9 Short Stories by Sudanese and South Sudanese Women, in Translation

Below, read nine vibrant, world-stitching (and un-stitching) short stories by Sudanese and South Sudanese women in English translation:

1. “Steps Astray,” by Rania Mamoun, from her collection Thirteen Months of Sunrise, tr. Elisabeth Jacquette

I hadn’t intended to go just as far as my strength could take me, just two streets from home. I meant to go beg from the bakery on the next street over.

2. “The Route Through Purgatory” by Omayma Abdullahtranslated by Nassir al-Sayed al-Nour

The sands lolled and swam in the sun’s blazing rays all day, then when darkness fell, they patiently waited for the sun to rise. As far as the eye could see, the sands swelled in every direction, wild and silent. It even felt like they were stealthily watching us. Everyone except the leader and I slept like the dead. We had walked barefoot the whole day, but the journey ahead was still long. The sun had hollowed faces and etched deep lines; lips were painted the color of ash.

3. “The Rally of the Sixth of April,” by Stella Gaitano, translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid, Salah Mohamed El Hassan Osman, and Abed Haddad

This was no normal morning…. The air was heavy with a confounding silence. It was a situation that could be described as a lying in wait, as a cautious staring between predator and prey, each waiting for the right moment to leap. Hussam was busy finding the right nooks to shoot the perfect photo. He stood behind a small window in a cramped room on the sixth floor of a building in the Souk Arabi district. Carefully, he began to adjust his equipment, training his camera over the heart of Khartoum, which was now abuzz with heightened security. The arrests began at 10 am, just over three hours before the start of the march. Many citizens were forced to leave the city center: to prevent gatherings, police and masked security men began to beat and disperse the people.

4. “Doors,” by Rania Mamoun, translated by Elisabeth Jaquette

He woke up early, unusual for him, and got out of bed with cheerful enthusiasm.

He headed to the tap to wash his face and freshen his breath with minty toothpaste but discovered the water had been shut off. God! When had they come? Did they never sleep!

Then he remembered that he hadn’t paid the utility.

5. “Isolation,” by Sabah Babiker Ibraheem Sanhouri, translated by Najlaa Othman and Max Shmookler

It’s hot, hot enough to suffocate. There is nothing except this table upon which I sleep, a rectangular hall with four doors and twelve windows. On each side a door. On the shorter sides, two windows, each with a door between them, and on the longer sides, two windows to the left of the door and two to the right.

6. “Flash,” by Lemya Shammat, translated by Elisabeth Jaquette

He spotted her slender body, whipped by the hot air, on the verge of being flattened by the wheels of the racing cars. Without hesitation, he decided to save her. He glanced around, then rushed to launch himself deftly into the air, while behind him fluttered the hems of his tattered rags and the rope he had cinched around his waist in place of a belt to hold the threadbare rags against his thin, feeble body. For an instant everything was still; for a moment his mind went numb. Then bodies leaned, necks elongated, eyes widened, breaths quickened, and a panicked cry of warning escaped: “Hey, watch out!”

7. “On the Train” by Ishraga Mustafa Hamid, translated by Jonathan Wright

The ride on the train from Kosti, known as “the steamer,” marked the start of the summer vacation. As soon as it began, I felt a mixture of sadness and joy—joy that I would be traveling on the westbound train again, and sadness at leaving my hometown, which rang with daytime noises and the singing of the fishermen on the river. I sobbed when I thought I would never return to the town’s embrace. Had my young heart already surmised that my departure would take me to a faraway country, much farther than my child’s mind could grasp? With my grandmother as my traveling companion, I started to discover the story of my family, the countryside, and the towns where her sisters and the rest of the family lived.

8. “Mehret, or Sakina as She Calls Herself” by Bwader Basheer, translated by Robin Moger


Your father died. We buried him yesterday in the new cemetery by the cliff. The priest spoke about him in Amharic and the imam spoke in Arabic and then we all prayed, each in our own language and religion. And in the evening Debrezeyt thronged with your father’s gypsy friends. They sang and danced until morning broke over them. 

9. “Freedom of Flight,” by Ann al-Safi, translated by Nariman Youssef

Your days are swallowed by the road, your feet yearn for freedom.

Also read:

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

On the Khartoum Omnibus: Stories of Sudan’s Cosmopolitanism

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

On Gender Stereotypes in Sudanese Fiction

And on Words Without Borders:

Coming into Focus: Sudanese Women Writers

And on LitHub:

In a Sudan Where Literature is Often Smuggled, the Short Story is a Perfect Form