Sardines (1981) is the middle text of Nuruddin Farah’s first trilogy, to which he gave the title Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship and the subtitle Truth versus Untruth. Taking seriously the verbal artistry and the implicit political analysis built into the novel, this article contests dismissive characterizations of Farah’s central character, Medina, by exploring how Medina becomes an example of female intellectual and moral strength and leadership, opposing not only the “variations” of dictatorship, but the socially entrenched forms of conduct and primordialist values that allow tyranny to flourish in numerous African countries. The essay explores Farah’s portrayals of African women’s civic responsibility and powers of political influence, employing the useful theories of Maria Pia Lara, who recognizes that (metafictionally) novels bring women’s emancipatory narratives into the public sphere. Sardines is read as Farah’s study of the incomplete African project of social transformation involving the quest for gender justice.


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pp. 3-20
Launched on MUSE
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