As I wrote in a piece at Al Jazeera, the union initially opened in 1986, during the brief Sadiq al-Mahdi coalition government.
When Omar al-Bashir came to power in 1989, the union was one of the first organizations he banned, and writers were expelled from the historic building granted them by the previous government. The union was relaunched in 2005, after a peace treaty was signed between north and south Sudan. Then, civil space seemed to open up again.
Since that time, poet and cultural activist Mamoun Eltlib said in a Skype interview, the Writers Union has been one of the main platforms for cultural organizing in Sudan. “They have an office and buildings, space for events, music, literature, books, many things.” Their most recent events — before the shutdown — involved inviting Moroccan poet Mohammed Bennis to Khartoum for a series of readings and discussions. Hardly the “political” violation of the SWU’s charter that the government claimed.
The monthly Mafroush book market, meanwhile, started three years ago, and played host not just to books, but the music, fine art, and poetry readings. It has also been at least temporarily shuttered.
According to an editorial that ran this weekend in the Sudan Vision, opposing the shutdown, shuttering the writers union is being “described as part of a wider crackdown by authorities on centres believed to be pro-opposition.”
The Vision further asserts that “the decision will draw more attention from the public to the SWU and its activities even those who have never heard about it.”
Meanwhile, we can at the very least draw our attention to Sudanese literature, which Naguib Mahfouz Medal-winning Sudanese novelist Hammour Ziada says, “is full of poeticism, in addition to [being unique because of] the world the Sudanese culture belongs to, where African and Arab cultures mix.”
Novels in translation
Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih, trans. Denys Johnson-Davies
Bandarshah, Tayeb Salih, trans. Denys Johnson-Davies
Cities Without Palms, Tarek Eltayeb, trans. Kareem James Abu-Zeid
The Grub Hunter, Amir Tag Elsir, trans. William Hutchins
French Perfume, Amir Tag Elsir, trans. William Hutchins
Written in English
In the Hour of Signs, Jamal Mahjoub
Novella in translation
The Wedding of Zein, by Tayeb Salih, trans Denys Johnson-Davies
Novel soon to be in translation
The Longing of the Dervish, by Hammour Ziada
“A Handful of Dates,” by El-Tayyib El-Salih
“In the Long Shadows,” by Jamal Mahjoub
“Isolation,” by Sabah Babiker Ibraheem Sanhouri, trans. Max Shmookler and Najlaa Eltom.
“Stirring Ashes,” by Yousif Izzat AlMahri, trans. Mustafa Adam
A selection of al-Saddiq al-Raddi’s poetry from the Poetry Translation Centre: includes “An Image” and “Lost,” trans. Hafiz Kheir and Mark Ford
Another selection of al-Saddiq al-Raddi’s work from the Centre: includes “A Monkey at the Window,” trans. Hafiz Kheir and Sarah Maguire
“The Return to Sinnar,” by Mohamed Abd-Alhai, trans. Mustafa Adam