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Fiction Friday: “Souvenir” by Leila Aboulela

Lyrics AlleyMinaretLeila Aboulela, Sudanese author of Lyrics Alley and Minaret, has written a new short story, titled “Souvenir”, for the Warscapes Literary Sudans Retrospective.

Following the media hype, often of a decidedly simplistic nature, surrounding the situation in Sudan and the newly formed South Sudan over the past few years, the retrospective is intended to “highlight the two Sudans as vibrant sites of literature and culture”.

“Souvenir” deals with returning from exile. Like Aboulela, her protagonist Yassir moved from Sudan to Scotland. After five years abroad, Yassir comes back to Khartoum with a Scottish wife and daughter but finds it difficult to adjust.

They set out early, before sunset. Not the right time for visiting, but it was going to be a long drive and his sister Manaal said she would not be able to recognize the painter’s house in the dark. The car slipped from the shaded car-port into the white sunlight of the afternoon, the streets were empty, their silence reminiscent of dawn.

Since he had come on the plane from Scotland two weeks ago, Yassir had not gone out at this time of day. Instead he had rested after lunch wearing his old jellabia. He would lie on one of the beds that were against the walls of the sitting room, playing with a toothpick in his mouth and talking to Manaal without looking at her. On the bed perpendicular to his, she would lie with her feet near his head so that had they been children she might have reached out and pulled his hair with her toes. And the child Yassir would have let his heels graze the white wall leaving brown stains for which he would be punished later. Now they talked slowly, probing for common interests and so remembering things past, gossiping lightly about others, while all the time the air cooler blew the edges of the beds’ sheets just a little, intermittently, and the smells of lunch receded. Then the air cooler’s sound would take over, dominate the room, blowing their thoughts away and they would sleep until the time came when all the garden was in shade.

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Image courtesy Bloomsbury


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