Quotable: Tayib Salih

Every time I read through Tayib Salih’s Season of Migration to the North I notice how the book remains as relevant today as it was when it was first published.

Professor Maxwell Foster-Keen continued to draw a distinctive picture of the mind of a genius whom circumstances had driven to killing in a moment of bad passion. He related to them how I had been appointed a lecturer in economics at London University at the age of twenty-four. He told them that Ann Hammond and Sheila Greenwood were girls who were seeking death by every means and that they would have committed suicide whether they had met Mustafa Sa’eed or not. “Mustafa Sa’eed, gentlemen of the jury, is a noble person whose mind was able to absorb Western civilization but it broke his heart. These girls were not killed by Mustafa Sa’eed but by the germ of a deadly disease that assailed them a thousand years ago.” It occurred to me that I should stand up and say to them: “This is untrue, a fabrication. It was I who killed them. I am the desert of thirst. I am no Othello. I am a lie. Why don’t you sentence me to be hanged and so kill the lie?” But Professor Maxwell Foster-Keen turned the trial into a conflict between two worlds, a struggle of which I was one of the victims.

This, of course, from the scene in which Professor Maxwell Foster-Keen pleads with the jury to spare Mustafa Sa’eed’s life.


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