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Fictions of African Dictatorship

Cultural Representations of Postcolonial Power


Edited By Charlotte Baker and Hannah Grayson

Fictions of African Dictatorship examines the fictional representation of the African dictator and the performance of dictatorship across genres. The volume includes contributions focusing on literature, theatre and film, all of which examine the relationship between the fictional and the political. Among the questions the contributors ask: what are the implications of reading a novel for its historical content or accuracy? How does the dictator novel interrogate ideas of veracity? How is power performed and ridiculed? How do different writers reflect on questions of authority in the postcolony, and what are the effects on their stories and modes of narration? This volume untangles some of the intricate workings of dictatorial power in the postcolony, through twelve close readings of works of fiction. It interrogates the intersections between real and literary space, exploring censorship, political critique and creative resistance. Insights into a wide range of lesser known texts and contexts make this volume an original and insightful contribution to scholarship on representations of dictatorship.

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12. Mighty Mouth, Minor Literature: Siad Barre’s Dictatorship in Italian Postcolonial Literature (Lorenzo Mari / Teresa Solis)

← 234 | 235 →


12  Mighty Mouth, Minor Literature: Siad Barre’s Dictatorship in Italian Postcolonial Literature

Mohamed Siad Barre’s autocratic rule over Somalia began with a coup d’état, including the murder of the former President Abdirashid Ali Shermarke on 15 October 1969, and lasted twenty-two years (1969–91), deeply marking Somali postcolonial history as a whole. In its latter years it also determined most of the political, social and economic conflicts leading to the outbreak of Somali civil war, which started with the demise of Barre’s regime and is still ongoing. Siad Barre’s political action, initially inspired by the secular principles of scientific socialism, was officially based on the motto, ‘Socialism unites, tribalism divides’,1 but his regime eventually turned out to be supported by a specific inter-clan faction called ‘MOD’, from the initials of the three clans composing both Barre’s family and government (Mareehaan, Ogaden and Dulbahante). Although heavily questioned in some recent reconstructions of the conflict,2 it can be argued that the hegemonic force held by, or just ideologically attributed to, the MOD produced that clan rivalry which fuelled the war after its outbreak.

Equally ambivalent and divisive was the position of Somalia on the geopolitical terrain, shifting from an alliance with the USSR to one with the US during the Ogaden War between Somalia and Ethiopia (1977–8). This change was mainly due to the decision of the USSR to back Ethiopia, which was governed, at the time of the conflict in Ogaden, by another autocratic leader siding with the Soviet bloc: Mengistu Haile Mariam. ← 235 | 236 → During Barre’s regime, these political ambiguities were always concealed, if not directly suffocated, by a strong internal programme of propaganda, censorship and repression. This is aptly symbolized by the ironic appropriation of Barre’s childhood nickname, ‘Afweyne’ (‘Mighty Mouth’), by his political opponents which points, in this case, at the strength of political propaganda. In this regard, Gabriele Proglio has recently argued that ‘Siad Barre’s dictatorship was violent and murderous also because it made people feel alone, it muzzled sociality, it denied people the possibility for social and collective spaces to exist’.3 In terms of literary criticism, this remark constitutes a noteworthy suggestion to consider the narratives and representations of Barre’s dictatorship not only from a historical point of view, but also for their symbolic value. In other words, writing about Barre’s dictatorship was, first of all, a reaction to the censorship imposed by the regime and a way to rebuild the sociality destroyed by its authoritarian power, by staging, and often deconstructing, the conflicts that the dictatorship had helped to create. Paradoxically, however, those public and collective spaces which had been erased by the repressive action of the regime have been mainly rebuilt in the fiction about dictatorship written by exiled Somali authors and authors of Somali descent in Europe and elsewhere, leading to different and sometimes ambivalent outcomes.

The importance of exile and migration in the literary reconstruction of an ‘imaginary homeland’, to borrow Salman Rushdie’s famous title,4 both during and after Barre’s dictatorship, corresponds with the position of Didier Morin about Somali postcolonial and diasporic literature as a whole:

In a country where language has always been treated as a political good, literature, being the work of writers involved in the nation-building process, has become one of the markers of the political evolution of the nation and, for those able to decode it, the revealing symptom of its progressive entropy. In fact, this writing, which has been intended, since the beginning, as a form of civic engagement, has rapidly evolved into ← 236 | 237 → a celebration of the regime, forcing free writers to exile, even before Barre’s demise, in order to regain the authentic territories of the imaginary. […] Exile affects 90% of the educated people and endangers the future of modern Somali literature, as well as the democratic evolution of the country.5

Morin’s analysis is mainly based on the cultural policies of Barre’s regime. Somali language gained official status, together with the adoption of the Latin alphabet, in the earlier years of Barre’s rule (1971–2). This peculiar cultural investment was positively received by many authors composing oral poems or writing in Somali. Somali oral poetry focused on the celebration of Somali nationalism, or, more directly, of Barre’s regime.6 Also the few examples of novels written in Somali – such as Aqoondaarro waa u nacab jayl (Ignorance is the Enemy of Love, 1974) by Faarax J. M. Cawl, whose publication was financially supported by the Somali Ministry of Education – did not express any explicit political critique of the Somali government.7

These symptoms of a growing political and ideological complicity with the regime do not signify, however, the absence of strong political and cultural resistance in Somalia during Barre’s regime; on the contrary, this has been well documented.8 The opposition against Siad Barre’s regime, ← 237 | 238 → took many different forms, including the two paradigmatic examples of the Somali National Movement (SNM) and Somali women’s resistance to dictatorship. Founded in London in 1981, the SNM relied on the participation of various Somali exiles, as well as of specific clan-based communities, such as the Isaaq (one of the social groups which suffered from the clan politics enacted by the MOD). While mostly ineffective in its attempt to overthrow Barre’s regime, the SNM achieved one of its goals in the declaration of independence of the Republic of Somaliland on 18 May 1991.9 The Somali civil war was a decisive step in this process, as Asteris Huliaras concludes, ‘[i]n sum, as happened in the case of medieval Europe […], warfare had played a central and indeed essential role in the process of nation-formation in Somaliland’.10

As for women’s resistance, its importance was often downplayed by the regime, which could rely, on the other hand, on various groups of women actively supporting it. This was the case of those women who collaborated with the only radio station in the Somali capital, Radio Mogadishu, in order to mobilize people in favor of Siad Barre after the unsuccessful coup d’état of 1978. There was, nonetheless, a strand of political and cultural opposition which was led by Somali women. Their opposition is illustrated by this oral poem recited by Hawa Jibril, who had also participated in the anti-colonial struggle against the Italian empire:

O Secretary General, you also declared that ‘Women are a force the shortsighted cannot perceive.’

Is it fair to have only two women in our higher political offices? […]

Do they not deserve higher positions and rewards?

Or were you too hasty, and are having second thoughts?

Are you not tormented by the injustice they suffer?11 ← 238 | 239 →

These examples reveal the crossover between the movements of cultural and political resistance located in Somalia and those being carried out in the Somali diaspora. Indeed, some of the most vivid representations of Barre’s dictatorship are to be found in the fiction produced beyond the national boundaries and written in the former colonial languages of English and Italian.12

Within this body of literature (which contests Morin’s gloomy prophecy about the future of modern Somali literature above) Anglophone literature benefits from worldwide circulation while the literary texts in Italian are globally less known and less translated.13 These call for specific critical attention.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, there has been a large group of authors of Somali origin writing in Italian, including Mohamed Aden Sheikh, Kaha Mohamed Aden, Shirin Ramzanali Fazel, and Garane Garane.14 This might be related to the growing presence of the Somali diaspora in Italy after the beginning of the Somali civil war, in 1991. This wave of migration was not extensive, but it has nonetheless contributed to the creation of a stable and active Somali community in Italy, strengthened by intergenerational bonds.15 Somali refugees joined those Somalis who had relocated to Italy during the colonial era (1889–1950) and the subsequent UN Trusteeship over Somalia delegated to Italy until 1960.

The importance of intergenerational bonds is evident in the work of two writers: Mohamed Aden Sheikh and his daughter Kaha Mohamed Aden. Born in 1936, Mohamed Aden Sheikh was appointed as Minister in ← 239 | 240 → the first revolutionary governments, but he soon understood that he did not share the same ideas as General Barre. Due to his political opposition, he was arrested in 1975 and detained for more than ten years. In the early 1990s he eventually reached Italy, where he died in 2010. In his works, he offers a historical and political reconstruction of the dictatorship, without any fictional détour.16 He repeatedly argues that Somali military forces had planned to seize power way before the coup, eventually seizing the opportunity of the power vacuum created by President Shermarke’s murder. According to Mohamed Aden Sheikh, a major cause for this political instability was the administration of the Italian colonial protectorate (1950–60), which had encouraged clan divisions instead of trying to amalgamate the different social groups living in Somalia. Clan rivalry, which would later fuel civil war, is thus traced back beyond Barre’s policies to the divide et impera motto defining Italian colonial rule.

In addition to this, in La Somalia non è un’isola dei Caraibi, Mohamed Aden Sheikh makes a particularly ambivalent comment on the impact of civil war on Somali women: he describes it as an exclusively ‘male business’. While he argues that Somali women may contribute to national reconciliation in the future on the grounds of their non-involvement in the conflict, he also criticizes them for their ideological adhesion to the clannist claims fuelling civil war, which, he claims, led many of them to a sort of regression in terms of mentality. His ambivalent position is shown when he invokes Somali anticolonial heroines as a point of reference that is nowadays disregarded; at the same time, he does not even mention the oscillation between support and resistance of Somali women’s groups under Siad Barre’s rule.17

What Mohamed Aden Sheikh seems to give, therefore, is an incomplete report of Somali women’s resistance before, during and after Siad ← 240 | 241 → Barre’s regime, confining them, at the same time, into the homogeneous and monolithic category of ‘Somali women’, which he leaves unquestioned. In her short story ‘1982 fuga da casa’ (2010), his daughter Kaha Mohamed Aden gives a different representation of Barre’s dictatorship. The short story is set in 1982, during Kaha’s childhood, and it includes a fictional dialogue between Kaha and the marmoset belonging to her sister Idil. Kaha tells the marmoset a fable which has been told her by her father, Mohamed Aden Sheikh. The tale goes as follows:

the lion, king of all animals, gathers all his subjects, asking them to share the amount of meat he has in front of him. The hyena tries first, dividing meat in equal parts. Warned by the fox, the lion does not accept such a division. The fox tries after the hyena, but she does not divide it equally: the lion receives half of the meat; the other half is divided into two parts: one for the fox and the other for all the other animals.18

The fable refers to the political dynamics of an authoritarian regime, which does not accept sharing power in a democratic way. It also refers to those people who sustain such power, looking for personal gain. Kaha Mohamed Aden uses this specifically as an allegory of the Somali regime, as indicated by the year mentioned in the title, which marks the beginning of the final period of Barre’s dictatorship, the most violent of all. Unlike her father, then, Kaha Mohamed Aden argues that it was the last period of Siad Barre’s rule which determined the conflicts leading to the outbreak of Somali civil war.

The subsequent dialogue between Kaha and the marmoset adds other elements to the allegorical story. The marmoset tells Kaha that there is a different version of the tale, which her father had previously narrated to Idil. In this version, a marmoset, said to be the ancestor of the present one, defends the hyena from the king’s anger, pointing out that its own suggestion would have strengthened the king’s power, by the consent of all the other animals. As the lion eventually agrees with the marmoset, all the animals live happily ever after.19 ← 241 | 242 →

According to the marmoset, Idil reacts to this story by asking her father about herbivores and their role in the fable. Granting legitimacy to Idil’s doubts, her father replies by emphasizing the importance of diversity and the fact that social equity, as represented in the fable by the portions of meat, is not the only goal to be achieved by political wisdom. While this might be considered an implicit justification of Barre’s regime by Mohamed Aden Sheikh, the young Kaha seems primarily to be upset because her father had told his daughters two radically different versions of the tale; her immediate reaction is, ‘My father manipulated the story, then’.20 Recalling this episode twenty years later, however, she no longer points that out. She seems to agree, instead, with the marmoset’s enigmatic conclusion, ‘The ability to adapt stories is a substantial one, sometimes happily present in oral traditions.’21 By underlining the mutability of narratives in oral traditions, she implicitly points at the mutability of political positions (including opportunism) held by Somali oral poets and storytellers under Barre’s rule. In addition to this, the episode demonstrates the possibility for Kaha and Idil to contest such narratives, and thus refashion the cultural and political pillar of oral literature in Somali society from a gendered point of view.

Although merging with her personal experience, and emphasizing the role of the dictatorship in the exile of her family, the fable recounted by Kaha Mohamed Aden, in its two different versions, stands apart as an allegorical representation of dictatorship which is quite unique within the fictional texts written. In other texts in Italian by authors of Somali descent, the representation of Barre’s regime serves either as an element of individual memory narrative or as plot-catalyst.

As for memory narratives, Shirin Ramzanali Fazel – who left Somalia in the 1970s, lived in Italy for more than three decades, and recently moved to the United Kingdom – gives a brief but impressive description of the life conditions under dictatorship in her short story ‘Mukulaal’ (2010). This is presented again through a generational shift, because it is Jama, ← 242 | 243 → the protagonist’s father, who recalls the enthusiasm for the ‘revolution’ animating Somalis in the earliest period of Barre’s rule. Jama, in fact, grew up during the ‘glorious period of the Regime’.22 In those days, according to his memories, the town of Mogadishu experienced great expansion, and new hospitals and modern roads were built across the country. Jama attributed the economic empowerment of Somalia to the efficiency of the educational system and to the creation of a dynamic intellectual class as well as to its growth in terms of trade and agriculture. In this way he recalls the aforementioned enthusiasm of oral poets and writers for Barre’s cultural policies. However, he soon understood that everything around him was a farce: ‘Those who had economic resources left town; many others stayed, helplessly enduring every imposition’.23 With these few lines, Fazel shows the propagandistic dimension of Barre’s regime, based on an illusion of progress, and introduces the leit-motif of departure, which will be hugely amplified by civil war.

Fazel’s fictionalization of the Somali dictatorship is not limited to memory narratives: Barre’s rule is also presented as a plot-catalyst in her novel Nuvole sull’Equatore (Clouds on the Equator, 2010), and has a similar function in Il latte è buono (Milk is Good, 2005) by Garane Garane. Both novels, in fact, follow the lives of young adults whose lives radically change because of dictatorship.

In Nuvole sull’Equatore, a short passage describes how the coup d’état takes place. The police begin to arrest people, especially young people, because they wear jeans and other clothes which are considered to be too transgressive. However, nobody really complains, hoping that this is just a temporary measure. Young people, in particular, try to deal with police’s ‘moral zeal’, making the best of a bad situation.24 It is not insignificant that the young people went on strike and dressed defiantly, as it reveals the will to influence the future of the country, its development and possibilities of ← 243 | 244 → change. Very soon, the coup d’état shows its true face and a military regime is declared. The streets of Mogadishu are crowded with soldiers, who establish checkpoints everywhere. Fazel describes that moment: ‘[t]here were no victims and the situation in the country was quiet. The people had to stay home because at the declaration of the state of emergency, a curfew had come into force. All means of communication had been interrupted and the country was completely isolated from the rest of the world’.25

The reference to the curfew has an important function for the plot, as young people are forced to hold secret meetings: during one of them, Giulia, the protagonist of the novel, meets her first boyfriend. After the description of the coup d’état, the novel focuses in a more direct way on Giulia’s life. The consequences of the coup, in fact, will be disastrous for Giulia and her family: Giulia will leave the country, reaching Italy, and she will never come back to Somalia; her parents will be obliged to move to Kenya. Once again, then, the emphasis on departure overwhelms any other political and cultural concern about the dictatorship.

Il latte è buono is the only novel written so far by Garane Garane, a professor in French and Italian Literature at the University of Virginia. He studied in Somalia, attending Italian schools, and then came to Europe, first to Italy and then to France, where he continued his studies and obtained a PhD. Although heavily based on Garane’s personal experiences, his text includes fictional sections, reaching mythical, if not epic, tones while speaking about the ancient origins of Somalia as a nation. As for the representation of dictatorship, Garane, like Fazel, focuses his attention on its very beginning, and more precisely on the day of President Shermarke’s murder: ← 244 | 245 → ‘Suddenly, a snatch, a mortal snatch hit Somali people. President Shermarke had been murdered’.26

Gashan, the young protagonist of the novel, gets the news while at school. He attends an Italian school, a place where, during the Italian Protectorate, as well as afterwards, the national élite was formed. Gashan is the son of Mogadishu’s mayor, whose political faction is opposed to President Shermarke’s. Shermarke’s daughter Mariam is also one of his classmates. As the murder takes place, Gashan tries to calm Mariam by inventing a story which draws a mythical parallel between Somali history and that of ancient Rome, which pupils used to study at the Italian school.

As Laura Lori argues, the rhetorical strategy used here by Gashan shows that during Italian colonialism, ‘cultural colonization went along with political colonization, influencing Somali future elites, as well as their political opponents.27 This cultural element, however, also allow the children – affected both by Barre’s dictatorial rule and its aftermath – to avoid involvement in Somali political matters, as if they were not concerned by it, because they belong to a new and different, Roman/Italian culture. In addition to this, the recurrence of the colonizer’s culture, although mediated by its rhetorical use, marks further ambivalence towards the public and collective spaces which Somali authors could rebuild from exile, as it reintroduces those elements of political and cultural colonization that Somali independence had tried to remove. This analysis leads to some preliminary conclusions on the representation of Barre’s dictatorship in Somali Italian Postcolonial literature. Although Barre is mentioned by all these authors, he is never presented as a fully-fledged character. There are no detailed descriptions of him. These authors never describe his physical ← 245 | 246 → appearance, his posture, his ways of moving or talking to Somalis during his speeches; there are no dialogues, even invented, involving the dictator. Apart from Kaha Mohamed Aden’s short allegorical fable, there is no real plot or fictional storyline centered on him.28

Nonetheless, his figure is at the origin of most of the plots, catalyzing many different events: Barre is repeatedly indicated as the main figure responsible for the crisis of Somali public space and of Somalia as a nation, leading to its dissolution with civil war, and the effects of his rule can be identified in the lives of thousands of people leaving the country.

This is utterly different from the celebration of the regime which can be found in Somali oral poetry and in Somali written literature of the time, but also from the treatment of Barre’s dictatorship in Nuruddin Farah’s oeuvre, which probably represents the longest and deepest engagement with the representation of Siad Barre’s dictatorship.

Born in 1945 in Baidoa, Farah has been living in exile since 1976, a few years after his literary debut with From a Crooked Rib (1970), written in English, and the attempt to publish a second novel in Somali, which was later censored in Somalia. At least four of Farah’s eleven novels written in English so far – from A Naked Needle (1976) to Close Sesame (1983) – are based on the ‘quite direct relationship between the traditional patriarchal Somali family and the authoritarian regime in Somalia under the rule of Mohammad Siad Barre’.29 Ranging from the authoritarian and murderous father Keynaan in Sweet and Sour Milk (1979) to the figure of the anti-colonial fighter and resistant Deeriye in Close Sesame (1983), Farah both staged and deconstructed the linkage between Barre, as the self-declared ‘Father of the Somali nation’, and the relevance of fatherhood in Somali ← 246 | 247 → clans. Through a direct allegorical representation of his figure (Keynaan), as well as its reversal (Deeriye), Farah managed to fictionalize Barre’s figure in a different way from what had been done so far in the Somali literature in Italian.

In addition to this, Somali literature in Italian, unlike Farah’s fiction, can be helpfully understood via Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of ‘minor literature’. This is of course an established trend within Italian Studies, especially when concerned with migrant and postcolonial literature, and the use of Deleuze and Guattari’s category has already been criticized by several scholars in Postcolonial Studies, for its Orientalist consolidation of the ‘major/Western’ vs. ‘minor/Other’ dichotomy.30 Vulgarizations and abuses in the application of this definition have also been underlined in the case of Italian postcolonial and migrant literature as a whole, as well as in its specific application to Somali literature in Italian.31

In the latter case, however, the definition of ‘minor literature’ bears some relevance, as Simone Brioni has convincingly argued by critically revising the three pillars of Deleuze and Guattari’s analysis – the de-territorialization and re-territorialization of a major language, the extension of the political dimension over the individual one, and collective enunciation – in his recent monograph The Somali Within (2015). While Brioni’s treatment of the de-territorialization and re-territorialization of the Italian language, through a careful analysis of the linguistic and translation strategies enacted in the texts written by authors of Somali origin, seems to be quite exhaustive, it is the political dimensions of this ‘minor literature’ which need to be closely explored in relation to the narrative representations of Barre’s dictatorship.32 ← 247 | 248 →

When Deleuze and Guattari argue about ‘minor literatures’ that ‘everything in them is political’, in fact they also state:

In major literatures, in contrast, the individual concern (familial, marital, and so on) joins with other no less individual concerns, the social milieu serving as a mere environment or a background […]. Minor literature is completely different; its cramped space forces each individual intrigue to connect immediately to politics. The individual concern thus becomes all the more necessary, indispensable, magnified, because a whole other story is vibrating within it.33

The ‘whole other story’ vibrating within these texts can often be linked to the Somali civil war, as most of the texts have been written and published since the beginning of the 1990s, coinciding with that period of armed conflict. As mentioned, however, the disgregation of the Somali nation as a collective space goes back at least to the latter period of Barre’s dictatorship (if not to the period of the Italian colonial protectorate). Barre’s rule appears thus to be a constitutive part of this narrative, catalyzing important events in the life of individual characters.

As for the third element of ‘minor literature’,

[…] everything takes on a collective value. Indeed, precisely because talent isn’t abundant in a minor literature, there are no possibilities for an individuated enunciation that would belong to this or that ‘master’ and that could be separated from a collective enunciation. […] The political domain has contaminated every statement (enoncé). But above all else, […] literature finds itself positively charged with the role and function of collective, and even revolutionary, enunciation. It is literature that produces an active solidarity in spite of skepticism […]34

Concerning Somali literature in Italian, this ‘collective enunciation’ appears to be only an ideal horizon, as the stylistic means which (according to Deleuze and Guattari) shows it at its best – free indirect discourse – is nearly absent in this body of literature. The impossibility of a collective enunciation ideologically rebounds on the ambivalences in the process of ← 248 | 249 → reconstruction of that ‘collective space’ muzzled by Barre’s dictatorship, whose reconstitution in Somali diasporic literature in Italian constantly faces physical, cultural and political boundaries – leaving room, thus, for new fictional and critical elaborations in the future.

The critical perspective of ‘minor literature’ is rapidly expanding its field of application to Somali literature (in Somali, as well as in English and in Italian) as a whole, given the ongoing violence and political troubles in Somalia. The dynamics of de-territorrialization and re-territorialization of language, together with the political implications of the fictional elaboration of Somali postcolonial literature, history and culture as seen from outside its boundaries, are now becoming three defining features for this literature which largely survives in the diaspora – continuing, thus, and expanding on the political and cultural production from exile which began during Barre’s rule.


Aden Sheikh, Mohamed, La Somalia non è un’isola dei Caraibi (Reggio Emilia: Diabasis, 2010).

Brioni, Simone, The Somali Within: Language, Race and Belonging in ‘Minor’ Italian Literature (Leeds: Legenda, 2015).

Cawl, Faarax J. M., Ignorance is the Enemy of Love (London: Zed Books, 1982).

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986).

Farah, Ubax Cristina Ali, Little Mother (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011).

Farah, Nuruddin, A Naked Needle (London: Heinemann, 1976).

——, Close Sesame (London: Allison & Busby, 1983).

——, Sardines (London: Allison & Busby, 1981).

——, Sweet and Sour Milk (London: Allison & Busby, 1979).

——, Yesterday, Tomorrow: Voices from the Somali Diaspora (New York: Cassell, 2000).

Fazel, Shirin Ramzanali, Lontano da Mogadiscio/Far from Mogadishu (Milano: Laurana, 2013).

——, ‘Mukulaal’, in Daniele Comberiati, ed., Roma d’Abissinia (Cuneo: Nerosubianco, 2010), 13–22. ← 249 | 250 →

——, Nuvole sull’equatore (Cuneo: Nerosubianco, 2010).

Garane, Garane, Il latte è buono (Isernia: Cosmo Iannone, 2005).

Huliaras, Asteris, ‘The Viability of Somaliland: Internal Constraints and Regional Geopolitics’, Journal of Contemporary African Studies 20/2 (2002), 157–82.

Ingiriis, Mohamed Hajii, The Suicidal State in Somalia: The Rise and Fall of the Siad Barre Regime (1969–1991) (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2016).

Juraga, Dubravka, ‘Nuruddin Farah’s Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship: Patriarchy, Gender, and Political Oppression in Somalia’ in Derek Wright, ed., Emerging Perspectives on Nuruddin Farah (Trenton, Africa World Press, 2002), 283–305.

Kapteijns, Lidwien, Clan Cleansing in Somalia: The Ruinous Legacy of 1991 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013).

Lori, Laura, Inchiostro d’Africa (Verona: Ombre Corte, 2014).

Mengiste, Maaza, Beneath the Lion’s gaze (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010).

Mengozzi, Chiara, Narrazioni contese. Vent’anni di scritture italiane della migrazione (Roma: Carocci, 2013).

Mohamed, Iman Abdulkadir, ‘Somali Women and the Socialist State’, Journal of Georgetown University – Qatar Middle Eastern Studies Student Association 4 (2015) <> accessed 30 September 2017.

Mohamed Aden, Kaha, Fra-intendimenti (Roma: Nottetempo, 2010).

Moolla, Fiona, Reading Nuruddin Farah: The Individual, the Novel and the Idea of Home (Oxford: James Currey, 2014).

Morin, Didier, Littérature et politique en Somalie (Talence: Centre d’Études d’Afrique, 1997).

Patton, Paul, ‘The Event of Colonisation’, in Ian Buchanan and Adrian Parr, eds, Deleuze and the Contemporary World (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006), 108–24.

Proglio, Gabriele, Memorie oltre confine. La letteratura postcoloniale italiana in prospettiva storica (Verona: Ombre Corte, 2011).

Rushdie, Salman, Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism (1981–1991) (London: Granta, 1991).

Samatar, Said S., Oral Poetry and Somali Nationalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

Strangio, Donatella, The Reasons for Underdevelopment: The Case for Decolonisation in Somaliland (Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2011).

1 Donatella Strangio, The Reasons for Underdevelopment: The Case for Decolonisation in Somaliland (Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2011), 33.

2 Lidwien Kapteijns, Clan Cleansing in Somalia: The Ruinous Legacy of 1991 (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), 79.

3 Gabriele Proglio, Memorie oltre confine. La letteratura postcoloniale italiana in prospettiva storica (Verona: Ombre Corte, 2011), 123: ‘Il regime di Barre uccide perché rende soli, imbavagliando la socialità, negando gli spazi collettivi e sociali’ (our translation).

4 Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism (1981–1991) (London: Granta, 1991).

5 Didier Morin, Littérature et politique en Somalie (Talence : Centre d’Études d’Afrique Noire, 1997), 2 :‘Dans un pays qui a toujours géré sa langue comme un bien politique, la production des écrivains, militants de la construction nationale, est devenue un indicateur parmi d’autres de l’évolution politique et, pour qui savait la décrypter, le révélateur de son entropie progressive. De fait, une écriture qui s’est voulue, dès le début, comme un exercice civique, s’est rapidement muée en un encensement de régime, obligeant, avant même la chute de ce dernier, les écrivains libres à s’exiler pour retrouver les vrais territoires de l’imaginaire. […] L’exile touche 90% des personnes possédant un quelconque niveau d’instruction et compromet l’avenir de la littérature moderne somali, comme d’une évolution démocratique’ (our translation).

6 Said S. Samatar, Oral Poetry and Somali Nationalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

7 F. Fiona Moolla, Reading Nuruddin Farah: The Individual, the Novel and the Idea of Home (Oxford: James Currey, 2014), 124–6.

8 Mohamed Hajii Ingiriis, The Suicidal State in Somalia: The Rise and Fall of the Siad Barre Regime (1969–1991) (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2016).

9 Although it is de facto independent, the Republic of Somaliland has not been internationally recognized as an autonomous nation-state so far.

10 Asteris Huliaras, ‘The Viability of Somaliland: Internal Constraints and Regional Geopolitics’, Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 20/2 (2002), 157–82 (159).

11 Cited in Iman Abdulkadir Mohamed, ‘Somali Women and the Socialist State’, Journal of Georgetown University – Qatar Middle Eastern Studies Student Association 4 (2015) <> accessed 30 September 2017.

12 British Somaliland was a British colony from 1884 to 1940, while the Italian colonial rule in Somalia and Somaliland, including the ten years of the UN Trusteeship after the Second World War (1950–60), lasted from 1889 to 1960.

13 Only two novels originally written in Italian have been translated into English: Far from Mogadishu (2013 [1994]) by Shirin Ramzanali Fazel and Little Mother (2011 [2007]) by Ubax Cristina Ali Farah.

14 This group of authors, whose works are analyzed here, should be complemented by at least four other writers, Sirad Salad Hassan, Ubax Cristina Ali Farah, Igiaba Scego and Antar Mohamed, whose literary production falls beyond the scope of this essay.

15 Nuruddin Farah, Yesterday, Tomorrow: Voices from the Somali Diaspora (New York: Cassell, 2000).

16 Mohamed Aden Sheikh wrote four books on Somali dictatorship. Arguably, he re-wrote almost the same book four times, changing it each time, either to add more details or to incorporate the contemporary situation of Somalia. The definitive version could be identified as La Somalia non è un’isola dei Caraibi (Reggio Emilia: Diabasis, 2010).

17 All quotations from Aden Sheikh, La Somalia, 236–7 (our translation).

18 Adapted from ‘1982 fuga da casa’ in Fra-intendimenti (‘Mis-Understandings’) (Roma: Nottetempo, 2010).

19 Aden Mohamed, ‘1982’, 106.

20 Aden Mohamed, ‘1982’, 108, ‘Quindi mio padre ha manipolato il racconto’ (our translation).

21 Aden Mohamed, ‘1982’, 108, ‘Cambiare i racconti è una possibilità pesante, a volte piacevolmente presente nelle tradizioni orali’ (our translation).

22 Shirin Ramzanali Fazel, ‘Mukulaal’. In D. Comberiati (ed.), Roma d’Abissinia (Cuneo: Nerosubianco, 2010), pp. 13–22 (14).

23 Fazel, ‘Mukulaal’, 15: ‘Chi aveva i mezzi economici lasciava la città; molti rimanevano, indifesi, a subire ogni sopruso’ (our translation).

24 Fazel, ‘Mukulaal’, 159 (our translation).

25 Shirin Ramzanali Fazel, Nuvole sull’equatore. Gli italiani dimenticati. Una storia (Cuneo: Nerosubianco, 2010), 162: ‘La popolazione doveva rimanere in casa, perché con la dichiarazione dello stato di emergenza era entrato in vigore il coprifuoco. Tutte le vie di comunicazione erano state interrotte e il paese era completamente isolato dal resto del mondo’ (our translation).

26 Garane Garane, Il latte è buono (Isernia: Cosmo Iannone, 2005), 48: ‘Di colpo, un colpo mortale colpì il popolo somalo. Il presidente Schermache [sic] fu ucciso’ (our translation).

27 Laura Lori, Inchiostro d’Africa. La letteratura postcoloniale somala fra identità e diaspora (Verona: Ombre Corte, 2011), 91: ‘É indicativo come un fatto della realtà somala sia interpretato dai ragazzi attraverso la storia dell’impero romano: questo è un modo molto efficace per sottolineare come la colonizzazione culturale sia andata di pari passo con la colonizzazione politica’ (our translation).

28 An interesting case of fictional storyline centered on an African dictator is Beneath the Lion’s Gaze by Maaza Mengiste. The novel is about the Ethiopian dictatorship under Mengistu Haile Mariam. Whilst the plot is based on historical events, the author imagines and describes the thoughts and feelings of the dictator, who thus becomes a character of the plot.

29 Dubravka Juraga, ‘Nuruddin Farah’s Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship: Patriarchy, Gender, and Political Oppression in Somalia’. In D. Wright (ed.), Emerging Perspectives on Nuruddin Farah (Trenton: Africa World Press, 2002), pp. 283–305 (285).

30 Paul Patton, (2006). ‘The Event of Colonisation’. In I. Buchanan and A. Parr (eds). Deleuze and the Contemporary World, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 108–24.

31 Chiara Mengozzi, Narrazioni contese. Vent’anni di scritture italiane della migrazione (Rome: Carocci, 2013); Simone Brioni, The Somali Within: Language, Race and Belonging in ‘Minor’ Italian Literature (Leeds: Legenda, 2015).

32 Simone Brioni, ‘Language’. In Simone Brioni, op. cit., pp. 18–59.

33 Gilles Deleuze, and Félix Guattari, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986 [1975]) 17.

34 Ibid.