Salman Rushdie （essay date 1986）
SOURCE: “Nuruddin Farah,” in Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981–1991, Granta Books, 1991, pp. 201–02.
[Rushdie is the author of The Satanic Verses. In the following brief essay, written in 1986, he traces the divisions central to Farah's Maps.]
Here is a starving child, there is a mad dog; feed her, bomb him … information about Africa reaches us, most of the time, through a series of filters which, by reducing the vast continent to a cluster of emotive slogans, succeed in denying us any sense of complexity, context, truth. But then, as Nuruddin Farah reminds us in his new novel [, Maps,] （his sixth）, the West was always rather arbitrary about the names it pinned to Africa: Nigeria was named for an imperialist's mistress, Ethiopia lazily derived from the Greek for ‘a person with a black face’.
For many years Farah, one of the finest of contemporary African novelists, has been bringing us a very different world. His Africa, most particularly his native Somalia, is in revolt against the long hegemony of cartographers and bestowers of names. To be a Somali is to be a people united by a language and divided by maps. Maps is a book about such political divisions, and the wars they cause （the conflict in the Ogaden is central to the story）; but what makes it a true and rich work of art is Farah's knowledge that the deepest divisions are...
(The entire section is 558 words.)