First Bulaq Book Club Pick: ‘Season of Migration to the North’

After a week-long poll and 136 votes, Bulaq listeners have chosen Tayeb Salih’s (1929-2009) Season of Migration to the North as the first-ever Bulaq Book Club pick:

This classic work, published in Arabic in 1966 and in Denys Johnson-Davies’ English translation in 1969, is available in multiple editions.

It has become a teaching staple in Western institutions, as evidenced by Bhakti Shringarpure and Lily Saint’s recent survey of African literature professors. Season of Migration to the North was among the top ten texts in a survey of 105 academics about the books they use in African-literature courses. However, unlike other oft-taught North African authors — such as Naguib Mahfouz, Assia Djebar, Laila Lalami, and Nawal El Saadawi — Tayeb Salih appears with only this singular novel.

This one book, Season of Migration to the North, was enough to launch him to stardom, including into the sphere of the Nobel Prize committee’s notice, according to the Johnson-Davies’ memoirs. Yet other translations of Salih’s work — such as The Wedding of Zein or his Bandarshah, two novellas published together — have received scant attention. Most recently, a charming translation of Salih’s Mansi: A Rare Man in His Own Way, brought to English by Adil Babikir and published this April, has received scant attention.

All are invited to read or re-read Season of Migration to the North, look through other books by Salih, and join Bulaq on November 19 (or thereafter). We will use #BulaqBookClub on Twitter and Instagram as the date grows nearer.

To read online:

Granta: Best Book of 1966: Season of Migration to the North, by Ayşegül Savaş

The Independent: Raja Shehadeh discusses the changing reception of Season 

Paper Tiger: Leila Aboulela on Why She Loves Tayeb Salih’s Wedding of Zein

The Cypriot Man,” trans. Denys Johnson-Davies, from Arabic Short Storiesedited by Denys Johnson-Davies, Roger M. A. Allen

A Handful of Dates,” trans. Denys Johnson-Davies

WYNC’s “Underappreciated” series looks at Salih

Denys Johnson-Davies: Tayeb Salih’s ‘Season of Migration to the North’: Acclaimed for the Wrong Reason


This Monday, November 2, we will feature Sofia Samatar’s “Dear Tayeb Salih,” which appeared in the debut issue of ArabLit Quarterly.