Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, December 29, 2012

"A Handful of Dates" by Tayeb Salih Project 196 Sudan

"A Handful of Dates" by El Tayeb Salih  (1964, 5 pages)

Country 11 of 196
الطيب صالح
Tayeb Salih

  1. Georgia 
  2. Canada
  3. U. S. A.
  4. The Republic of Korea
  5. Antigua and Barbuda 
  6. Haiti
  7. Trinidad and Tobago 
  8. Ukraine
  9. Cameroon
  10. Botswana
  11. Sudan
f you are an author and want to represent your country, please contact me.  If you want to do a guest post on your favorite story for the feature please contact me also.

If you are a publisher that has an anthology that is done in the 196 spirit, please contact me as I will be spotlighting appropriate collections.  

At first I thought I was setting myself an impossible task but a bit of research has made me optimistic  that I can find a short story from all 196 countries in the world.   I feel this part of the project will be completed.

I also want, and maybe this is crazy, to publish a short story, over the next 196 weeks from a contemporary writer in each 196 countries. 

Tayeb Salih (Sudan 1929 to 2009) is considered one of The Sudan's premier writers.   He wrote in a climate of severe censorship and one of his best known works was banned in his homeland.  He was a well regarded newspaper columnist.  He wrote in Arabic.   Most of his work, including this story, centers around the lives of villagers living much as their ancestors did 2000 years ago.  He is considered a very didactic writer, almost a writer of moralistic parables.  I think in the political environment in which he lived and wrote he had little other alternative.   

"A Handful of Dates"  (translator unknown) is told by a man, we do not know how old he is when he speaks, looking back on a day in his life when he first saw negative aspects to the grandfather he had always worshiped.   As I read the story it did seem like a tell from very long ago, maybe to a past more myth than real.   It is set a small village in Sudan (most of Salih's fiction was set in a fictional  community he created just like R. K. Narayan in his work) and besides the boy and his grandfather we have one other man.  The boy talks of how his greatest pleasure was to go to school so he could learn to memorize the Koran.   He loved studying the Koran. He loved the mosque, the river and his grandfather's wonderful luxurious white beard.   

As we progress in the story we see there is another man the grandfather scorns.  He was born rich but squandered much of his fortune in many wives.    After Koran school he loved to take a plunge in the river.   The big economic event was the date harvest.   The young man achieves an epiphany of sorts when he witnesses his grandfather bargaining over the harvest.  As you can read the story at the link I will provide I will leave the rest of the story untold.

I think for most of us, including me, the value of this story lies a lot in just expanding your reading range to include a story  from Sudan from a time long before it was in the headlines.   We also get a very good look at life in a small Sudanese village.  

I liked this story, I am glad I found it for Project 196 and think it is worth the five minutes or so it will take you to read it.  If I could read more of his stories for free I would but I probably would not buy his works as you can feel they are heavily constrained by a tradition of repression.    This is a good decent story with good values that strictly toes an ideological line.  

The Sudan is an Arab state in central north Africa with a population of 30 million.  Arabic culture totally dominates and it is considered a theocratic state.   It for centuries was under the domination of Egypt. 

For your accompanying music, I recommend Mango 96 in Omdurman.  I use Tunein Radio to listen to music on my Ipad, a wonderful free or very cheap program.     

You can read the story here.


WordsBeyondBorders said...

This is a very poignant story mel and when the boy runs away at the end you feel sorry for him as the rules of the adult life are probably still not clear to him and hope that he keeps this empathy with him throughout.

Mel u said...

WordsBeyondBorders-thanks very much for your comment-yes this is a moving story-it meant a lot for me to be able to read this story.

osama marouf said...

hello ... first this is not the Sudan flag so please change it ... another thing to mention that Sudan was never controlled by Egypt , in fact that was the Turkish Colonization under the Egyptian crown which was really controlled by turkey because at that time turkey was controlling Egypt and it was only for decades not century's ...