1 August 2015

In Dutch: 'Een Nagelaten Verhaal' '('A Handed-Down History') by Yasmin Allas

Yasmin Allas
A Handed-Down History (in Dutch: Een nagelaten verhaal) of 2010 is the fourth novel by Somalian-Dutch writer Yasmin Allas. It's a story about Somalia,  the dilemma of an arranged marriage and the personal history of the writer.


At a young age, the writer Yasmine Allas fled Somalia after her father was murdered during the civil war. For years she sought a way to return to the city where she grew up, until one day she was approached about making a television documentary about her youth. When she arrived in Africa, she found that everything had changed beyond recognition; the landscape was ravaged and the population had moved away. She realized that it was impossible to revive the past if you were continually escorted by a camera team. There was only one option: to use her imagination. And this is exactly what she has done in this extraordinary and original novel.

The story centres around a love affair between the young nurse, Zeyneb, and a wounded soldier whom she refers to as the ‘Stranger’. On the day he is discharged from hospital, he asks her to marry him and promises to come back for her when he is physically strong enough to do so. Much later, after Zeyneb has been promised by her father to another man, she is standing on the veranda when she sees a land rover entering the square. It is the Stranger. His arrival presents her with a difficult dilemma: either obey her father or follow her heart and run away with the Stranger.

Two days later, towards the end of the morning, Zeyneb’s father was waiting
for her and the Stranger on the veranda.
Normally she would have given her father a warm embrace and quickly
breathed in his scent but now, for the first time in her life, she hesitated.

Abo, iska waran
? Father, how are you?’ was all she could say.
Diiriye nodded, brief and stiffly.
Then the Stranger and he shook hands. Brief and stiffly.
This story is narrated years afterwards by their only daughter, a writer who has been living in the Netherlands for decades and returns to her land of birth to make a television documentary. She has great expectations of the reunion, but there is no one there who knows her and no one she knows. She is not even accepted as a fellow Somalian and it is clear that she does not belong there, she is not welcome. The daughter becomes acquainted with an old man who secretly takes her to her birthplace. There she pictures herself sitting on the garden swing in bygone days, she reflects on her parents’ marriage and the fate of her father, who was dragged out of the house by soldiers on that ominous day, never to return. This lyrical, occasionally magic-realist novel – a self-portrait, a love story and a social history all in one – is ultimately about accepting being uprooted. She is obliged to abandon the memories that have made her what she is, and a country she flees a second time.

Who is Yasmine Allas

Yasmine Allas (born in 1967) arrived in the Netherlands in 1987. She attended drama school, acted with various companies, and performed her own solo show. In 1998, she made her writing debut with the successful novel, Idil, een meisje (Idil, A Girl)

Read more at www.letterenfonds.nl

See the documentary (2006) of Yasmin Allas in Somalia at www.npo.nl


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