19 Short-short Fictions by Fatima as-Sanoussi

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. According to author Lemya Shammat, her “densely packed narratives seemed to particularly resonate with young people, who welcomed her mini fictions.”

Here, award-winning Sudanese translator Adil Babikir brings us 19 short-short fictions by as-Sanoussi.

By Fatima as-Sanoussi

Translated by Adil Babikir

1

We had an argument one evening. When we met the next morning, we had the exact same count of the stars that had studded the sky the previous night.

..اختلفنا ذات مساء

 .. التقينا صباح اليوم التالي

..فاتفقنا 

 . على عدد نجوم السماء في تلك الليلة

*          *          *

2

Their marriage was the culmination of a long love affair.

In the ensuing years, however, he kept putting out one candle each year. 

Until his insides were engulfed in total darkness.

توجا الحب الكبير 

..تزوجا 

 ..صار في كل عام يطفئ شمعة 

.حتى أظلمت الدنيا تماما في دواخله  

*          *          *

3

They held him at the police station and charged him with creating a public disturbance because his heart beat loudly when he remembered her. 

اقتادوه إلى مركز الشرطة

لأنه حين يذكرها

ينبض قلبه بعنف

.مسبباً الازعاج العام

*          *          *

4

At a luxurious faraway airport, he came across a suitcase. It was shabby and worn. He couldn’t hold back his tears. A strong wave of yearning struck him, triggered not by the bag, but by the dust particles that clung to it.

في مطار ناء فخم وأنيق

رأى حقيبة متهالكة

فبكى وضج في اعماقه الحنين

لم يعرف الحقيبة لكنه

عرف ذرات التراب التي على الحقيبة

*          *          *

5

We sat next to each other in the classroom. One day he took my pen and never returned it. I took his mind and never returned it. We graduated. I forgot about my pen. But he is still searching for me, to recover his lost mind.

في قاعة الدرس تجاورنا

اخذ قلمي مرة

..ولم يرده

اخذت عقله ولم ارده

على هذا الحال تخرجنا

مر الزمن.. ونسيت قلمي

غير انه ما زال يبحث عني

عله يسترد لبه المفقود

*          *          *

6

After a heated argument, I took off the ring on which his first initial was engraved. Then I took off my earrings, my necklace, and my bracelet, all with the same initial. I left them at home and went out, losing myself in my daily routine. Yet for a reason that escaped me, that initial continued to haunt me. Then I remembered I had also engraved it on my heart.

..تخاصمنا مرة

فنزعت خاتمي من يدي

..وكان عليه حرفه الأول

..ثم أتبعته بأقراطي.. قلادتي.. وسواري

..وكان عليها جميعاً ذات الحرف

..تركتها بالبيت.. وخرجت لحياتي اليومية

..لكن إحساسي بالحرف ظل يلازمني

حيرني الأمر.. ثم تذكرت

كنت نقشت الحرف على قلبي

.نزعت الأشياء ولم أنزع قلبي

*          *          *

7

Using a part of my rational sense, I decided to remember you just once each hour. Yet I had to call off my decision when I found myself spending my life waiting for the top of the hour. 

احتجت لبعض عقلي

فاتخذت قراراً بألا أذكرك

إلا على رأس كل ساعة..

لكني ألفيت نفسي أقضي العمر

انتظاراً لرؤوس الساعات..

فعدلت عن القرار

*          *          *

8

She came across an old friend who told her about a new idea: creating a club for the heart-free. He invited her to join. They had another meeting to discuss it at length. It was a long meeting, and the conversation was sweet and lovely. Before they parted, though, they both discovered they had just lost what made them eligible for membership.  

..التقت الفتاة بصديق قديم

حكى لها عن فكرة طريفة يتبناها

..ومشى فيها خطوات

تتمثل الفكرة في تكوين ناد للقلوب الخالية

..ودعاها للانضمام للنادي

التقيا مرة أخرى لمناقشة أبعاد الفكرة

كان اللقاء طويلاً

والحديث حلوا

وشجيا

قبل ختام اللقاء.. أيقن كلاهما

..أنهما فقدا شرط العضوية الوحيد

*          *          *

9

We were in love. He asked for my photo. I gave him a mirror.

تحاببنا بصدق

..توحدنا

..سألني صورتي

..فأعطيته المرآة

*          *          *

10

I took off my cloak of health, but you were not there when I came to cover you. And now we are two patients. 

خلعت ثوب عافيتي

..لأنشره عليك

..ما وجدتك

صار في الدنيا مريضان

*          *          *

11

Through a narrow entrance, I stormed into his life. I entered his vast world and was so engrossed by its troves that I lost my way to the exit. 

عبر منفذ صغير

..اقتحمت حياته

..دخلت عالمه الرحب

..استغرقتني كنوزه

ضاعت مني بوابة الخروج

*          *          *

12

In the heart of a distant cloud, they dug a hiding spot for their love. The cloud poured out its load, spilling love over the city. 

في قلب سحابة بعيدة

حفرا مخبأ لحبهما

امطرت السحابة

انسكب الحب على المدينة

*          *          *

13

Secretly, he marries a second wife. But the matter is quickly discovered, and the two ladies raid his luxury office, only to find a third one is sitting with their man! The three of them attack the man, turning the place to a battlefield with yelling and screaming and three right shoes high in the air. The ever-tightening grip on the husband eases only when his pretty secretary comes in. The delicate secretary quietly places a bunch of papers on the table for his signature, among which is a small note that reads: “Divorce me.” Wearing a complete pair of shoes, she quietly stands aside, waiting for a response.

…تزوج أخرى دون علم الأولى .. الا انهما اتفقتا وداهمتاه في مكتبه الفاخر 

!! وجدتا ثالثة 

 .. تضافرت الجهود وتناوشته النساء من كل جانب

.. علت الأصوات وارتفعت الحناجر .. وارتفعت كذلك الفردة اليمنى من كل الأحذية النسائية

 .. ضاقت عليه الحلقة

.جاء الفرج بدخول سكرتيرته الحسناء  

.هدأت النسوة حفاظا على الخصوصية العائلية 

 اما السكرتيرة الناعمة في كل شيء فقد وضعت أمامه حزمة من الأوراق لتوقيعها ودست بينها ورقة تطالبه فيها بالطلاق 

ثم وقفت تنتظر وهي بكامل حذائها

*          *          *

14

I filed a complaint with the authorities. “Someone was peeking through my writings,” I said, pointing to the man who occupied the distant spot between my eyelids and my slumber, and who stretched further to occupy the space between my heart and my pen.

..قدمت احتجاجا إلى السلطات 

.. بأن هناك رقابة على كتاباتي

.. وأشرت للرجل الذي يسكن المسافة ما بين جفني ونومي

.ثم تمدد ليسكن المسافة ما بين قلبي وقلمي  

*          *          *

15

She got married to someone she was not in love with. With time, she learned to love him. Her love grew bigger and bigger until it burst out in tiny chips. She managed to hold on to the main shard—her only son—who continued to grow and grow but didn’t explode.

..تزوجت بمن لا تحب 

.. تعلمت أن تحب من تزوجت

.. صار الحب يكبر.. ويكبر 

.. حتى انفجر

.وتطايرت شظاياه  

.. استطاعت أن تمسك بالشظية الرئيسة

 .. طفلها الوحيد

 .. صار الطفل يكبر ويكبر

..دون أن ينفجر 

*          *          *

16

In a city far away, her doctor was going to check her heartbeats. She was surprised when he leaned over to place the stethoscope against her chest, and he instantly realized that her heart was no longer there. He directed the stethoscope to his own heart.

هم طبيبها بالكشف على قلبها

…وضع السماعة على صدرها

نظرت اليه معاتبة

..استدرك أن قلبها لم يعد معها

فوضع السماعة على صدره.

*          *          *

17

Searching through his archives, he saw her luminous face, her sweet letters, and her small gifts. Memories haunted him. He reached out to her. Her face was still luminous. But some wrinkles had crept into her heart.

17

نفض الغبار عن أوراقه القديمة
..رأى صورها بوجهها النضر
..خطاباتها العذبة
..وهداياها الصغيرة
.حاصرته ذكرياتنا
…سعى إليها
…وجدها
..لم تزل بوجهها نضرة
.غير أن بقلبها تجاعيد

*          *          *

18

I decided to place my heart on my tongue so I would always be candid and truthful. And, as my heart was soaked in you, I also gained a sweet tongue.

 وضعت قلبي على لساني

لأكون صادقة القول

ولأنك ملء القلب

تلونت بك كلماتي

فأصبحت امرأة عذبة الحديث

*          *          *

19

I was walking down the street, thinking of you. A passerby praised my beauty, and I instantly realized that my love for you must have shone out of my face.

على الطريق العام

..كنت أسير ذات يوم وأفكاري معك

..عاكسني أحد المارة ممتدحاً جمالي

أدركت في الحال

..أن الحب الذي يملؤني

..قد فاض على وجهي

*          *          *

Fatima as-Sanoussi is regarded by many as the founder of flash fiction in Sudan. She started publishing her pieces in local newspapers in the early 1980s and subsequently in Saudi and GCC papers. A graduate of the Faculty of Arts, Khartoum University, she served as broadcaster at Radio Omdurman and as translator in some Sudanese newspapers. Some of her translations were published by Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation. During her stay in the United States, she translated for many cultural societies and organizations.    

Adil Babikir is a Sudanese translator into and out of English & Arabic, living now in Abu Dhabi, UAE.  His translations to English have appeared in Africa World Press, Banipal, Al-Dawha Magazine, and others. His published translations include The Jungo: Stakes of the Earth, by Abdel Aziz Baraka Sakin (Africa World Press, 2015), Literary Sudans: an Anthology of Literature from Sudan and South Sudan (Africa World Press, 2016), Mansi: A Rare Man on his Own Way, by Tayeb Salih (excerpted on Banipal issue #56), The Messiah of Darfur by Abdel Aziz Baraka Sakin (excerpted in the Los Angeles Review of Books, 2015), and a translation to Arabic of Summer Maize, a collection of short stories by Leila Aboulela (Dar al-Musawwarat, Khartoum, 2017).

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Also read: The Microfictions of Sudanese Writer Fatima As-Sanoussi

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