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Cricklewood author whose books have been translated into 50 languages admits: They don't make me any money

PUBLISHED: 09:00 23 February 2019

Mohammed Umar's first novel Amina has been published in 33 languages. Picture: Brunel Johnson

Mohammed Umar's first novel Amina has been published in 33 languages. Picture: Brunel Johnson

@brunels_world

A Cricklewood author is celebrating after getting his books translated into more than 50 different languages.

Mohammed Umar's appearance in the Brent & Kilburn Times in 1996. Picture: Brunel JohnsonMohammed Umar's appearance in the Brent & Kilburn Times in 1996. Picture: Brunel Johnson

Mohammed Umar, who lives in Ivy Road, has children and adults all over the world reading his tales – but is yet to make any money himself.

The 60-year-old’s latest semi-autobiographical tale, The Illegal Immigrant, has been endorsed by friend, neighbour and former London mayor Ken Livingstone as “an amazing book” that “everyone should read”.

Nigerian-born Mr Umar wrote his first book, Amina, while living in a hostel in Moscow in 1991 where he was studying political science.

The tale, which explores the exploitation and degradation of women, has now been published in 33 languages.

Mohammed Umar's first novel Amina has been published in 33 languages. Picture: Brunel JohnsonMohammed Umar's first novel Amina has been published in 33 languages. Picture: Brunel Johnson

His children’s books have been published in 31 languages.

To even get this far has been an uphill struggle for the special needs assistant, who earns his money teaching autistic children in Kentish Town.

He said: “I wrote Amina when I was studying in Moscow. I was bored, sitting alone in my hostel.

“There were no computers back then so for years I only had one hand written manuscript.

“A publisher in the UK said they would do it but when I got here they rejected it. After that I got confused – what was I going to do?

“That was the basis of The Illegal Immigrant. I became an illegal immigrant here from 1992 to 1996.”

In 1993 he met and fell in love with his Dutch wife, with whom he had three children.

In 1996, the year his first son Salim was born, he was appointed Foreign Rights Manager at ZED Books in Islington where he learned a lot about the publishing world and how it operates.

He added: “If you don’t ask the small publishers for money they will publish it for you. I went to political groups. Amina, being about the situation of women, could go into any language. It’s the message in it that publishers were keen to promote.”

The downside, of course, is that he makes very little. “The Sanskrit editions sell for 60 rupees – that’s probably 30p. How many must they sell for me to make money? And then there are the taxes.

“At the moment, money is not my motivation – my books are being read. The day I became an illegal immigrant I decided that one day I would write about it.

“I let everything settle down first. Most illegal immigrants would rather forget their experience but me, I felt I had to confront it. This is how people live.”

Languages in which Mohammed Umar’s books are published

Acholi

Afrikaans

Arabic

Azeri

Bahasa

English

Farsi

Finnish

French

Fulfulde

Greek

Hausa

Hindi

Igbo

Japanese

Kannada

Kanuri

Khandeshi

Kinyarwanda

Kirundi

Luganda

Macedonian

Maithili

Malay

Malayalam

Marathi

Mongolian

Ndebele

Nepali

Oriya

Polish

Punjabi

Rajasthani

Sanskrit

Santali

Serbian

Sesotho

Shona

Sindhi

Sinhala

Somali

Spanish

Swahili

Tamil

Telugu

Urdu

Vietnamese

Xhosa

Yoruba

Zulu

Languages in which Mohammed Umar’s books are in production

Albanian

Amharic

Bengoli

Burmese

Chichewa

Kashmiri

Montenegrin

Oromo

Sepedi

Setswana

Siswati

Thai

Thivenda

Tigrinya

Tumbuka

Uzbek

Xitsonga

Yao

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