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After years of study in Europe, the young narrator of Season of Migration to the North returns to his village along the Nile in the Sudan. It is the 1960s, and he is eager to make a contribution to the new postcolonial life of his country. Back home, he discovers a stranger among the familiar faces of childhood--the enigmatic Mustafa Sa'eed. Mustafa takes the young man into his confidence, telling him the story of his own years in London, of his brilliant career as an economist, and of the series of fraught and deadly relationships with European women that led to a terrible public reckoning and his return to his native land. But what is the meaning of Mustafa's shocking confession? Mustafa disappears without explanation, leaving the young man---whom he has asked to look after his wife---in an unsettled and violent no-man's-land between Europe and Africa, tradition and innovation, holiness and defilement, and man and woman, from which no one will escape unaltered or unharmed. Season of Migration to the North is a rich and sensual work of deep honesty and incandescent lyricism. In 2001 it was selected by a panel of Arab writers and critics as the most important Arab novel of the twentieth century.
"The Wedding of Zein" unfolds in the same village on the upper Nile where Tayeb Salih's tragic masterpiece Season of Migration to the North is set. Here, however, the story that emerges through the overlapping, sometimes contradictory voices of the villagers is comic. Zein is the village idiot, and everyone in the village is dumbfounded when the news goes around that he will be getting married--Zein the freak, Zein who burst into laughter the moment he was born and has kept women and children laughing ever since, Zein who lost all his teeth at six and whose face is completely hairless, Zein married at last? Zein's particular role in the life of the village has been the peculiar one of falling in love again and again with girls who promptly marry another man. It would be unheard of for him to get married himself.In Tayeb Salih's wonderfully agile telling, the story of how this miracle came to be is one that engages the tensions that exist in the village, or indeed in any community: tensions between the devout and the profane, the poor and the propertied, the modern and the traditional. In the end, however, Zein's ridiculous good luck augurs an ultimate reconciliation, opening a prospect of a world made whole.Salih's classic novella appears here with two of his finest short stories, "The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid" and "A Handful of Dates."