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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

Review: Maps

Maps - Nuruddin Farah

One almost needs a map to make sense of this novel. It's not that the story is convoluted; it's more the way the story is told. At its core, Maps is exquisitely written with a story that is perhaps a bit too drawn out, but is interesting nonetheless. The language Farah uses to craft this story is phenomenal. There is beauty in the simple construction of many sentences, philosophy in the placing of others. If Maps is any indication, Farah is a very talented writer with a particular knack for the English language (Farah writes in English despite it not being his first language).

For a reader such as myself, I wonder if Farah isn't too clever. I have a feeling this book offered more profound statements than I was able to take away from it. Particularly, what was the reason behind all the shifts in Maps? There are shifts in time, place, reality, and, most distracting, in point-of-view. Farah heavily utilizes first, second, and third person in Maps, switching at the end of nearly every chapter. Also, there seem to be questions of gender and gender identity at the heart of the novel, but I never spent enough time on the text to decipher what message I was supposed to walk away with.

I liked Maps sufficiently, but Farah isn't the kind of author I'd run to again. Linguistically, he reminds me of a more philosophical, more poetic Aleksandar Hemon (another author who wrote in a secondary language), but I found it difficult to stay engaged in the story. Perhaps it was just me and where I was at the moment in life.