The Suffering City
There's a profile of Somali author Nuruddin Farah in the Times today. His new book, Links, is set in the beyond-Wild West setting that is contemporary Somalia:
"Links" takes place in modern-day Mogadishu. " 'Through me the way into the suffering city," Mr. Farah writes at the beginning of "Links," quoting Dante's "Inferno." " 'Through me the way to the eternal pain,/ Through me the way that runs among the lost.' "
Sounds like a libertarian's paradise. Well, at least the lack of public services and abundance of small arms.
Mogadishu was once beautiful, cosmopolitan, a trading center with the Arab world. "Orderly, clean, peaceable," he writes, "a city with integrity and a life of its own, a lovely metropolis with beaches, cafes, restaurants, late-night movies." Now it is a "city of death," taken over by armed, ghat-chewing teenagers.
Mr. Farah describes a city with no centralized government, postal service, public schools or telephone system. One character in "Links" has three phones, owned by subsidiaries of companies based in the United States, Norway and Malaysia. Men defecate in the streets. To travel safely requires armed bodyguards. Membership in a clan is no protection. Your own relatives will kill you if they want what you have.