Fatima As-Sanoussi is one of the prominent champions of Sudanese flash fiction, having spearheaded the spread and popularity of micro fiction in Sudanese newspapers throughout the 1980s:
By Lemya Shammat
Sudanese author and journalist Fatima As-Sanoussi was born in Hasahesa, a city southeast of Khartoum, in the early 1950s. After graduating from the University of Khartoum’s arts faculty, As-Sanoussi joined the cultural department of Sudan Radio Station. She also worked as a journalist and translator.
As-Sanoussi’s stories had a broad influence on Sudan’s ‘80s-generation writers, who found inspiration and guidance in her condensed artistic practice. Her densely packed narratives seemed to particularly resonate with young people, who welcomed her mini fictions. Some of those later emerged as writers, such as Salma El Sheikh, and they affirmed that their imaginations were profoundly nurtured by the free short narrative bursts that were wittily crafted and combined into a coherent whole in As-Sanoussi’s flash fiction style, which moved across categories and outside the existing structures and genre constraints.
In the heart of a distant cloud
they dug a hole as
a hideout for their love.
The cloud rained.
Love spilled over the city.
As-Sanoussi argued, in an interview, that the “flash” short story requires dense brevity and precision on the part of the writer, as well as efficiency from the expected reader: “It’s a kind of creative writing that emerges as a joint work between the writer and reader.”
These short shorts depend heavily on the intensification of language and a sharp focus on events. Stories evolve from a single event into broader tropes and ideas. This necessitates the shedding of any needless details by the writer, who must remain aware of the nature of a piece’s distilled words and the weight they carry. The reader, on the other hand, is expected to participate effectively in weaving details and filling the temporal and spatial spaces, and thus be able to visualize the conclusion according to their own vision and interpretation.
His warm spirit spread all through
the gathering place.
I saw candles laugh
till they broke into tears.
We celebrated without putting out a candle
so as not to silence the deep, weeping laughter.
Paradox is another characteristic of Fatima As-Sanoussi’s masterful stories. The paradox is often two-sided, between the self and the other, where different possibilities enter the space between reality and the expected, revealing a mystery in the very last phrase. Another implicit promise is to breach the reader’s expectations, for whom there will always be a surprise in store.
I needed to regain my focus
so I made a decision to remember you
only once each hour.
But I found myself counting the minutes
waiting anxiously for the hours’ heads to pop up.
Thus, in the end, I changed my decision.
Fatima As-Sanoussi’s capsulized fictions offer multi-thematic pieces that contemplate love, loss, and yearning. They strive to x-ray the internal impact of hard experiences, missteps, and irreversible destinies. Reminiscence and romantic nostalgia radiate throughout the stories. As they struggle to navigate the unfathomable universe, they also take us down memory lane, which can partially explain the wistful and meditative tones with which the stories are layered.
Essayist, short-story writer, and critic Lemya Shammat has a PhD in English Language and Linguistics from Khartoum University and is an Assistant Professor at King Saud Bin Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. A member of the Sudanese Writers Union, Shammat has published a book on literary criticism and discourse analysis as well as a collection of short-short stories. She also translates between English and Arabic.
Shammat’s work will appear in the next ArabLit Quarterly.