Harding has been visiting Somalia since 2000, and was in Mogadishu during the height of the battle against the Islamist militants of Al Shabab and during the famine of 2011. He is one of the very few foreign journalists to have travelled into territory controlled by Al Shabab and met their commanders, or to have visited (twice) the pirate town of Eyl.
Harding's new book is The Mayor of Mogadishu: A Story of Chaos and Redemption in the Ruins of Somalia.
Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I’m gearing up to write my second book – a non-fiction tale about a brutal double murder here in South Africa and the way the subsequent investigation and trial have been stirring up all sorts of political tensions in a small farming town. And so yes, I’ve been re-reading In Cold Blood, looking for tips, and have been left, once again, in awe of Truman Capote’s skill at hiding the seams and stitches that allowed him to transform years of interviews and transcripts into such a polished, perfect novel.Visit Andrew Harding's website.
Jonny Steinberg’s A Man of Good Hope has been useful too. But not for the way it tries to hide any stitches - rather for the opposite. He tells the story of a Somali boy’s escape from war in Mogadishu, and the long trek down the continent to South Africa, where he encounters a different kind of hell. It’s a startlingly honesty and skillful work of reportage, and grows more topical by the day in this era of migration and closing borders.
In a similar vein, I’ve been enjoying Nadifa Mohamed’s beautiful, evocative Black Mamba Boy. This is another story about leaving Somalia – based on the life of the novelist’s own father, but fictionalised. I can’t wait to read her most recent book, The Orchard of Lost Souls.
My Book, The Movie: The Mayor of Mogadishu.