Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fiction from Sudan,,, Leila Aboulela, The Translator

Oddly enough, I'd just been talking with a friend about the apparent lack of Sudanese novelists accessible to English-speaking readers, apart from the recently deceased Tayeb Salih, and I literally "randomly" picked this novel from the stacks at my neighborhood library- I was browsing in the fiction section looking for African writers.

Judging from Aboulela's biography and an interview, it is a very personal novel. Definitely gives a perspective on Islam that you will not find in most novels. More Graham Greenish in it's explicit invocation of faith and crisis of faith (in religion, in one's self). She's an excellent writer, though not the same caliber as Salih, Achebe, Okri, Coetzee, etc., but then again, who is? I recommend the novel- it is short... but in full disclosure have to add that I was in the end disappointed. The ending is very pat. There was one wonderful passage, though. One about how Sammar, the main character, reconnects with her son who she hadn't seen in four years. I loved Aboulela's description of Sammar holding her son, now older, and playing "baby" with him, the only time he allows himself to enjoy that special intimacy between parent and child. Very moving.

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