Reflections on reading a year of Sudanese Literature
Book One: God Grew Tired of Us By John Bul Dau
Book Two: Season of Migration to the North By Tayeb Salih Book Three: The Translator By Leila Aboulela Book Four: Minaret By Leila Aboulela
Throughout the year I have been exposed to the literature of a country many know very little about. Through my readings I have learned an overwhelming amount about the unique country. Having some background knowledge about the history and its people I found it surprising that I was constantly being introduced to new information. The nonfiction piece God Grew Tired of Us reinforced what I had known about the southern people of Sudan and their struggles during the civil war. These accounts and tales of destruction and heartbreak are what really inspired me to learn more about this nation. To be quite honest (and all brownie points aside) the stories of the lost boys of Sudan changed my outlook on several aspects of life, and have stuck with me to this day. To me the most influential piece of literature I’ve read this academic year is certainly God Grew Tired of Us. Though I was particularly fond of the nonfiction work I realized through the novels I’ve read I was introduced to the culture of the Arabic people of Sudan, which prior to reading I knew very little about.
I found it difficult finding a variety of Sudanese authors that had their work published in English, the only two I came across were Taeyb Salih and Leila Aboulela. Both authors are distinguished writers and for good reason, they both eloquently capture societal issues that their people face. Salih reveals a cultural conflict in Season of Migration to the North where young Sudanese adults are exposed to the ‘riches’ of western culture and find themselves disillusioned when they return to their native land. I found this interesting, specially because Salih’s writing made these stories relatable. In addition to the disappointment faced by adolescents I was introduced to the way women lived through Leila Aboulela’s work. Coincidentally in Minaret the reader is introduced to a Sudanese young woman living in Europe. Though the setting is similar the fortunes differ greatly from that of the protagonist in Salih’s novel. We actually see the attempt of assimilation into the Western world displayed by the protagonist which I also found relatable having been raised by immigrant parents who at times had their own troubles ‘fitting in’ with US cultures and customs. Aboulela’s novel The Translator also has a European aspect to it. This novel covers the love story of a Sudanese girl and a European intellectual. It seems to me that within the Arabic/industrial parts of Sudan there is fascination towards the West, for the characters and settings seem to glorify and praise the customs and intellect of the European state.
Though at times the work may have been weary, it is certain that I enjoyed culturing myself through independent reading. It is a fascinating matter traveling in depth into a world that differs immensely from your own. Through the year long process I learned about a unique and immensely diverse ethnic group that is the Sudanese people. Whether it be running from seemingly imminent death, facing your past, coping with the troubles at home, or even just love, Sudan serves an epitome of all these things that make up life.