Stella Gaitano

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Stella Gaitano (Arabic:إستيلا قايتانو, b. 1979 in Khartoum, Sudan) is a literary writer and pharmacist from South Sudan. She is known for her short stories, often dealing with the harsh living conditions of people from southern Sudan, who have endured discrimination and military dictatorship, or war and displacement in the northern part of Sudan. Since the independence of South Sudan in 2011, she also has been writing about life in her new nation.

Personal life and literary career[edit]

Having grown up in a neighbourhood of Khartoum before the separation of the southern from the northern part of Sudan, she learned several languages. With her parents from the South, she spoke Latuka, a South Sudanese language, and with other people, Sudanese Arabic. At the University of Khartoum, she studied in English and standard Arabic. - For her stories, she prefers to write in Arabic, which is her language of choice for writing, but not an official language of South Sudan.

In an article for the New York Times by Sudanese journalist Isma’il Kushkush, she said: “I love the Arabic language, and I adore writing in it. It is the linguistic mold that I want to fill my personal stories and culture in, distinguished from that of Arabs.” Further, she explained her reasons of using Arabic like this:“It was important for me that northern Sudanese realize that there was life, values and a people who held a different culture, who needed space to be recognized and respected.”[1]

In 2016, her Testimony of a Sudanese Writer was featured in the English literary magazine Banipal's spring edition, entitled Sudanese Literature Today.[2] On the occasion of an exhibition for Sudanese painter Ibrahim el-Salahi at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 2019, Gaitano was invited to use el-Salahi’s Prison Notebook as a source of inspiration for creating an original, fictional narrative, and she focussed her story The Rally of the Sixth of April on a fictional Sudanese photographer documenting the Sudanese Revolution of 2018/19.[3] The short stories in her collection Withered Flowers were written between 1998 and 2002, when Gitano was still a student.[4] According to Marcia Lynx Qualey, "This early work demonstrates vibrant wordplay, fearless empathy and a deep understanding of storycraft."[5]

In 2020, her novel Eddo’s Souls was the first South Sudanese story to win the English PEN writers' Translates Award.[6] According to a review in the literary website ArabLit Quarterly, "The novel begins across a rural context, in a small impoverished village full of mystery, rituals, and superstition, and it ends in a jam-packed city with all its complications."[7]

Since 2012, Gaitano has been living in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, where her books are published. She works as a pharmacist, while at the same time pursuing her literary career.[1]

Selected works[edit]

Short stories
  • Withered Flowers, collection of short stories, English translation by Anthony Calderbank[4]
  • A Lake the Size of a Papaya Fruit, 2003, won the Ali El-Mek Award in Sudan
  • The Return, collection of short stories[8]
  • Everything here boils
  • Homecoming
  • Escape From the Regular
  • I kill myself and rejoice[9]
  • The Rally of the Sixth of April, 2019 (inspired by Ibrahim el-Salahi's prison notebook, in Arabic and English)[3]
  • Des mondes inconnus sur la carte (2009) in French anthology Nouvelles du Soudan[10]
  • Eddo’s Souls, English translation scheduled for publication by Dedalus Books in 2021, excerpt from

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kushkush, Isma’il (25 December 2015). "Telling South Sudan's Tales in a Language Not Its Own". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  2. ^ Banipal. "Sudanese Literature Today". Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  3. ^ a b "The Rally of the Sixth of April | Magazine | MoMA". The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  4. ^ a b Lynx Qualey, Marcia (20 October 2018). "Review: Stella Gitano's 'Withered Flowers'". & Arablit. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  5. ^ Lynx Qualey, Marcia (12 October 2018). "Book review: Stella Gitanoʹs "Withered Flowers": Mapping an unknown world". - Dialogue with the Islamic World. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  6. ^ Lynx Qualey, Marcia (6 November 2019). "Stella Gaitano, Ibrahim El-Salahi's Prison Notebook, and Sudanese Uprisings". Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  7. ^ Shammat, Lemya (17 June 2020). "'Eddo's Souls': A Novel of Motherhood and Fragmentation in Sudan and South Sudan". ArabLit & ArabLit Quarterly. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  8. ^ Gaitano, Stella (2018). The return: short stories; translated by Asha El-Said. Rafiki for Printing & Publishing. OCLC 1229999547.
  9. ^ Gaetano, Stella. "I kill myself and rejoice!". The Niles. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  10. ^ "Nouvelles du Soudan". Retrieved 29 June 2020.