Category Archives: Discovering Identity & Psychological Awareness

Seasons of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih

Salih, Tayeb. Season of Migration to the North. Trans. Laila Lalami. New York: New York Review, 2009. Print.

The themes that surround the conflict in Season of Migration to the North are loss of identity, loss of home, and loss of reality. I believe the main conflict is that the protagonist is unaware of the connection between his between two worlds. Physically, in the sense he leaves his village, enters western civilization, and then comes back. He in between the old traditions he was raised with and contemporary life in the west. His mental state of mind is also in the middle of two psyches, two personalities. Hence, he is searching for an identity he can call his own. Furthermore, because he is stuck in the middle of these two mental and physical worlds he is unable to live in the moment. He is stuck inside his own mind and perception, which prevents him from moving forward and embracing others with compassion. He is obsessed with learning about the village killer Mufasa. The protagonist is infatuated by Mufasa’s intelligence and legacy. The closer the narrator, and or protagonist, gets inside of a psychotic mind, the more it is believed Mufasa is actually the narrator’s alter ego.  He does love Mufasa’s wife, Husna, but he does not pursue her. The reader is left with an ambiguous ending and wonders if the protagonist was Mufasa the entire time.

A blog from The Guardian, “Reading literary fiction improves empathy, study finds”  parallels to the reading of Seasons of Migration to the North on two levels. One, the narrator’s alter ego, or other self is a narcissistic murderer. The conversation of gaining empathy and psychological illness is relevant to his lack of empathy and unstable psychological characteristics. Two, a modern conversation about the positive influence literary fiction has on humanity, and in this blog a young man speaks about his experience reading literary fiction.

The young man, Kidd states,

“Transferring the experience of reading fiction into real-world situations was a natural leap, Kidd argued, because “the same psychological processes are used to navigate fiction and real relationships. Fiction is not just a simulator of a social experience, it is a social experience.”

I think teaching Seasons of Migrations to the North to a classroom full of adolescent readers may be challenging. But, a way to avoid a student’s resistance or interest in this novella is to pair it with something the student can relate to. With that said, the current topic “Reading literary fiction improves empathy, study finds” and the young man, Kidd’s perspective on literary fiction may open their minds.

Similar to “The Yellow Wallpaper,” I would expect the students to use selective highlighting while they read. Especially, because Seasons of Migration to the North is not structured in linear time. Each chapter jumps in time drastically with the narrator’s psyche. I would specifically ask the students to highlight moments where the protagonist’s mood or perspective has changed.