The news came late to Sudanese writer Rania Mamoun that her short-story collection, Thirteen Months of Sunrise, had been published in English translation. The book — Mamoun’s first in English — arrived in print while the author was focused on the revolutionary protests that have swept across Sudan. She didn’t see a copy of her collection until she recently arrived in the US for a writer’s residency:
Mamoun’s 10-story collection — which we previously explored via a literary playlist — explores the connections and walls between people and communities. Here, ArabLit editor Marcia Lynx Qualey has a triangular discussion with Mamoun and her book’s English translator, Elisabeth Jaquette.
The discussion is available in full at Qantara.
Rania, the first story in Thirteen Months of Sunrise weaves together Amharic and Sudanese cultures, rhythms, tastes, dress, music. Is it important to your work to weave together different cultural forms and genres?
Rania Mamoun: Yes. In my other writings, many cultures appear, although most of the physical settings in Thirteen Months of Sunrise revolve specifically around the center of the country, particularly the cities of Wad Madani and Khartoum. But in essence, Sudan is a multicultural and multi-ethnic country, even in its languages. A region might speak Arabic, but each has its own dialect. Areas such as the Nuba Mountains and al-Anqsa in the Blue Nile state have their particular cultures, which are different from those of any other region in Sudan. They have their languages, music, stories, and various forms of artistic expression, some of which reflect their tragedies and the genocidal wars waged against the people there.
In this slim collection, you take the short story in a lot of different directions. Are there short-story writers you particularly admire? Why do you read short stories?
Rania Mamoun: There are many writers whose short stories I enjoy. For example, the South Sudanese writer Stella Gaitano, as well as Abdel Aziz Baraka Sakin and Mansour Suwaim. Also Mohsen Khalid—although he hasn’t written for a while.
I think, when I read a short story, I’m looking for what literary readers generally seek: the sheer pleasure of reading and opening ourselves to the lives of storytellers, and consequently to their cultures, places, and spaces of knowledge. It’s as if we’re adding the lives of all the characters we read about in a book to our own short lives.
Read and listen to the Thirteen Months playlist.