An Ever-so-short History of the ‘Complex, Capacious’ Sudanese Short Story

The essay “In a Sudan Where Literature is Often Smuggled, the Short Story is a Perfect Form,” by ArabLit editor M Lynx Qualey, appears on LitHub. It opens:

It was June 2, 1934, when a group of young men published the first issue of al-Fajr. This twice-monthly magazine followed the short-lived Nahda, which closed after its founder’s death in 1933. Al-Fajr’s core was formed out of study groups and friendships at Khartoum’s Gordon Memorial College in the late 1920s and early 1930s. At the time, possession of Egyptian literary magazines was an “incriminating act,” according to Sudanese scholar Yousif Omer Babiker, who wrote that the young men smuggled Arabic periodicals into the English school under their clothes.

Ninety years later, literature is still smuggled into and around Sudan. Before the Khartoum sit-in was brutally stormed at dawn on June 3, 2019, banned books were available at the protesters’ informal libraries. Before that, many could be found at the open-air book market called Mafroosh, held in Khartoum’s Etienne Square on the first Tuesday of the month.

Max Shmookler, co-editor of the short-story collection Book of Khartoum, said that when he was looking for Sudanese short stories in 2014, he found a few less controversial ones “in the dusty book shops clustered around the University of Khartoum.” But he found most in Mafroosh, where banned books were circulated by hand and where you could get a copy of the underground literary journal Elixir.

Keep reading on LitHub.

Selections from our stories-of-Sudan-&-South-Sudan backlist:

Interviews and talks

A Talk about Sudanese Short Stories and ‘Thirteen Months of Sunrise’

Bushra al-Fadil on Writing ‘Something Similar to’ Sci Fi


The Microfictions of Sudanese Writer Fatima As-Sanoussi

Reflecting on Abdel Goddous Al-Khatim’s ‘Reflections On Sudanese Culture’

Denys Johnson-Davies on How Tayeb Salih Got His Start

On the Khartoum Omnibus: Stories of Sudan’s Cosmopolitanism

How To Separate Mediocre, Good, and Great Stories in Translation

Looking for Literature in Khartoum

Literary playlist

Literary Playlist: Rania Mamoun’s ‘Thirteen Months of Sunrise’


The Unique Wordplay of Sudanese Writer Bushra Al-Fadil

Stella Gitano’s ‘Withered Flowers’


Award-winning Film ‘You Will Die at Twenty,’ Based on Hammour Ziada Story

Publishing industry

Beating — or Joining — Literary Piracy in Sudan


3 Collections for ‘Sudan / South Sudan Literature Week’

Against the Writers Union Shutdown, Read Stories and Poems from Sudan

And a handful of Sudanese short stories online:

Omayma Abdullah’s “The Route Through Purgatory,” trans. Nassir al-Sayed al-Nour

Excerpt from Rania Mamoun’s PEN-support-winning “Thirteen Months of Sunrise,” trans. Elisabeth Jaquette

“Birth,” Abdelaziz Baraka Sakin, trans. Nancy Roberts

Stella Gaitano’s “Withered Flowers,” trans. Anthony Calderbank

“A Handful of Dates,” by Tayeb Salih, tr. Denys Johnson-Davies

“Isolation,” by Sabah Babiker Ibraheem Sanhouri, trans. Max Shmookler and Najlaa Eltom.

“Stirring Ashes,” by Yousif Izzat AlMahri, trans. Mustafa Adam