Jamal Mahjoub

Jamal Mahjoub (born London 1966) is a mixed-race writer of British and Sudanese parents. He writes in English and has published eight novels under his own name. In 2012, Mahjoub began writing a series of crime fiction novels under the pseudonym Parker Bilal.[1]

Published workEdit

Writing in The Observer, Zoë Heller described Mahjoub's first novel, Navigation of a Rainmaker (1989), as providing "a rich picture, both of Africa's vast, seemingly insuperable problems – and of the moral dilemmas faced by a well-meaning, ineffectual stranger".[2] Wings of Dust (1994), Mahjoub's second novel, explores the legacy of the first generation of Northern Sudanese who were educated in the West in the 1950s and inherited the task of creating the newly independent nation. In the Hour of Signs (1996) recounts the story of the Mahdi, who led a revolt in 19th-century Turko-Egyptian Sudan, expelling the Khedive Ismail's troops. According to the TLS, the novel conveys "A profound awareness that man refuses to learn from history, because he is blind to the guises in which it repeats itself."[3] In the process General Gordon was killed, which led to the British Reconquest and the formation of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan in 1898.

"Mahjoub's first three novels can be loosely read as a trilogy of political events in Sudan. Emulating the turmoil and uncertaintly of the Sudan, his writing distinguishes itself by its dynamism"[4]

The Carrier (1998) is split between the early 17th century and present-day Denmark, where an archaeological find reveals a link to a visitor from the Arab world in medieval times. The novel's astronomical theme touches on the discovery of Heliocentricity and the work of Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. Travelling with Djinns (2003) tells the story of Yasin, a man with a similar background to the author, who absconds with his young son Leo and travels through Europe in a Peugeot 504.[5] In The Drift Latitudes (2006), Rachel, following the death of her son, becomes aware of the existence of a half-sister, Jade; the product of a relationship her father had late in life. The novel depicts life around a jazz club in Liverpool frequented by African sailors in the 1960s.[6] Nubian Indigo (2006) addresses the author's Nubian heritage on his father's side. The novel uses a mixture of fable and multiple characters to describe events around the evacuation of Nubian villages as a consequence of the raising of the Aswan High Dam. The novel was first published in French in 2006.[7][8]

Critical reception and awardsEdit

Mahjoub's work has been broadly acclaimed and translated into several European languages. In 1993, "The Cartographer’s Angel" won a one-off short story prize organised by The Guardian newspaper in conjunction with the publisher Heinemann Books, judged by Adewale Maja-Pearce, Margaret Busby and Ian Mayes.[9] In the 2000s, his work received much attention in Europe: In 2001 in Italy, Mahjoub was a finalist for the La cultura del mare[10] prize started by Alberto Moravia. In 2004 in France, The Carrier (French: Le Télescope de Rachid) won the Prix de L’Astrolabe, an award given annually at the Etonnants Voyageurs festival in St Malo. In 2005, "The Obituary Tango" was shortlisted for the Caine Prize, and in 2006, a short story, "Carrer Princesa", won the NH Hotels Mario Vargas Llosa prize for short stories.[11]

Parker BilalEdit

In 2012, Mahjoub began publishing crime fiction under the pseudonym "Parker Bilal". The Golden Scales (2012) was the first of a six novel series set in Cairo featuring the exiled Sudanese detective Makana. Mahjoub subsequently began a UK-set series of crime novels featuring detective Drake and forensic psychologist Crane, the first entry of which was The Divinities (2019).


As Jamal MahjoubEdit

  • Navigation of a Rainmaker (1989)
  • Wings of Dust (1994)
  • In the Hour of Signs (1996)
  • The Carrier (1998)
  • Travelling With Djinns (2003)
  • The Drift Latitudes (2006)
  • Nubian Indigo (2006)
  • A Line in the River: Khartoum, City of Memory (2018)
  • The Fugitives (Canongate Books, 2021)

As Parker BilalEdit

  • The Golden Scales (Bloomsbury, 2012)
  • Dogstar Rising (Bloomsbury, 2013)
  • The Ghost Runner (Bloomsbury, 2014)
  • The Burning Gates (Bloomsbury, 2015)
  • City of Jackals (Bloomsbury, 2016)
  • Dark Water (Bloomsbury, 2017)
  • The Divinities (The Indigo Press, 2019)
  • The Heights (Severn House Publishers, 2020)
  • The Trenches (Canongate Books, 2022)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ John Crace (17 March 2013). "Jamal Mahjoub: 'My wife says Parker Bilal is much nicer' | Books". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  2. ^ Zoë Heller, "Loathing in Lebanon", The Observer, London; 31 December 1989, p. 36.
  3. ^ The Times Literary Supplement, 28 February 1997.
  4. ^ Caroline A. Mohsen (2000). "Narrating Identity & Conflict: History, Geography, and the Nation in Jamal Mahjoub's Portrayal of Modern-Day Sudan". World Literature Today. 74 (3): 541–554. JSTOR 40155822.
  5. ^ Maya Jaggi (20 September 2003). "Review: Travelling with Djinns by Jamal Mahjoub | Books". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  6. ^ Kevin Le Gendre (26 February 2006). "The Drift Latitudes by Jamal Mahjoub: Meet me down the Nubian jazz club". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 23 July 2014.
  7. ^ Romans et nouvelles (February 2006). "Nubian Indigo". Actes Sud. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  8. ^ Stéphane Guibourgé (27 February 2006). "Nubian Indigo". Le Figaro. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  9. ^ "The Cartographer's Angel by Jamal Mahjoub", The Guardian, 19 January 1993, p. 24: "Jamal Mahjoub is the winner of the Guardian £1000 prize for a new African story. He will receive his cheque this evening from the Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe. Mahjoub's story, The Cartographer's Angel, was the unanimous choice of the three judges, Adewale Maja-Pearce, the editor of Heinemann's African Writers Series; Margaret Busby, the editor of the recently published anthology of writing by black women, Daughters of Africa (Cape); and Ian Mayes, the arts editor of the Guardian."
  10. ^ "Esplora il significato del termine: Premio Premio 'La cultura del mare', 5 finalisti a San Felice Circeo". Corriere della Sera. Archived from the original on 14 December 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  11. ^ "NH Hoteles reaffirms its commitment to culture and announces the XIV edition of the "MARIO VARGAS LLOSA NH SHORT STORY AWARD" | nh-hotels.com". www.nh-hotels.com. Retrieved 17 July 2020.

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