Home | News    Wednesday 18 February 2009

Sudan’s top novelist dies in London at 80


February 17, 2009 (LONDON) — Al-Tayib Saleh one of Sudan’s prolific and iconic novelists died today in London from complications related to a kidney condition, one of his close friends told Sudan Tribune. He was 80 years old.

Saleh was born at a village in North Sudan in 1929 and moved to the Khartoum for his bachelors’ degree. He then traveled to UK to receive a degree in international affairs.

During his stay in London, Saleh worked at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Arabic service and managed to become the head of the drama division at a record young age.

The Sudanese novelist also worked for the Information ministry in Qatar and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) headquarters in Paris.

Saleh is best known for his masterpiece ‘Season of Migration to the North’ written in 1966 which deals with the perceptions of people in the third world to the West. The novel was translated to a number of world languages and a subject of intense debate inside and outside Sudan.

It was also selected by a panel of Arab writers and critics as the most important Arab novel of the twentieth century.

Owing to sexually explicit portions of the novel the Sudanese authorities banned the book in the 90’s. The Sudanese novelist at the time said the decision is similar to “locking the stable after the horse already gone”.

Some observers at the time described the move by Khartoum as retaliation to Saleh’s stance opposing the Islamic backed regime. He wrote highly publicized op-ed titled “Where did these people come from? Actually who are they?” questioning what he saw as blatant violation of Sudanese customs and traditions by the government and its figures at the time.

However in an interview with Sudanese TV last year Saleh praised the Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir. He also said that a newer version of the government has emerged following the breakaway between Bashir and Islamist leader Hassan Al-Turabi.

A number of Sudanese organizations have recently pushed for nominating Saleh for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Saleh enjoyed immense popularity and respect among ordinary Sudanese. He is survived by his wife and three girls.


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Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.
  • 18 February 2009 06:16, by manis

    Inna lillah wa Inna ILihi Raagiwoon

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    • 26 October 2012 19:59, by noneverydu

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  • 18 February 2009 08:03, by tayeb M. Alhassan

    May Allah almighty rest his soul in peace and make the Jenna his final reward. He died only in body but still alive in his novels and books.

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    • 14 November 2012 08:29, by rangmaheya

      I would like to thank you for your nicely written post, its informative and your writing style encouraged me to read it till end. Thanks

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    • 16 November 2012 11:32, by faetivlyouhs

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  • 18 February 2009 14:00, by wannawilla S M

    Though i never read his novels or books, and i’ve not get in contact with his writings through my academics. its a loss to Sudan. We ask God to forgive him and put his soul in eternal rest. Amen

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  • 18 February 2009 14:16, by postmortem

    Eternal rest grant unto him Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him, may he rest in peace Amen. He no wonder added into the population educated sudanese.

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    • 18 February 2009 15:39, by pills

      Good bye Mr. Saleh. Your master piece novel "season of migration to the North" had been inspirational to us during our secondary school days. We had never got tired of reading it over and over again.

      You had lived as an icon, and you chosed to die with your integrity. The lord has given, and the lord has taken, so let His name be praised.

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    • 19 February 2009 10:05, by Samir mahmoud

      These are sad moments,i have learnt with deep sorrow,the sad news of the death of Al-Tayeb Saleh,and wish to express my heartfelt condolonces to his family,and to the people of Sudan.May God Almighty shower him with His mercies and grant us the fortitude to sustain what is ordained.

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  • 18 February 2009 18:13, by lotueng Junub

    Al Tayib Saleh, was an icon and a brilliant novelist of our time, he would be miss greatly by all Sudanese masses. but his legacy will live on in his books.

    May Almighty God rest his soul in peace.

    Lotueng Junub.

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    • 19 February 2009 03:00, by Carol

      As are many other Americans, I am deeply saddened to learn that the voice of the great writer and thinker Al Tayib Saleh has been silenced. He will live in our hearts forever for his brilliant novel (Season...), his thoughtful observations and his extraordinary life of grace. Deepest sympathies to his family and the Sudanese people.

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  • 21 March 2011 15:40, by James Umuor M.

    May he raise in peace and love of God be with him forever.

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  • 13 March 2013 17:54, by viviana34

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