Morning in Serra Mattu: A Nubian Ode

Arif Gamal (Author)
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A mosaic of interrelated stories exploding with personality, myth, and geohistorical weight, Morning in Serra Mattu is a profound, joyful meditation on life in modern Sudan. Arif Gamal seamlessly blends large-scale political realities with the local and the traditional: "old villages/whose ancient way is so composed/each single blade of grass is known/and in its place." Epic in scope, spellbinding in its intimacy, generosity, and wisdom, Morning in Serra Mattu is the book we didn't know we needed.

how thrilling it was in the earliest morning
to race barefoot down the sandy slopes and dunes
with all the bellowing goats
and dogs and sheep and other animals
for their first morning drink
and to swim in the fresh waters of the flowing river

while the thousand upon thousand
of high unhindered Nubian stars began to fall away
before a tinge of milky line along the hills

until light grew from nearly nothing
to an immensity

--from "Return to Serra Mattu"

Product Details

Publish Date
April 15, 2014
6.1 X 0.7 X 8.4 inches | 0.85 pounds
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About the Author

The son of a career diplomat, Arif Gamal was born in 1949 and raised in Khartoum, Sudan. He left Sudan for France in 1975 to attend graduate school, returning after receiving his doctorate in environmental science from the University des Science et Technique Lanquedocienne, in Montpellier. Following the 1989 military coup d'Γ©tat in Sudan--and with his family under constant government surveillance--Gamal received an invitation to be a Senior Fulbright Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, which he accepted. Though he has travelled extensively throughout the world since moving to the States, Gamal continues to live in Northern California with his family. In addition to UC Berkeley, he has taught at the University of San Francisco and College of Marin. Gamal has also been a panelist and keynote speaker for many national and international conferences, seminars and workshops, from Nicaragua to Sweden, and in the early '90s he lobbied in both the House and the Senate for the African Trade Bill.


"An epic poem that manages to be exquisitely intimate and one of the greatest works of literature to emerge from Sudan."
--Dave Eggers

"Arif Gamal's Morning in Serra Mattu is more than a song of deep knowing. This book of rituals beckons and interrogates, edging underneath intimate details of the Nubian heart and soil, the beauty and the turmoil, and the journey exposes torn roots of the Sudanese soul. Gamal names the natural and familiar, the mythic and folkloric, as a mysterious lyricism rises out of life-and-death matters. Each poem in Morning in Serra Mattu is an epistle of longing and memory."
--Yusef Komunyakaa

"This is a moving and profound book of poetry because joy--unabashed joy--is at the center of it, almost inexplicably. And yet it is also a book of deep loss. To lose one's homeland, to know that the roots of a people's identity have been severed forever, has become a common tragedy of our times and may, in fact, come to define our age. But to recall that homeland, the ancestors and the traditions, and to see that long-gone world so clearly and with such affection and serenity, is transcendent. I read this honest and sincere book as a call for hope, a hope we humans need wherever we go."
--Maurice Manning

"An astonishing book, at once intimate and epic. ...Gamal has a spectacular ability to create an indelible scene in no more than eight or nine words delivered in the most elegant, understated tone. ... At the end of this gorgeous epic, when Gamal evokes the 'high unhindered Nubian stars, ' I felt that physical ache that only happens with the poems that will matter to you for the rest of your life."
--Irda Collins,