Sudanese starting to read books again? Or New York Times reporter with human interest angle?

When Leslie and I were in Khartoum we bought and browsed extensively in the bookstores.  At that time mostly English stuff, but as Arabic improved occasionally we purchased simple Arabic texts.  On each successive visit, a bookstore would have closed.  Finally there was practically nothing.  When I went to Khartoum in 2008 (I think?) I was so pleasantly surprised to find a small bookstore open, and I bought all three copies they had of my edited volume Kordofan Invaded (co-edited with Endre Stiansen, now Norwegian special envoy to Sudan!) to give to my Sudanese colleagues.

“We want to bring people back to books,” said Abdullah Al-Zain, 58, who started a project with friends called Mafroush — a Sudanese Arabic word meaning displayed.

In a monthly showcase held every first Tuesday, participating used-book sellers come to downtown Khartoum’s Etinay Square and lay their books on the ground over cloth sheets or flattened carbon boxes.  Hundreds of book lovers, including students, artists and writers, showed up on a recent afternoon, some gazing over the sprawl of covers, some flipping pages attentively. Others arrived with more books for the display.

Al-Mutasim Hassan, 25, a graduate student, came searching for philosophy books. “I think Mafroush is a creative endeavor, and you meet other readers,” he said.  Mr. Hassan holds himself apart from others in his generation who think “Facebook and chat are the only expressions of progress,” he said.  “I find myself, however, that when I read a book, I feel alive,” he added.

HT: Tim Kevane via In a Faded Literary Capital, Efforts at a Revival – NYTimes.com.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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