Salam everyone !
I must admit that I had some difficulty writing this review – indeed and as I will explain here, Nouvelles du Soudan hasn’t been a really good read. Surely, I was expecting a lot from it after having appreciated a lot Nouvelles de Madagascar and Nouvelles de Tunisie in the same editing series (Miniatures, published by Magellan et Cie), and I was hoping this piece to be a beautiful discovery as well. Unfortunately, sometimes it works and sometimes it does not… here is the detailed account of a failed meeting between this book and me !
(I do not think I have enough to say on each text to particularize everything as I did in the previous short stories collections’ reviews, so this will be a global overview more than a set of mini-reviews)
Indeed, the main feeling I got when finishing this book has been a general…disappointment, sadly. Not on the form though, but principally on the content. Once again, my reproaches are clearly very subjective : what bothered me the most is the sense of having missed the point of at least two of the texts (maybe there is no more message that what is told and I am paranoid, but I don’t think so). Le Char d’assaut, by Ahmad Al-Malik (after having bought a tank, the narrator notices a lot of changes in his neighbours and relations’ behaviours) or L’Âne du prédicateur by Abdelghani Karamallah (an abused donkey tells his story and expresses his desire of independence) for example are presented in a shape close to tale’s or fable’s. This aspect which can be really interesting gives these pieces a very symbolic dimension, in which it is obvious that the characters and situations depicted are supposed to be seen in a totally different perspective (L’Âne du prédicateur is probably a criticism of the unequal class-based society, calling for more freedom for the people – or maybe it is not…). But it is still not clear for a novice ! I do not know anything about Sudan’s history or politics except what is told in the foreword by Xavier Luffin, and that is not enough to get all the implications of the various adventures described ! Of course, as I tried to do in the previous parenthesis, we can try and guess the basic message, but I like to understand what I read… and more than simply feeling off the mark, I also felt a bit stupid of not having the required knowledge (even after doing some quick research) – not the best thing when discovering a book. Maybe I am not the right kind of person for this kind of text : I like to be quite sure of what I am supposed to get from the autor’s message, and I am always afraid of interpretating it wrong…
Besides those two pieces, I have read two quite tough dailylives’ depictions : Des mondes inconnus sur la carte by Stella Gaetano and Une femme du camp Kadis by Abdulaziz Baraka Sakin. The first one tells the day of a little orphan boy and his sister, as he remembers some particularly hard memories – I pretty much liked this one, which is touching and tries to “speak like a child”. The second one impressed me less, and basically denounciates a violent system in which infractions are severely repressed as helpless or even uncaring people watch. Lanji, la vendeuse de merissa by Hisham Adam is an initiatic story drawing the portrait of an innocent girl fleeing civil war by reaching for the capital city Khartoum, whose dreams are ruthlessly confronted with reality. The theme is noteworthy and the story terribly realistic, but I have honestly not been able to care for the protagonist… The tone is distant, and leaves no place to identification. Quite relevantly, the collection ends with Histoires de portes by Rania Mamoun (Stories of Doors). In this very short text, we follow a man during his day : he thinks it will be good but it ends up far from the way he wanted it to. The story is simple, but efficient and meaningful, and I liked the way doors are significantly used.
Well. In the end, I definitely haven’t had as good a read as I expected from Nouvelles du Soudan. Unfortunately, I think it is due to both a lack of implication in the texts (I haven’t felt any attachment for the characters) and an insufficient understanding of the authors’ environment. However, I have nothing to say about the literary quality of these pieces ! They are all enjoyable to read, and the styles, even though they are all diversified, are often very elegant and full of wonderfully constructed sentences. I do not plan on stopping here my discovery of the Miniatures collection : I am convinced that it still has a lot of beautiful surprises to offer. I would not recommend this particular book as a first approach of Sudanese literature ; but if you decide to read it let me know ! The things I dislike are totally personal, and its shortness makes it a quick and easy read, so I would be glad to see other opinions and maybe retry it someday.
> The next review will be about Pedro Páramo, by Juan Rulfo.
> coll. (AL-MALIK, Ahmad / GAETANO, Stella / ADAM, Hisham / BARAKA SAKIN, Abdulaziz / KARAMALLAH, Abdelghani / MAMOUN, Rania) – Nouvelles du Soudan, éditions Magellan et Cie – translated from Arab by Xavier Luffin.
> written listening to “Nahnu Djundulla Djundulwatan” .