Special for #WiTMonth: Stella Gaitano’s ‘Withered Flowers’

This August, through Women in Translation Month (#WiTMonth), readers who subscribe to ArabLit Quarterly will also receive a copy of Stella Gaitano’s brilliant vivid collection Withered Flowers, either in Arabic or in Anthony Calderbank’s English translation:

Photo credit: Rami Lynx.

The Summer 2019 issue of ArabLit Quarterly, set for a September 1 release, is a sea-themed spectacular. It promises to include wordwork by Ahmed Naji and Spencer Scoville; Wadih Saadeh and Suneela Mubayi; Nariman Youssef; Adania Shibli and Adam Thirlwell; Hassan Najmi and Mbarek Sryfi; Melanie Magidow; Najwa Binshatwan and Sawad Hussain; Muhammad El-Haj and Yasmine Zohdi; Tọ́pẹ́ Salaudeen-Adégòkè; Nazik al-Malaika and Emily Drumsta, and many others. You’ll find Egyptian pirate argot; a tenth-century shipwreck story by al-Tanukhi and a twentieth-century shipwreck story from Taleb Elrefai; contemporary political satire and romance; nineteenth-century Moroccan malhun poetry; and some of our regular features: Literary Playlist, Translators’ Cafe, and #TranslateThis.

Anyone who becomes a Patreon subscriber to ALQ during the month of August also gets a copy of Stella Gaitano’s limited-edition, almost-impossible-to-acquire Withered Flowers, in Arabic or English, while supplies last. We will cover shipping within the US; for addresses outside the US, subscribers must provide the extra.

You can hear a little of Gaitano’s work read aloud during Bulaq Episode 15; there’s also a review on Qantara, which gives this context:

This is Gitanoʹs second collection to arrive in English. Both were published by Rafiki for Printing & Publishing where Gitano now lives: in Juba, South Sudan. Although Gitano is South Sudanese, she began writing as a student at the University of Khartoum. Her parents fled north in the late 1960s, during the countryʹs civil war and the author was born in Khartoum in ʹ79. She stayed there for university and also began her career there, moving south after the 2012 partition.

The stories in Withered Flowers were written between 1998 and 2002, when Gitano was still a student. At the time, she was navigating between three Arabics (Sudanese, Juba, and classical) while conducting her studies in English. This early work demonstrates vibrant wordplay, fearless empathy and a deep understanding of storycraft. The author attributes the latter to the women in her family, to whom she dedicates the collection.

The translated collection is organised back-to-front, an echo of the Arabic original. The last work in the collection, “An Island the Size of a Papaya Fruit”, was one of the authorʹs first. The story centres on a grandmother, whom the narrator describes as brutally ugly and overwhelmingly strong, something like a fairy-tale troll. Yet the young narrator, who clearly loves her grandmother, also shades the portrait with tender love and vulnerable detail. The grandmother has sagging breasts that make “a sound like applesauce” as they slap against her stomach.

The grandmother retells a story about her husband, who was executed by the English. The grandfather, she says, unknowingly carried his own execution order to the authorities and in her telling, the anecdote is comic, tragic and unsettling. The story won the author a Professor Ali El-Mek Award.

Continue reading at Qantara. 

Subscribe to ALQ via Patreon (and scroll for the ALQ + ‘Withered Flowers’ option). You can also subscribe via Exact Editions, but then you’ll need to send an email to info@arablit.org with your information.