Photo: Vaida V. Nairn
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Growing up in post-independence Sudan, Leila Aboulela did not imagine that she would go on to become one of Africa’s most-acclaimed women writers. Only after leaving her homeland and moving to the UK did Leila feel compelled to start writing fiction. What began as a hobby which she combined with teaching statistics at a college in Scotland, gradually became a full-time vocation. Leila is now a fully-fledged novelist and short-story writer.
In 2000 she received the honour of being the first writer to receive the Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story “The Museum”. Her first two novels The Translator (Grove Press, 2006) and Minaret (Grove Press, 2005) present us with feminine and feminist perspectives on dealing with and overcoming the obstacles that life throws at us. A Muslim herself, Leila is interested in bringing to life the experiences of “normal” Muslims in her work. How does he or she go about making sense of the world around them? How does he or she react to challenges, uncertainty and even trauma?
Leila’s latest novel Lyrics Alley (Grove Press, 2011) sees her taking on a new challenge, namely that of creating male voices. Male characters are brought to the forefront of the narrative to a greater degree than ever before in her work. Leila now lives in Qatar, yet, as Lyrics Alley also shows, memories of colonial Sudan, which she encountered during her youth, continue to provide a source of inspiration for her creative activity today. Place, memory and finding the extraordinary in the ordinary all give meaning to her prose.
Leila Aboulela won the first Caine Prize for African Writing. She is the author of two other novels: The Translator, one of the New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year in 2006, and Minaret. Both of Aboulela’s previous novels were longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Born in Khartoum, Sudan, Aboulela now lives in Doha, Qatar.
Lyrics Alley, published by Grove Press, is available in cloth now.
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Claire Hart has two great loves: art and communication. She enjoys communicating about art. Breaking down and exploring barriers to communication is how she earns her living. She lives her life partly in German and partly in English, but always in colour.