Translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette
This collection of short fiction by Rania Mamoun is engagingly written in simple, direct prose. Published in Arabic in 2009, it has recently been published in English translation by Comma Press (2019). Representing the first major collection to be published in English translation by a female writer from Sudan, the book is very short, at just 69 pages, so a perfect choice for the 20 books of summer challenge that I’m participating in. I polished it off in a day.
The stories comprise a mixture of musings on universal themes, such as thwarted romantic relationships, mixed with heart-breaking social realism and a glimpse of insight into life in Sudan. Nevertheless, the book studiedly refuses to discuss directly the conflict that many associate with the country.
The story In the Muck of the Soul is particularly strong, a moving portrait of desperation and health poverty, with an overt filmic influence, which successfully skirts mawkishness. Stray Steps, featuring a pack of altruistic dogs, introduces a bit of magical realism to the mix, while the collection also features some very good flash fiction, with the pithy A Week of Love and the powerful One-Room Sorrows. The book has been the worthy recipient of an English PEN Award.