In 'The Fortune Men', Nadifa Mohammed offers a fictionalised retelling of the story of Mahmood Mattan, a Somali seaman and Cardiff resident who was executed in 1952 in Wales for a crime he did not commit. Nadifa Mohamed tells this story through the eyes of Mahmood and allows us to delve into his inner world. We get to accompany him in these last days and hours of his life, where he grapples with the impossibility and absurdity of the murder accusations he is charged with. This is a story about the fragility of our freedom and, indeed, our life that we tend to take for granted.
Mahmood Mattan is a fixture in Cardiff's Tiger Bay, 1952, which bustles with Somali and West Indian sailors, Maltese businessmen and Jewish families. He is a father, chancer, some-time petty thief. He is many things, in fact, but he is not a murderer.
So when a shopkeeper is brutally killed and all eyes fall on him, Mahmood isn't too worried. It is true that he has been getting into trouble more often since his Welsh wife Laura left him.
But Mahmood is secure in his innocence in a country where, he thinks, justice is served. It is only in the run-up to the trial, as the prospect of freedom dwindles, that it will dawn on Mahmood that he is in a terrifying fight for his life - against conspiracy, prejudice and the inhumanity of the state. And, under the shadow of the hangman's noose, he begins to realise that the truth may not be enough to save him.
Praise and awards
'A writer of great humanity and intelligence. Nadifa Mohamed deeply understands how lives are shaped both by the grand sweep of history and the intimate encounters of human beings' Kamila Shamsie, author of Home Fire
'A novel of tremendous power, compassion and subtlety, it feels unsettlingly timely' Pankaj Mishra
SHORTLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE 2021
SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA NOVEL AWARD 2021
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