Sudanese literature

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There are records of Sudanese literature dating from 700 BCE in the Meroitic script,[1] but it was not until the 16th and 17th centuries that a distinctive modern Sudanese literature began to appear.[1]


Literature today is largely written in the Arabic language,[2] but certain genres also in other local languages, such as poetry in the Fur language.[3] Both written literature, and oral tradition, such as folklore are found. At the beginning of the 20th century, there was a trend of transcribing spoken tales.[4]

Among the types of stories from oral tradition are the "Ahaji" tales and the "Madih", or praise tales. The first kind generally have a mythological character, El-Nour writes that, "they invariably have happy endings and are full of fanciful scenes and superstitions that describe the magic powers of genies and ogres".[5] The second kind of tales have a more religious overtone, relating to praising Muhammad, and are generally more popular in the north of the country.

Modern literature[edit]

Although there were several newspapers published around the turn of the 20th century, arguably the most important newspaper in terms of impact on modern Sudanese literature was "Al-Ra'id" (The Pioneer). The paper was first published in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital in 1914 and published a variety of poetry and other literature.[6] The first editor of the paper was Abdul Raheem Glailati.

In the 1960s, in line with social developments in other countries at the time, there began to be published novels dealing with social realist themes. These were spurred on by students returning home from studying in European countries. El-nour states that a novel by the title of "Al-Faragh al-'arid" (The vast emptiness or The wide hollowness) was the first "true example"[7] of this type. Published in 1970, after the death of its author Malkat Ed-Dar Mohamed, the work caused quite a stir by being both published by a woman and dealing with realist themes.

One of the most notable Sudanese writers is Al-Tayyib Salih. He has written both novels and short stories. His most famous work Season of Migration to the North, published in 1967, deals with the coming of age of a student returning to Sudan from England. It originally appeared in Arabic and has subsequently been published in both English and French.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Civilizations under Siege: The European Conquest of the Americas 12/27 European Conquest and Commerce in Africa by Edward J. Dodson
  2. ^ Africa: The Passing of the Golden Ages by John Henrik Clarke (May 1988)
  3. ^ Clarke, J. H. (1964) "The Search for Timbuctoo" in The Journal of Negro Education, pp. 125–130
  4. ^ Osman, A. I. (1981) "Folklore as a mode of expression in the poetic experience of the Sudanese poet Muhammad al-Mahdi al-Majdhub" in The Georgetown Journal of Languages & Linguistics. Vol. 3, pp. 204–217 — available online here
  5. ^ Morin, D. (1997) "Mimetic traditions in Beja poetry from Sudan" in Research in African Literatures, Vol. 28, pp. 15–35
  6. ^ El-Nour, E. (1997) "The Development of Contemporary Literature in Sudan" in Research in African Literatures. Vol. 28, pp. 150–163 — available online here
  7. ^ El-Nour, E. (1997) p. 150
  8. ^ El-Nour, E. (1997) p. 151
  9. ^ El-Nour, E. (1997) p. 156

External links[edit]