Sofia Samatar

Part two of my real-time review continued from HERE




6 responses to “Sofia Samatar


    “I have a habit of meeting people right before they get famous…”

    Me, too. I am glad the text has just met me! “…and neither of us would have guessed you could even be a full-time blogger.” I looked ‘lanugo’ up on Google for this full-time blog of mine and it is worth doing. It sheds – or, rather, grows! – new light and new monkey hair on this story. I originally read it as a synonym for ‘ebola’!

    This amazing story of interconnections between Somali ‘sisters’ and the way people use others for fame (loyalty, nepotism, disloyalty, mutual support etc.) is a gestalt of various aspects of this theme, and, for me, the Xenophiliac book that I am concurrently reviewing here — as written by Jeffrey Thomas (serendipitously and fame-relevantly a long-term associate of the author of ‘Area X’ and ‘Borne’) — also has a kindred spirit with this Samatar story such as the aspects (“–for example, sculptures of extinct animals from upcycled trash!”) of modern gallery and conceptual art (see my review of JT’s ‘Mr. Faun’) and the animal-human contiguity (see my review of JT’s ‘Spider Gates’)…

    The opening act, finding the centre, a voice sounding full of bees, tent-orphans, tent-widows, a quarantine tent, earlier tent-poles instead of pillars, big space called Disneyland, “But actually we should all be screaming from horror all the time.” A story that you are pleased you met before it became famous.

    “It was old and hard and I scratched it off the sidewalk and placed it tenderly inside my pocket.”

  2. Fallow


    “‘Fill the slate,’ Miss Snowfall used to urge us, “to the edge.'”

    And so I shall. I put my lantern into Agar’s story’s or Miss Snowfall’s future-ancient outcharge so as to re-illuminate my work. This is some of the most exquisite story-telling, a work for which you would need go far to ‘fetch’ of hawl, with its own text’s miners or, strikingly, Miss Snowfall’s own head’s mining-lamp focussed on her reading. The hinterland of this story’s world accretes beautifully into your own head like a beam of light, as you gradually take for granted its historical givens. Is it our future as an alternate Earth or a space colony or something too rarefied to define? It seems to inherit, also, many of the themes from this book’s foregoing context, but equally stands on its own. Including the Ark, a bit like the previous pod now multi-populated. The sterilisation. The Fallow. The dustyard. The Castle. Agar and her sister Temar. ‘Writing is a noble pursuit’, says Miss Snowfall, to Agar. And we surely now know what she means. And the ending of this first chapter makes me think her called name of Snowfall becomes Snowfallow… (And so much more I can’t cover here.) [Incredibly, its pale deer is the deepest possible kindred spirit to the white deer in Jeffrey Thomas’ ‘Spider Gates’ that I already happened to mention above for another reason in my entry about the previous story.]


    “The pallor of the Earthman’s skin, her terrible solidity, seeped into my dreams.”

    As this work will work into mine, I reckon. All my gestalt real-time reviews are based on the first reading of any book, and I can sympathise with Agar’s own gestalt real-time reviewing for her studies of the Young Evangelists, via information from, inter alia, Brother Lookout and Sister Wheel.
    I know more now than I did a few hours ago when I wrote the previous entry above. But not enough yet. And what I have learnt would be spoilers to divulge.
    A wild card – Is the Earthman the author herself, I wonder, even against her own belief that she created her for this purpose? Wimsatt’s Intentional Fallacy as a literary theory? My first vision of the Earthman through Agar’s five year old eyes I will never forget. Nor the implications for Christianity and our future. Well, not our future, today! We are going through polarities now, or schisms as this work calls them. The middle path or the most extreme? Fog (from the burning of rice fields) or that earlier craft of ‘Clarity’ in this book.
    Sources of sources. Mining the Fetch. Hawling truth from fiction. Samatar as the lookout in the crow’s nest of humanity? Where has the Sunday light gone?

    “I pieced together the story of Brother Lookout over some time, from a number of sources.”

  4. 3. TEMAR

    “She was still there, like the light on the page.”

    Not Snowfall’s mining light but Agar’s sister Temar’s light, by dint of a letter left by her to Agar that Agar kindly shows us, of Temar’s life in the Castle. I feel that I myself follow different coloured arrows through the text of this work as through the labyrinth that Temar describes before vanishing and coming back arguably more tenuous. There is a sense of kneeling and praying, head pressed to the surface, as a paradoxical form of vertigo. Or of mining water with tanks and drills. A sense of a Biblical diaspora, in all its implications, when space is the desert to cross. Who was left behind, who still travelled, and who discovered the galaxy of Fallow. The logistics of this book do pan out somehow, unsure exactly. I wondered whether it was significant that Lugran Moan’s name contains ‘lanugo.’
    A work teetering on the brink of transcending itself into a hard-headed prayer beyond the ‘grounding’ of words. “A fallen angel means there is a Heaven.” “A door is so precious, even if one never steps through.” Fade, fester, run or endure…. towards that ‘garden of pomegranates.’ The Father or father again… ” I hated him and loved him, like David loved and hated Saul. I used to imagine Father as Saul and myself as the boy David.” That Earthman called ‘she’. Temar or Agar as Samatar, JT’s left and right?

    End of ‘Fallow’ or Follow


    “Tag me.”

    A series of tags by Sahra as messages to someone called Fox, evoking but possibly not actually being our on-line message-tagging, or the real tag Fox left on Sahra’s wrist as a bracelet of remembrance, later creating a red line on her wrist after she breaks if off, given to her after they covered themselves in a blanket and spent a naive night together, whence a thread in this book as a well as a thread in real life, as boy and girl kids, not that ‘baby quilt’, a thread echoing this book’s earlier modernistic conceptual-art now as a tag across the land, like along vibrating telephone poles, during a Movement not only as a movement against some form of post-Trump repercussions but also as a movement as an ever-ongoing Diaspora across family-lines as well as across her dying Mom’s and Sahra’s desert in Dakota (similar to Agar’s across space as desert). Sahra’s tags are to a boy her Mom called Fox-bright, a boy (now man?) who Sahra hopes will reply and then blames him for things about her Mom’s illness and then cursorily tags him several times and for a last time…
    They lost her father when losing his books.

    “…how to keep the meshnets running, how to draw power tenderly from the world,”

    Tag me, tell me whether my own dreamcatcher is running well.


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