Where is Ogaden Region in World Literature? Dr. Mohamed Abbas Part I

“I spent a remarkable year in a walled Muslim city
called Harar. I wanted to tell a story of about the
intimate lives of a people from a complex and troubled
country we know so little about beyond the stereotypical
images of famine and  poverty we see in the media” Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb

Sometime ago – three years and half to be exact – I was among a community of literature folks who met in the Malaysian capital in conjunction with the Kuala Lumpur International Literary Festival. It was 4 days event in which a number of world-class writers presented book launches, poetry reading, writing workshops, play reading, book discussions and translation works. The event was organized by the Malaysian International Literature Society and was held at several conference halls around Bangsar Village – a flourishing high-end residential suburb near the city. And although this literary festival brought together a wide range of authors, poets and literary icons from around the globe, but none of my favourite writers was among them such as Chinua Achebe, Nuruddin Farah, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Isabel Allende, to name few.

Once I reached Bangsar Village on that pleasant morning, I was told by the event organizer that all authors will be reading their works simultaneously in various different halls, and me as a participant, have the option to choose which session I prefer. Not knowing exactly which writer to choose, I just tried my luck (nasib baik as Malaysians say) and joined Camilla Gibb’s session – a talented Canadian writer and one of the twenty-one writers to watch in the 21st century, as has been described by the jury of the Orange Prize.

As we were being shown to our seats, a tall pretty young lady entered the hall and the audience applauded loudly to welcome her. Camilla Gibb started to read from one of her novels – Sweetness in the Belly. This charming story and elegantly written novel represents the life of Lily, a young white Muslim nurse who, after the death of her parents, moves to the city of Harar in the Ogaden region in Eastern Ethiopia.



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