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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 f 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.


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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 f 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.

30 review for The Book of Khartoum: A City in Short Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Alan Teder

    City of Discovery Review of the Comma Press paperback edition (2016), part of the Reading the City series. This anthology collects 10 short stories from Sudanese writers centering around the topic of the city of Khartoum. The stories and styles have a wide variety and include humour, drama, surrealism, magic realism and historical fiction. The stories include: 1) The Tank by Ahmed al-Malik 2) In the City by Ali al-Makk 3) A Boy Playing with Dolls by Isa al-Hilu 4) It's Not Important, Your From There City of Discovery Review of the Comma Press paperback edition (2016), part of the Reading the City series. This anthology collects 10 short stories from Sudanese writers centering around the topic of the city of Khartoum. The stories and styles have a wide variety and include humour, drama, surrealism, magic realism and historical fiction. The stories include: 1) The Tank by Ahmed al-Malik 2) In the City by Ali al-Makk 3) A Boy Playing with Dolls by Isa al-Hilu 4) It's Not Important, Your From There by Arthur Gabriel Yak 5) Next Eid by Bawadir Bashir 6) Passing by Rania Mamoun 7) The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away by Bushra al-Fadil 8) The Passage by Mamoun Eltlib 9) The Butcher's Daughter by Abdel Aziz Baraka Sakin 10) The Void by Hammour Ziada The final story, The Void, has the largest impact as it is a mini-epic in 13 parts in only 16 pages about the defeat of Sudanese Mahdist forces by British and Egyptian forces at the Battle of Omdurman (1898). My thanks to Comma Press who provided this book as a bonus for my Translation Fiction Online Book Club order of Thirteen Months of Sunrise.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rob Withers

    I'd ordered this before the travel ban, but in its wake, I thought it was important to understand and highlight the humanity and commonness of people from these countries. Sometimes difficult reading, but well worth it for a glimpse of a sometimes similar, sometimes difficult way of life. I'd ordered this before the travel ban, but in its wake, I thought it was important to understand and highlight the humanity and commonness of people from these countries. Sometimes difficult reading, but well worth it for a glimpse of a sometimes similar, sometimes difficult way of life.

  3. 4 out of 5

    ClareT

    This was my first foray into translated short stories. I chose the book as a Christmas present as I realised I hadn't read very much translated fiction, and virtually nothing from outside Europe. There are ten short stories from different authors, written over about 50 years, with Khartoum as the link. I loved some of the stories more than others. Passing was particularly beautiful, others I didn't quite understand, such as the boy who played with dolls. Still others just didn't touch me at all - This was my first foray into translated short stories. I chose the book as a Christmas present as I realised I hadn't read very much translated fiction, and virtually nothing from outside Europe. There are ten short stories from different authors, written over about 50 years, with Khartoum as the link. I loved some of the stories more than others. Passing was particularly beautiful, others I didn't quite understand, such as the boy who played with dolls. Still others just didn't touch me at all - the first one, The Tank, most of all. However, All were interesting as a collection and I certainly will reread these stories and try and find more translated work from a few of the authors.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Becca Younk

    I love the idea of Comma Press' Reading the City series. It's such a great way to get access to a lot of writers from a city or country you might not read often, or get much literature from. I chose Khartoum because I don't think I've read any fiction out of Sudan. Khartoum the city is essentially a character in all the stories. The stories are a wide range, from magical realism to a war epic. I think my favorite was actually the first story, which involves a man purchasing a military tank and k I love the idea of Comma Press' Reading the City series. It's such a great way to get access to a lot of writers from a city or country you might not read often, or get much literature from. I chose Khartoum because I don't think I've read any fiction out of Sudan. Khartoum the city is essentially a character in all the stories. The stories are a wide range, from magical realism to a war epic. I think my favorite was actually the first story, which involves a man purchasing a military tank and keeping it at his house.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kamran Sehgal

    I was quite excited for this volume as it is rare enough to find works in English of collected Sudanese works. But found this volume a bit disappointing. The most interesting for me was the piece by Bushra al-Fadil 'The Story of the Girl whose Bird's flew away' was the most impressive though I had come across it previously when it had won the Caine Prize in 2017. Overall I was hoping for some more substance coming from a book claiming to be a book of a city with well over 5 million people. I was quite excited for this volume as it is rare enough to find works in English of collected Sudanese works. But found this volume a bit disappointing. The most interesting for me was the piece by Bushra al-Fadil 'The Story of the Girl whose Bird's flew away' was the most impressive though I had come across it previously when it had won the Caine Prize in 2017. Overall I was hoping for some more substance coming from a book claiming to be a book of a city with well over 5 million people.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Robert Gebhardt

    I'm really enjoying this series of "A City in Short Fiction". As with any collection of short stories, these are hit or miss. I imagine many were over my head, but it was all enthralling nevertheless, given this is the first collection of Sudanese stories I've ever been able to read. My favorite stories: The Tank A Boy Playing with Dolls (I think?) Passing The story of the girl whose birds flew away (I think?) I'm really enjoying this series of "A City in Short Fiction". As with any collection of short stories, these are hit or miss. I imagine many were over my head, but it was all enthralling nevertheless, given this is the first collection of Sudanese stories I've ever been able to read. My favorite stories: The Tank A Boy Playing with Dolls (I think?) Passing The story of the girl whose birds flew away (I think?)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jarmo

    How many Sudanese writers have you read in your life? In my case it's been very few and here's a book that allows you to have a peak in a selection of contemporary Sudanese fiction. If you are curious and love poetic language, this is a book for you. I would have appreciated an edition with longer excerpts though, hence only three stars. Also: why, almost as a rule, are the original titles in literature translated from the Arabic so often missing? How many Sudanese writers have you read in your life? In my case it's been very few and here's a book that allows you to have a peak in a selection of contemporary Sudanese fiction. If you are curious and love poetic language, this is a book for you. I would have appreciated an edition with longer excerpts though, hence only three stars. Also: why, almost as a rule, are the original titles in literature translated from the Arabic so often missing?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amr

    I enjoyed reading the book because most of the short stories were written in a very smooth way that teleported me to Sudan. I liked the creative idea behind "The Tank" short story and how a civilian was using a tank for his transportation. Also "In The City" short story and how a young person from the village tried to cope with life in the city. One more short story I liked is "A boy playing with dolls" because it took me to my childhood games when I used to play with my toys and imaginations. A I enjoyed reading the book because most of the short stories were written in a very smooth way that teleported me to Sudan. I liked the creative idea behind "The Tank" short story and how a civilian was using a tank for his transportation. Also "In The City" short story and how a young person from the village tried to cope with life in the city. One more short story I liked is "A boy playing with dolls" because it took me to my childhood games when I used to play with my toys and imaginations. A good read!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel

    Very short book of very short stories. Benefit is that you can savour them slowly, but less chance for the city and its population to make an impression. Translations are very readable, but can't help but feel that some contexts and references are out of reach for the non native reader Very short book of very short stories. Benefit is that you can savour them slowly, but less chance for the city and its population to make an impression. Translations are very readable, but can't help but feel that some contexts and references are out of reach for the non native reader

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bonyo

    Short contextual stories of Khartoum The books has interesting short stories that give some insights of culture and relationships, as well as past glories of the people of Sudan.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    Fiction B7243 2016

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lucy Thorneycroft

    I really enjoyed 'The Void' and 'The Passage' but was less impressed with some of the stories such as 'The Butcher's Daughter'. Overall, a quite nice collection. I really enjoyed 'The Void' and 'The Passage' but was less impressed with some of the stories such as 'The Butcher's Daughter'. Overall, a quite nice collection.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jacquelinei

  14. 4 out of 5

    mowgli

  15. 4 out of 5

    Haley Murphy

  16. 5 out of 5

    Eva

  17. 5 out of 5

    Priyanka DeSouza

  18. 5 out of 5

    Matt Dodge

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sara E.

  20. 5 out of 5

    James Sharrock

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alaa El Fadel

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tiger

  23. 4 out of 5

    tim

  24. 4 out of 5

    Laszlo Hafra

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jade

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mariana

  27. 4 out of 5

    LittlePiscesReading

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bunza

  29. 5 out of 5

    M

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp

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