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“Creatively, I had to face everything and everyone I had lost before I could think about the present…By writing in print those stories that I know will never be carved into official memorials, I have made my leap at posterity.”

A Somali-British novelist excavating the relics of shared history.

Raising the dead

Nadifa Mohamed’s The Fortune Men, based on the 1950s true story of Mahmood Mattan, a Somali seaman wrongfully executed in Wales, was shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize and is now a favourite for the Costa Novel Award. In ‘Raising the Dead’, Mohamed reflects on how in novels such as her first, Black Mamba Boy, and nowThe Fortune Men, she’s been determined to resurrect an uncomfortable and brutal colonial past, that is in danger of being forgotten.


Nadifa Mohamed was born in Hargeisa, Somaliland, in 1981. Her first novel, Black Mamba Boy, won the Betty Trask Prize; it was longlisted for the Orange Prize and shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the Dylan Thomas Prize and the PEN Open Book Award. In 2013, she was selected as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists and has recently been awarded an Arts and Literary Arts Fellowship by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Mohamed’s second novel, The Orchard of Lost Souls, won a Somerset Maugham Award and the Prix Albert Bernard. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Her latest novel, The Fortune Men, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2021, and is also on the shortlist for the 2021 Costa Novel Award.