Season of Migration to the North

Sa’eed’s Secret Room in Sudan Symbol Analysis

Sa’eed’s Secret Room in Sudan Symbol Icon

The secret room which Sa’eed builds in his house in the small village of Wad Hamid in Sudan represents his link to western culture. The room is lined from floor to ceiling with books in English (none of the texts are in Sa’eed’s native language of Arabic). Furthermore, the room contains a real English fireplace—a symbol of British culture, which is a strange artifact to maintain in a small village on the banks of the Nile river in Sudan, located close to the equator, where there is no need of fireplaces. The pictures, paintings, and documents from Sa’eed’s life in England, also contained in the room, further attest to his links to the western culture in which he has spent many of the formative years of his life. Sa’eed’s secret room in Sudan stands in contrast to his London apartment. While the apartment in London embodies a fetishized version of his “eastern” roots, the room in Sudan represents his links to the west. Taken together, the two rooms suggest the extent to which Sa’eed is caught between these two cultures—western, English culture on the one hand, and his native eastern culture on the other.

Sa’eed’s Secret Room in Sudan Quotes in Season of Migration to the North

The Season of Migration to the North quotes below all refer to the symbol of Sa’eed’s Secret Room in Sudan. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Gender and Violence Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the NYRB Classics edition of Season of Migration to the North published in 2009.
Chapter 9 Quotes

I struck a match. The light exploded in my eyes and out of the darkness there emerged a frowning face with pursed lips that I knew but could not place. I moved towards it with hate in my heart. It was my adversary Mustafa Sa’eed. […] I found myself standing face to face with myself.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Mustafa Sa’eed
Page Number: Book Page 112
Explanation and Analysis:
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How ridiculous! A fireplace—imagine it! A real English fireplace with all the bits and pieces.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Mustafa Sa’eed
Page Number: Book Page 113
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“How marvellous your black colour is!” she would say to me—“the colour of magic and mystery and obscenities.”

Related Characters: Mustafa Sa’eed (speaker), The Narrator, Sheila Greenwood
Page Number: Book Page 115
Explanation and Analysis:
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“In London I took her to my house, the den of lethal lies that I had deliberately built up, lie upon lie: the sandalwood and incense; the ostrich feathers and ivory and ebony figurines; the paintings and drawings of forests of palm trees along the shores of the Nile, boats with sails like doves’ wings, suns setting over the mountains of the Red Sea, camel caravans wending their way along sand dunes on the borders of the Yemen, baobab tress in Kordofan, naked girls from the tribes of Zandi.”

Related Characters: Mustafa Sa’eed (speaker), The Narrator, Ann Hammond
Page Number: Book Page 121
Explanation and Analysis:
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“The moments of ecstasy were in fact rare; the rest of the time we spent in a murderous war in which no quarter was given. The war invariably ended in my defeat. When I slapped her, she would slap me back and dig her nails into my face...”

Related Characters: Mustafa Sa’eed (speaker), The Narrator, Jean Morris
Page Number: Book Page 133
Explanation and Analysis:
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Sa’eed’s Secret Room in Sudan Symbol Timeline in Season of Migration to the North

The timeline below shows where the symbol Sa’eed’s Secret Room in Sudan appears in Season of Migration to the North. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Migration and Identity Theme Icon
...letter, Sa’eed notes that he is also leaving the narrator the keys to enter a secret room in his house, which contains notes, diaries, and mementoes from his time in England. Sa’eed... (full context)
Chapter 6
Gender and Violence Theme Icon
Conquest and Colonialism Theme Icon
Migration and Identity Theme Icon
...She tells the narrator that Mustafa used to spend a lot of time inside his secret room , which she has never entered, and that in his sleep, he would sometimes mutter... (full context)
Chapter 7
Conquest and Colonialism Theme Icon
Migration and Identity Theme Icon
...through the endless desert, he is haunted by thoughts of Mustafa Sa’eed, Hosna, and the secret room to which Mustafa has left him the keys. He thinks of how the various women... (full context)
Chapter 9
Migration and Identity Theme Icon
...shortly after learning of the details of Hosna’s murder-suicide, the narrator stands outside of the secret room in Mustafa Sa’eed’s house. He enters. Inside, he strikes a match and sees a face.... (full context)
Chapter 10
Migration and Identity Theme Icon
The narrator enters the Nile river, naked. He has left Mustafa’s secret room , without burning it. Instead, his feet led him to the river at dawn, hoping... (full context)