Season of Migration to the North: Motif Tracking – Infection & Disease


Summary of Role:

Infection and disease is a motif that runs through the novella. When it’s used, it often is used to describe the sense of ‘wanderlust’ and



Quotations & Analysis:





“These girls were not killed by Mustafa Sa’eed but by the germ of a deadly disease that assailed them a thousand years ago.”’

·         Absolves Mustafa Sa’eed of the blame and transfers it to the ‘disease’

·         Weakness from the girls

·         Everyone is infected by the ‘disease’

·         Mustafa is unable to resist the call as shown by the way he talks about wanderlust


“It was as though I were a slave Shahrayar you buy in the market for a dinar encountering a Scheherazade begging amidst the rubble of a city destroyed by plague.”




“I saw the troops returning, filled with terror, from the war of trenches, of live and epidemics.”

·         About WWI; most of the war was between the Alliance (Britain) vs Central Power (Germany). Both sides are usually considered as the west, which is not common with the idea in the book (east vs west); it may suggests that even within the west, it is possible for the countries to infect each other with their own culture, that between different culutres, however similar they may seem, there will still be room for being trapped between two cultures


“My bedroom was a spring-well of sorrow, the germ of a fatal disease. The infection had stricken these women a thousand years ago, but I had stirred up the latent depths of the disease until it had got out of control and had killed.”




“She entered my bedroom a chaste virgin and when she left it she was carrying the germs of self-destruction within her.”




“I stood beside her for about a quarter of an hour, laughing when the speaker’s words made her laugh - loudly so that she might be affected by the contagion of it.”




“‘...You, my lady, may not know, but you - like Carnarvon when he entered Tutankhamen’s tomb - have been infected with a deadly disease which has come from you know not where and which will bring about your destruction, be it sooner or later...”’




“‘You transmitted to us the disease of your capitalist economy.’”




“‘...How sad it would be if either or both of my sons grew up with the germ of this infection in them, the wanderlust...’”




“That was the cause for wonder: that the was actually alive, despite plague and famines, wars and the corruption of rulers.”




“They imported to us the germ of the greatest European violence, as seen on the Somme and at Verdun, the like of which the world has never previously known, the germ of a deadly disease that struck them more than a thousand years ago. Yes my dear sirs, I came as an invader into your very homes: a drop of the poison which you have injected into the veins of history...”

·         It is unclear if the narrator or Mustafa had said it, but it shows strong sense of revenge against the colonizer for their occupation of their homeland; "use of dear sir" reminds the readers that the narrator was still telling a story to the "gentlemen" from the beginning. Combine that with the fact that he is saying such violent like poision, makes it seems like he is trying to threaten the gentlemen, which the readers would presume are English gentlemen, a symbol of Britain and the colonizers; shows the power both the narrator and Mustafa has, which came from themselves.  The independence and power they have seems to draw a parallel between them two and the colonizers countries, which were starting to gain independence


“...and that I - like him and Wad Rayyes and millions of others - was not immune from the germ of contagion that oozes from the body of the universe.”




“In any case he has survived despite epidemics, the corruption of those in power, and the cruelty of nature.”

·         The survival of the grandfather and the fact that he has not been infected with wanderlust suggest his strength, despite his age; this suggests his purity, the lack of influence from the weset on him; his survival shows the strength in simplicity


“‘...If we do not tear out this disease by the roots we shall have with us a bourgeoisie that is in no way connected with the reality of our life, which is more dangerous to the future of Africa than imperialism itself’...’”