- The first African to win the Neustadt International Prize for Literature (in 1998). Though fluent in five languages, Farah chooses to write in English, partly because the Somali language only recently acquired a standardized orthography, and partly because he began writing on an American typewriter.
- Farah was born in 1945 in what is now Somalia, Baidoa, and grew up in Kallafo, under Ethiopian rule in Ogaden. The ethnically and linguistically mixed area of his childhood contributed to his early fascination with literature. He spoke Somali at home but at school learned Amharic, Italian, Arabic and English. Farah worked in the Ministry of Education in Somalia before leaving for India to study philosophy and literature at the Punjab University of Chandigarh. After returning to Mogadiscio to teach, he left Somalia for Britain, where he studied Theater. He has also taught at the universities of Mogadiscio, Jo, Bayreuth, Minnesota and the State University of New York.
- A novella, Why Die So Soon? was published in 1965 and brought him to public attention in Somalia. His first novel, From a Crooked Rib, was published in 1970; it has since achieved worldwide cult status, admired for its empathetic portrait of a Somali woman struggling with the restraints of traditional Somali society. Ever since, he has been noted for his portrayals of strong women in patriarchal societies. It was followed by A Naked Needle (1976).
- Farah’s next three novels, Sweet and Sour Milk (1979), Sardines (1981), and Close Sesame (1985) comprise the trilogy known collectively as Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship. Upon the publication of Sweet and Sour Milk, which won the English-speaking Union Literary Award, Farah became persona non grata in his native Somalia. In exile, Farah began what has become a lifelong literary project: “to keep my country alive by writing about it.”
- The Variations trilogy was followed by the Blood in the Sun trilogy, which consists of Maps (1986), Gifts (1992), and Secrets (1998. Farah lives in Cape Town, South Africa with his wife and children