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But now your heart is set: you want to have the tale of all my trails- I must add more tears to those I have already shed.
What should I tell you first? What should be last?
I’ve had so many griefs at heaven’s hands.
Let me begin by telling you my name,
So that you, too, may know it
This verse from Homer’s The Odyssey sets the reader on a path of discovering who Idris is.
Idris Maymoon Samataar Guleed. Previously of Dikhil. Now an eternal traveller seeking the measure of earth and man.
Set in 1659, Idris:Keeper of the Light is the story of Idris, a Somali trader, whose travels take him back to the Malabar coast of India for the Mamangam festival. The visit not only bring back memories of his previous time, it also brings him face to face with nine year old, Kandavar. This unexpected meeting changes the course of Idris’s life. From the eternal traveller that he has always been, he becomes a father figure to the young warrior.
…The boy didn’t speak. Instead, he looked at the man’s face, trying to fathom the expression in his living eye, and asked, ‘What should I call you?’
The living eye blinked. The dead eye stared. Half a thought here. Half a thought there.
The cold unseeing eye spoke up: No one would know. So why not, Idris?
‘Call me Aabo,’ Idris said softly.
‘What’s that?’ the boy asked.
‘Aabo. It’s what a boy like you would call a man like me in my part of the world.’
‘Aabo,’ the boy said, savoring each syllable. ‘I like it. Aabo, Aabo, Aabo.’
Idris felt a strange sense of exhilaration rush through his being….
Idris takes it upon himself to make a man out of the boy and with the family’s permission, takes Kandavar under his wing. They journey together along the Malabar coast towards Serendip and beyond.
Anita Nair’s words make the protagonists come alive. With dexterity, she weaves a saga which is bound to intrigue and captivate the readers. As the story progresses, Idris and Kandavar become real. With deftly woven words, Anita gives a vivid rendition to their thoughts, aspirations, accomplishments and travails. The characters are well defined and find their own place in the narrative, linking the story cleverly to the historical references from the seventeenth century. As the pages turn, the mystery behind Idris Maymoon Samataar Guleed unravels, making the readers fall in love with the jewel-eyed Somali.
On a personal note, historical fiction is my favorite genre and Anita Nair’s Idris is definitely a literary gem, joining the ranks with Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy and Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries.
A definite read; with more of Idris and Kandavar coming soon!!!