw again his home country in 1996, first time after 22 years in exile. In 1998 Farah moved to Capetown, South Africa.

Farah made his debut as a novelist with FROM A CROOKED RIB (1970), which appeared in the Heinemann African Writers' Series. It told a story about a nomad girl, Ebla, who flees her family's camp because she has been promised in marriage to an old man, 40 years her senior. The novel reveals the authoritarian role of the patriarchal clan system, in which women are exploited and denied individual rights. Ebla's quest takes her first to a small town, and eventually she arrives in Mogadiscio. Farah's Somali novel was serialized in the local papers in 1973, but was discontinued when the government found his work politically objectionable.

A Naked Needle (1976) explores the relationships of Somali men and women with Westerners. The protagonist, Koschin, is a Mogadisho teacher, whose favorite novel is Wole Soyinka's The Interpreters. He has promised to marry an English girl while studying overseas. The girl arrives in Somalia and expects Koschin to keep his promise. Farah studies the crisis of Somali identity allegorically, and suggests that women's lives are even more dominated by male authority since the achievement of political independence.

Farah's trilogy, VARIATIONS ON THE THEME OF AN AFRICAN DICTATORSHIP (1980-1983) draws parallels between the colonial practices and authoritarian regimes in postcolonial Somalia. The first part, SWEET AND SOUR MILK (1979), is a novel about political terror and two twins, Loyaan, a dentist, and Soyaan, a journalist, who dies mysteriously. In his inquiry about his brother's death Loyaan finds out the Soyaan was a member of an organization that aimed at overthrowing the regime. At the end Loyaan is appointed ambassador of Yugoslavia, like his brother, and his fate is left open. The book received the English-Speaking Union Literary Award. SARDINES (1981) was praised for its consciousness of style. In the story an editor of a national newspaper is sacked. Her husband is lured to become a minister by false promises. He rules his house with the iron hand of traditional Islam and she fears that her daughter will be forced to submit to the horrors of female circumcision.

MAPS (1986) is the first novel of a second trilogy, BLOOD IN THE SUN, that studies the pain of cultural uncertainty in postcolonial reality. GIFTS (1999) dealt with foreign aid. Duniya, a nurse at a maternity hospital, is once widowed and once divorced. She has no intentions getting entangled again - until she meets an American-educated economist Bosaano, driving his cousin's taxi. "Suddenly the two of them were exaggeratedly conscious of each other's presence, aware of their physical proximity for the first time. Disregarding a small crowd that out of curiosity had gathered around the car, Duniya and Bosaaso touched, marvelling at having shared a life-and-death experience, at having stopped in good time before crossing a threshold." The novel offers the reader more optimistic view of the war-torn land than Maps, which focuses on the Ogaden war of 1977, and SECRETS (1998), which mirrors Somalia's violent recent history and long-simmering tribal hatreds. In the story young successful businessman Kalaman learns the truth about himself and his family - he is the result of a gang rape committed by members of a rival clan. Kalaman lives in Mogadisho and one day his chidhood sweetheart, Sholoongo, visits him and tells that she wants to procreate a child with him. Sholoongo has strange powers, she stays at his apartment, and Kalaman suspects that she had an affair with his father. Farah's tells the story from different viewpoints within the family - they all have their own secrets and special relationship to Sholoongo and to forces she represents. "We say, in Somali, that you don't ask someone whom you know to tell you about themselves." Kalamen rejects her but she sleeps with his grandfather Nonno, who dies. "One body. Three secrets," ends Farah the story.

Journal Entry 2 by Sirah from Helsinki, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Saturday, January 27, 2007
Finished reading during my trip to Africa. Since we have a minority of Somalians living in Finland I was already familiar with Somali traditions and culture, but still the way of their thinking is so strange to me:
Woman´s position is even lower than animal´s. Nuruddin Farah is speaking on behalf of Somali women.

Journal Entry 3 by Sirah from Helsinki, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Saturday, January 27, 2007
Tarjosin kirjaa Afrikkalaisten tai afroamerikkalaisten kirjailijoiden teoksia-relayssa, josta sen hyväksyi Ruzena. Lukuiloa!

Journal Entry 4 by ruzena on Monday, February 05, 2007
Thank you Sirah for relaying the book (arrived today) and for enclosing the above thorough backgrounds. Interesting!

Journal Entry 5 by ruzena at Vantaa, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Sunday, July 08, 2012
The shortish novel was written over fifty years ago, in 1968, and describes circumstances in Somaliland years before that. So I wish that today woman's position there would be higher than animal's. Not to despise animals.

Ebla is an orphan nomadic girl who at "18 or 19" flees from the bushes to avoid arranged marriage. She then stops in a small town but soon travels to Mogadishu. The story gives illustrative observations about the big differences between these surroundings; but the brave young woman is not stopped by any cultural shock but draws her own conclusions and makes her own mistakes. The mutual understanding and help of women often comes to Ebla's rescue.

The text is easy read, with short sentences and detailed dialogue. The writer does not hide his tendentious aims when criticizing women's situation or when degrading traditional beliefs and manners. This makes many touching and also tragicomic events, but the literary effect suffers from simplified persons. But this was the author's debut, and as such, not bad.


Journal Entry 6 by ruzena at on Thursday, July 12, 2012

Released 8 yrs ago (7/12/2012 UTC) at


As you like it?

Journal Entry 7 by wingSoozreaderwing at Joensuu, Pohjois-Karjala / Norra Karelen Finland on Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Thank you very much for this book, I'll look forward to reading it!

Journal Entry 8 by wingSoozreaderwing at Joensuu, Pohjois-Karjala / Norra Karelen Finland on Thursday, August 01, 2013
This was a very interesting read! I had not read anything by a Somali writer before and I would say this was a good start:)

Journal Entry 9 by wingSoozreaderwing at on Thursday, August 01, 2013

Released 7 yrs ago (8/1/2013 UTC) at


The book is on its way to the next reader as a part of the Global VBB:) Happy Reading!

Journal Entry 10 by book-a-neer at Melbourne CBD, Victoria Australia on Friday, August 23, 2013
Arrived today. Thank you very much.

Journal Entry 11 by book-a-neer at Melbourne CBD, Victoria Australia on Monday, February 17, 2014
While reading this book, I've wanted to pinch Ebla in order to let her know that what she's doing is wrong or that she should not just accept things as they are because it's her culture. And that's exactly it. It's her culture and so she does things the way she has understood it to be. I can't impose my own views on her.

A good read if a bit frustrating (see above).

Journal Entry 12 by book-a-neer at Mr. Percival in Malvern East, Victoria Australia on Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Released 6 yrs ago (3/26/2014 UTC) at Mr. Percival in Malvern East, Victoria Australia


This is now a bookray.

Billbooks - AUS/International
Edwardstreet - NZ/International
Andrasthe - Austria/EU
Meg72 - Portugal/EU <--- book is here
Arvores - Portugal/EU
kaiou - Italy/International
DubaiReader - UAE/International
Aberpeter - US/US or Canada
hyphen8 - US/US

Journal Entry 13 by Billbooks at Malvern East, Victoria Australia on Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Found this today - bookcrossing fairy had a hand in it will be great for my 666 challenge as I have not read an African book so far this year.

Journal Entry 14 by Billbooks at Malvern East, Victoria Australia on Friday, May 08, 2015
Struggled with this but perhaps I am becoming a bit jaded. I have read a few third novels about the mistreatment of women I found the main character just insipid and I couldn't work out really what the author was trying to say. Anyway my third African read for the 666 challenge this year.

Journal Entry 15 by wingEdwardstreetwing at Wellington City, Wellington Province New Zealand on Saturday, June 06, 2015
received and read for the 666 challenge where I have reviewed. will be sent to the next reader early next week. thanks for sharing.

Journal Entry 16 by wingAndrasthewing at Klagenfurt, Kärnten Austria on Saturday, July 11, 2015
An interesting book from 1970 and certainly easy to read. The protagonist is a dependent nineteen year old girl from a rural area, who flees an arranged marriage. She travels from place to place following other people's advice and finding herself in the same role and position over and over again. Only at the very end does she learn how to make her own decisions. The novel concerns itself with the role of women in the society, from genital mutilation to arranged marriage/slavery and the duty to bear and endure. The protagonist Ebla, it seems, had her fair share of grief, but was more or less lucky compared to other stories I have come across.

Men are enemies, opressors and some women get girls into this system by delivering them to husbands. Thus not even women can be trusted as they too are part of the systems that have been upheld by men. They run everything and women have no place to complain or rebel. Girls are not educated and remain almost completely helpless - with a few exceptions in this book.

Thank you for sharing!

Journal Entry 17 by wingAndrasthewing at Klagenfurt, Kärnten Austria on Monday, July 13, 2015

Released 5 yrs ago (7/13/2015 UTC) at Klagenfurt, Kärnten Austria


Sent onwards

Journal Entry 18 by wingMeg72wing at Ílhavo, Aveiro Portugal on Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Book arrived, thank you! I haven't read many African authors, so I think this is going to be a good read.

Journal Entry 19 by wingMeg72wing at Ílhavo, Aveiro Portugal on Thursday, August 13, 2015
I have mixed feelings about this book. I really liked the theme – a Somali girl who runs away to the city so she won’t be forced to marry an old man her grandfather chose – but the writing style did not captivate me. I found it a bit “shallow”, like a story a teenager would write, although the author focused on some pretty good issues - forced marriages, female circumcision and the overall treatment of women as cattle.

The main character – Ebla – was interesting with her mixed (and opposing!) emotions, but there was no great development in the story. I would have liked to read a more complex plot – and there was a lot of raw material for that! Pity…

Journal Entry 20 by kaiou at Pisa, Toscana Italy on Wednesday, September 16, 2015
The book is here with me!

I will take it with me travelling around to read it as soon as possible.

Thank you!

Journal Entry 21 by DubaiReader at Dubai, Dubai United Arab Emirates on Monday, May 09, 2016
Thank you so much for sending this well travelled book, I'm looking forward to reading it and sending it on again :)

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