Season of Migration to the North Study Guide

Season of Migration to the North

Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih

Season of Migration to the North is a post-colonial novel by Tayeb Salih. The narrator returns to Sudan after his studies in England and meets a man named Mustafa Sa'eed who, it seems, is well-read in English. After questioning him, Mustafa tells Tayeb his story, his own education in England, his love affairs with English women and his anger and confusion towards the West. Tayeb sees Mustafa as very similar to himself, a realization that brings him to the brink of sanity until he finally finds independence from Mustafa.

Season of Migration to the North Book Summary

The unnamed narrator has returned to his native village in the Sudan after seven years in England furthering his education. It is the 1960s, and he is eager to make a contribution to the new postcolonial life of his country.

On his arrival home, the Narrator encounters a new villager named Mustafa Sa'eed who exhibits none of the adulation for his achievements that most others do, and he displays an antagonistically aloof nature. Mustafa betrays his past one drunken evening by wistfully reciting poetry in fluent English, leaving the narrator resolute to discover the stranger's identity. The Narrator later asks Mustafa about his past, and Mustafa tells the Narrator much of his story, often saying "I am no Othello, Othello was a lie," as well as "I am a lie."

The Narrator becomes fascinated by Mustafa, and he learns that Mustafa was also a precocious student educated in the west but he held a violent, hateful and complex relationship with his western identity and acquaintances. The story of Mustafa's troubled past in Europe, and in particular his love affairs with British women, form the center of the novel. The narrator then discovers that the stranger, Mustafa Sa'eed, awakens in him great curiosity, despair and anger, as Mustafa emerges as his doppelgänger. The stories of Mustafa's past life in England, and the repercussions on the village around him, taking their toll on the narrator, who is driven to the very edge of sanity.

In the final chapter, the Narrator is floating in the Nile, precariously between life and death, and makes the conscious choice to rid himself of Mustafa's lingering presence, and to stand as an influential individual in his own right. In the middle of Nile, he yells, "Help! Help!" The novel ends upon that cry and it is unclear whether his decision is too late, if it the right one, and if he, others, and the country itself will receive the help needed.

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