The Book of Khartoum
A City in Short Fiction
Book type: Anthology
Published: 28 Apr 2016
*FEATURING THE WINNER OF THE CAINE PRIZE 2017*
Khartoum, according to one theory, takes its name from the Beja word hartooma, meaning ‘meeting place’. Geographically, culturally and historically, the Sudanese capital is certainly that: a meeting place of the Blue and White Niles, a confluence of Arabic and African histories, and a destination point for countless refugees displaced by Sudan’s long, troubled history of forced migration.
In the pages of this book – the first major anthology of Sudanese stories to be translated into English – the city also stands as a meeting place for ideas: where the promise and glamour of the big city meets its tough social realities; where traces of a colonial past are still visible in day-to-day life; where the dreams of a young boy, playing in his father’s shop, act out a future that may one day be his. Diverse literary styles also come together here: the political satire of Ahmed al-Malik; the surrealist poetics of Bushra al-Fadil; the social realism of the first postcolonial authors; and the lyrical abstraction of the new ‘Iksir’ generation. As with any great city, it is from these complex tensions that the best stories begin.
Translated by Thoraya El-Rayyes, Raph Cormack, Mohammed Ghalaeiny, Sarah Irving, Elisabeth Jaquette, Kareem James Abu-Zeid, Andrew Leber, Max Shmookler, and Adam Talib.
"An exciting, long-awaited collection showcasing some of Sudan's finest writers. There is urgency behind the deceptively languorous voices and a piercing vitality to the shorter forms. These writers lay claim over the contradictions and fusions of the capital city - Nile and drought, urbanization and village ties, what is African and what is Arab."
- Leila Aboulela
Bushra al-Fadil's story wins The Caine Prize for African Writing 2017!
'The Story of the Girl whose Birds Flew Away' was included in The Book of Khartoum, and was translated into English from the Arabic for the first time by Max Shmookler, with support from Najlaa Osman Eltom.
Listen to Bushra's reponse to the win on the BBC World Service.
Read an interview with the winner Bushra al-Fadil.
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One of World Literature Today's 75 Notable Translations of 2016
Listen to The Book of Khartoum discussed on BBC World Service Programme, The 5th Floor (August 2016)
'The Book of Khartoum suggests Sudanese literature is in rude health. By turns funny and tragic, insightful and surreal, these deftly-translated tales illuminate, disturb and, perhaps most importantly, entertain. Seek out at once.' - James Kidd, The National
'This collection of deeply affecting stories, often exquisitely translated, can only be a welcome addition to that continuing exposure (of Sudanese literature).' - The Manchester Review
'The short stories have a cohesive quality to them, each one a compliment to the other in its own way, each one the brush stroke of a larger picture.' - Bookmunch
'The stories in The Book of Khartoum have energy, humour and vividness of expression.' - Susannah Tarbush, The Tanjara
'This is the way it goes in The Book of Khartoum, stories in which the city is a character – a deeply affecting, vulnerable, exasperating and glorious entity.' - The News Hub
Read an interview with The Book of Khartoum editor Raphael Cormack in The Rumpus
Here is a to-camera piece from Edinburgh Book Festival 2016 with Sudanese author Ahmed al-Malik as he discusses (in English) the trials and tribulations of being an outspoken writer, and his story 'The Tank.'
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