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There Is a Country: New Fiction from the New Nation of South Sudan

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There Is a Country collects eight engrossing pieces by South Sudanese authors—the first collection of its kind, from the youngest country in the world. Wrestling with a history marked by war and displacement, the work here presents a fresh and necessary account of an emerging nation, past and present. In vivid, gripping prose, There Is a Country's stories explore youth and There Is a Country collects eight engrossing pieces by South Sudanese authors—the first collection of its kind, from the youngest country in the world. Wrestling with a history marked by war and displacement, the work here presents a fresh and necessary account of an emerging nation, past and present. In vivid, gripping prose, There Is a Country's stories explore youth and love, life and death: a first glimpse of what South Sudanese literature has to offer.


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There Is a Country collects eight engrossing pieces by South Sudanese authors—the first collection of its kind, from the youngest country in the world. Wrestling with a history marked by war and displacement, the work here presents a fresh and necessary account of an emerging nation, past and present. In vivid, gripping prose, There Is a Country's stories explore youth and There Is a Country collects eight engrossing pieces by South Sudanese authors—the first collection of its kind, from the youngest country in the world. Wrestling with a history marked by war and displacement, the work here presents a fresh and necessary account of an emerging nation, past and present. In vivid, gripping prose, There Is a Country's stories explore youth and love, life and death: a first glimpse of what South Sudanese literature has to offer.

30 review for There Is a Country: New Fiction from the New Nation of South Sudan

  1. 5 out of 5

    Simon Lual

    Here is a book that should be read far and wide. I make this recommendation not only because am South Sudanese and quite proud of this incredible accomplishment, but also because above all I appreciate good writing and good storytelling, both which define this collection. The prose is fresh and the voices are authentic. The stories explore themes that are both local and universal and with sensitivity, wisdom, courage, beauty and humor that make the experience of reading them just wonderful. Beau Here is a book that should be read far and wide. I make this recommendation not only because am South Sudanese and quite proud of this incredible accomplishment, but also because above all I appreciate good writing and good storytelling, both which define this collection. The prose is fresh and the voices are authentic. The stories explore themes that are both local and universal and with sensitivity, wisdom, courage, beauty and humor that make the experience of reading them just wonderful. Beautiful/interesting/provocative quotes: "They had heard his voice, he knew. He wanted to rise up and make his stand, to die fighting, but something held him down. In his mind he saw the image of his three sons and his wife praying with him in the shade of their house in the afternoon. Osama dropped his gun to the dirt and prayed again to Allah, closing his eyes as the rebels tossed a grenade into his hole" (68) HOLY WARRIOR by David Lukudu. “As they came closer to each other, the girl caught sight of Mayom: a moderately tall, lean, typical Dinka boy, with clean but uncombed curly hair and a matchstick hanging stylistically from the corner of his mouth. His appearance was so his own she was totally convinced he was up to some lewd business. She eyed him judiciously but very nervously, anticipating that he would say something mischievous—“Girl, give me that ass!” or something along that line” (78) LIGHT OF DAY by Samuel Garang Akau. “The diviner lived on the edge of Panagam, near the pasture and the cattle camp, where the Chinese in their green uniforms and orange caps were clearing shrubs and trees with huge machines for a highway that seemed to be under perpetual construction. The diviner called the highway the beast’s heel. She believed the beast was slouching through the entire country, carrying the youth away to distant lands, from which they returned more foreign than the foreigners” (47-48), THE BASTARD by Nyuol Lueth Tong. There Is a Country: New Fiction from the New Nation of South Sudan

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    This brief collection of short stories from writers living in or from the new nation of South Sudan captures a moment in time - one with refugee culture and violent disappearances and poverty and challenges for health care and education. I was disappointed no women were represented but there may be many reasons for this. The writer who edited the collection also wrote what is to my mind the most powerful story, called "The Bastard." This brief collection of short stories from writers living in or from the new nation of South Sudan captures a moment in time - one with refugee culture and violent disappearances and poverty and challenges for health care and education. I was disappointed no women were represented but there may be many reasons for this. The writer who edited the collection also wrote what is to my mind the most powerful story, called "The Bastard."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tinea

    A few stories gave me true pause, but most were simply good. A solid, fine collection more interesting for the art of its coming together than any individual story within. Nyuol Lueth Tong, as stated in the introduction, is often asked by people where he works in the US to tell him about his new country, South Sudan. They don't want the journalistic fact of nonfiction history: they want to understand the place as a whole, its culture and feel. They want South Sudanese literature. Tong set out to A few stories gave me true pause, but most were simply good. A solid, fine collection more interesting for the art of its coming together than any individual story within. Nyuol Lueth Tong, as stated in the introduction, is often asked by people where he works in the US to tell him about his new country, South Sudan. They don't want the journalistic fact of nonfiction history: they want to understand the place as a whole, its culture and feel. They want South Sudanese literature. Tong set out to find it, and if South Sudanese literature could not yet be found, he sought to establish a beginning. Gather South Sudanese voices together in this small collection, and begin to be able to listen for a South Sudanese voice. My personal rule for travel is to read at the very least two nonfictions and a novel about any place I go. The nonfiction, to know. The novel, to understand. I'm grateful for this book for how it helps understand. The comfortable mix of Arab influence in a place that reading only fact would lead you to imagine Arabic as only anathema. The ease of movement from war and fear to friendship and chasing girls. The moneyed, moving, entrepreneurial women, one of the less visible outcomes of years of men's war, and a story that's hidden behind the facts of sexualized violence that simultaneously targets and victimizes women. The authors are scholarly, mostly doctors and scientists, some activists, writing as a side project (an outcome of writing outside the privileged writing-student milieu that grounds fiction in a lived reality in a way many MFAs cannot catch). They're all men. I believe they've all studied and lived outside South Sudan and outside Africa. They write in English. Tong makes no pretense to presenting a complete literature of South Sudan. This project is a good, intentional start.

  4. 4 out of 5

    K.

    3.5 stars. Did I know anything about South Sudan? No. That's kind of why I'm reading this, duh. Chosen for my read around the world challenge, There Was A Country was a surprise and delight to find. South Sudan claimed independence from Sudan in 2011, which makes it one of the newest countries in the world. In editor Nyuol Tong's introduction, he is reluctant to point to the familiar authors who form the "diaspora of former refugees and war survivors" and call them South Sudanese literature, due t 3.5 stars. Did I know anything about South Sudan? No. That's kind of why I'm reading this, duh. Chosen for my read around the world challenge, There Was A Country was a surprise and delight to find. South Sudan claimed independence from Sudan in 2011, which makes it one of the newest countries in the world. In editor Nyuol Tong's introduction, he is reluctant to point to the familiar authors who form the "diaspora of former refugees and war survivors" and call them South Sudanese literature, due to the complexity of categorizing African literature within and outside the context of its colonial legacies: South Sudanese culture, in other words, is a strikingly hard to define thing. To further complicate our brief, all of the stories collected here were written in English. As Ngugi [wa Thiong'o] would phrase it: is this not "the final triumph of a system of domination"? ...That the first anthology of fiction bearing the nation's name is in English, a colonial language, demands an explanation. The intent, above all, is to allow the South Sudanese stories to reach as many people as possible: "... colonial languages reinforce this [subjugational] unity as a common medium of communication and of national identification, an umbrella under which different ethnicities and cultures can find equal representation ... it seems reasonable to use it to send our own work out into the world." Here we find war, but also so much more than that. And now, as always when it comes to short story collections & anthologies, have my entirely useless selection of notes: ESCAPE BY EDWARD EREMUGO LUKA "The night weighed heavily on me, for it reminded me that they would come for me one day. When they did, I would be ready for them. They have no faces, but I had a fair idea of who they were." Leaving your friends and family behind, determined to return one day for them. I wonder. PORT SUDAN JOURNAL BY VICTOR LUGALA "Sudanese make friends easily, even with the devil." Having American money makes you an imperial agent - well, you're not far off, I imagine. "I never knew why [the Nubian woman] had failed to maintain a husband; this woman knew everything to do with beer and hangovers and taking care of men ..." yeah, dude, I think I know exactly why she "failed" to maintain a husband. That's it, right there. WHAT DOES THIS ENDING MEAN? DID HE SEND HIS OWN NEPHEW AWAY? WHO WAS JUMA? what THE BASTARD BY NYUOL LUETH TONG Combination of medical science and local spiritual custom . Diviners make things up, "validating what the people who had come to them already believed" not because the spirits don't exist, but because the spirits are stingy with information so as not to spoil the future and their own fun in watching it. I like this. LEXICOGRAPHICIDE BY TABAN LO LIYONG ???? HOLY WARRIOR BY DAVID L. LUKUDU "But he was afraid, really afraid. He did not know why he was terrified; was it not his choice to come and die?" POTATO THIEF BY JOHN ORYEM Call someone a name long enough and they will become that which you call them, out of a resigned inevitability or, in this case, sheer goddamn spite. LIGHT OF DAY BY SAMUEL GARANG AKAU The phrase "stepping on someone's balls, a bit" is a much better way to say "pulling someone's leg". This is an interesting look at a teenage courtship in Sudan, Yom fencing with cutting words and Mayom trying his damndest to be suave (he fails, but she reluctantly finds him charming regardless). Also? Oblique references to the rhythm method, which I never would have guessed adolescent boys would know anything about. TALL PALMS BY ARIF GAMAL Thanks to this poem (and some casual google sleuthing), I now know that according to popular folk knowledge, forcing a snake to drink milk will help rid you of all evils. On an shallower, aesthetic level, this book is nicely put together, with a cut-out cover and art by Gregory Euclide.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nathaniel

    “Behind me I had buried my past. In front of me was an abstract painting that I was to decipher while I was still stupid enough and strong enough to do it. I was in Port Sudan looking for my uncle.” (from “Port Sudan Journal”, Victor Lugala)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mark Staniforth

    Something is stirring in South Sudan, and it’s more than the natural exuberance which must surely come with being just over two years into its existence as the world’s newest independent nation. There’s clearly been a cultural upheaval too, as evidenced by a new English-language anthology of short stories recently published by McSweeney’s: neighbouring nations in existence for centuries can still offer less. In this respect, of course, South Sudan has benefited enormously from the involvement of M Something is stirring in South Sudan, and it’s more than the natural exuberance which must surely come with being just over two years into its existence as the world’s newest independent nation. There’s clearly been a cultural upheaval too, as evidenced by a new English-language anthology of short stories recently published by McSweeney’s: neighbouring nations in existence for centuries can still offer less. In this respect, of course, South Sudan has benefited enormously from the involvement of McSweeney’s supremo Dave Eggers, who maintained his interest since presenting the excellent ‘What Is The What?’ – a semi-fictional biography of Sudanese ‘Lost Boy’ Valentino Achak Deng in 2011, around the time the nation first broke free of its northern cousin. At 96 pages, 'There Is A Country' is intended to serve very much as an introduction to South Sudan and its nascent literary talent. The result of a call for manuscripts by the former refugee and now American-based academician Nyuol Lueth Tong, which yielded “dozens” of submissions from “mostly young” prospective authors, ‘There Is A Country’ consists of seven short stories and a final poem. You might skip through in not much more than an hour, but the insight the collection provides into both the horrors of the independence struggle and the tantalising promise of freedom will linger much longer. One of the strongest stories, Victor Lugala’s ‘Port Sudan Journal’, is published in its entireity on the McSweeney’s website. Inevitably, war is a consistent aspect of the narrative, but with the exception of the short, sharp ‘Holy Warrior’, it is largely fought at a distance: my personal favourite is ‘Light Of Day’ by Samuel Garang Akau, in which a young couple find love by the village water-pump. She was a girl of considerable height, dark and smooth-skinned. He could only gaze sheepishly as he watched her walk toward the water pump, with that bundle of yellow jerricans slung from her shoulders. She was unsuspecting, totally immersed in her own thoughts. Her hips, slightly burdened by the empty water cans, kept swaying left and right. Mayom thought she was the most phenomenal woman he had ever seen. There’s an irresistible simplicity – almost a naivety – about these stories that certainly makes one wish for more. Two years into its existence, South Sudanese fiction evidently has a lot of things going for it: a rich, tumultuous recent history; the sponsorship of a literary titan in Eggers, and most importantly, a bunch of young writers who can really write. Thoroughly recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    I should say I had relatively high hopes for this collection. Based on what, you ask? (I knew you were going to ask that!) That anybody pulling together such a collection must have a real feel for the region and its literature. That such a slim collection (7 stories and 1 poem) must consist only of gems... So, high hopes unmet => greater disappointment than normal => lower ratings. As a whole, these stories begin to give the reader a slight glimpse of South Sudan. But no one story really stood out I should say I had relatively high hopes for this collection. Based on what, you ask? (I knew you were going to ask that!) That anybody pulling together such a collection must have a real feel for the region and its literature. That such a slim collection (7 stories and 1 poem) must consist only of gems... So, high hopes unmet => greater disappointment than normal => lower ratings. As a whole, these stories begin to give the reader a slight glimpse of South Sudan. But no one story really stood out and most felt rather flat. For me, too journalistic/removed in their approach. Maybe that's it--from a new country born out of true struggle and sacrifice, I was expecting more emotion (a sense of hope or liberation, the feeling of loss or tragedy). "Holy Warrior" and "Potato Thief" pulled my rating up half a star to a full 3 stars.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Anetq

    Short stories from South Sudanese authors - and a bit of insights into South Sudan. Or at least the male world, for there is not a single woman author among the writers and women exist only as mothers and/or objects of desire. The publication in the colonial English language gets an explanation in the intro, the lack of women authors does not. Maybe reflecting the status of women? Though one of the stories comments, that women no longer have to (literally) crawl for men - even though his mother Short stories from South Sudanese authors - and a bit of insights into South Sudan. Or at least the male world, for there is not a single woman author among the writers and women exist only as mothers and/or objects of desire. The publication in the colonial English language gets an explanation in the intro, the lack of women authors does not. Maybe reflecting the status of women? Though one of the stories comments, that women no longer have to (literally) crawl for men - even though his mother does it anyway. Anyway the stories are fine and provide a look into the world's newest nation, but none stand out to me as great.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    From the introduction: "I understand why people would resort to literature, as opposed to media, to gain deeper knowledge about South Sudan; fiction and poetry can provide a sense of place that readers would otherwise have never been able to imagine." - Nyuol Lueth Tong This book does that very well, I think. All that I have read previously about South Sudan has been about war, but these stories are about people living rather than dying. My two favorites were "The Potato Thief" and an excerpt from From the introduction: "I understand why people would resort to literature, as opposed to media, to gain deeper knowledge about South Sudan; fiction and poetry can provide a sense of place that readers would otherwise have never been able to imagine." - Nyuol Lueth Tong This book does that very well, I think. All that I have read previously about South Sudan has been about war, but these stories are about people living rather than dying. My two favorites were "The Potato Thief" and an excerpt from the poem "Tall Palms." I hope that the next collection of South Sudanese fiction will include some female authors. The cover is beautifully designed.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Eszter

    One of the things I appreciated the most about this slim anthology was a quick few sentences in the introduction about why fiction is important--how it creates a sense of place in a way that journalism, reports, etc., never could. I have trouble articulating that thought to staunch anti-fiction people, so thank you Nyuol Lueth Tong for that. I enjoyed all of the pieces in here, though they were all quite tense in their own way. I suppose that's part of the sense of place created. I would have lik One of the things I appreciated the most about this slim anthology was a quick few sentences in the introduction about why fiction is important--how it creates a sense of place in a way that journalism, reports, etc., never could. I have trouble articulating that thought to staunch anti-fiction people, so thank you Nyuol Lueth Tong for that. I enjoyed all of the pieces in here, though they were all quite tense in their own way. I suppose that's part of the sense of place created. I would have liked to hear some women's voices in here, too. That was a gaping hole in the fabric for me.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tutankhamun18

    //4.5// Really great 96pages of short fiction from South Sudan. All of the stories were written with such beautiful language. The two that stood out the most to me: Port Sudan Journal by Victor Lugala and Potato Thief by John Oryem. 1- beautiful word choice and great cyclical plot. Themes of poverty, fear, perserverance, salvation, the devil and family. 2- beautiful word choice and great plot with a fun ending, did alot within a very short story. Themes of truth, rumour, lies, kindeness, karma, se //4.5// Really great 96pages of short fiction from South Sudan. All of the stories were written with such beautiful language. The two that stood out the most to me: Port Sudan Journal by Victor Lugala and Potato Thief by John Oryem. 1- beautiful word choice and great cyclical plot. Themes of poverty, fear, perserverance, salvation, the devil and family. 2- beautiful word choice and great plot with a fun ending, did alot within a very short story. Themes of truth, rumour, lies, kindeness, karma, self fulfilling prophency, hubris, pleasure and lies.

  12. 4 out of 5

    K's Bognoter

    Verdens yngste nation, Sydsudan, er i 2017 ganske vist indehaver af en lidet attrærdig førsteplads på det internationale Fragile States Index over ustabile stater - men der skrives ikke desto mindre litteratur i landet, hvilket denne antologi kan bevidne. LÆS ANMELDELSEN HER: http://bognoter.dk/2017/08/14/nyuol-l... Verdens yngste nation, Sydsudan, er i 2017 ganske vist indehaver af en lidet attrærdig førsteplads på det internationale Fragile States Index over ustabile stater - men der skrives ikke desto mindre litteratur i landet, hvilket denne antologi kan bevidne. LÆS ANMELDELSEN HER: http://bognoter.dk/2017/08/14/nyuol-l...

  13. 5 out of 5

    H

    Global Read 172: South Sudan I'm so glad that this book exists and that the editor gathered these stories so that in other parts of the world we could read them. Many of them were very good and I would love to read more by the author. They were all very short. I wonder if that was so that 8 could fit in a book or if they were supposed to be. Also, all 8 were men which was disappointing. Global Read 172: South Sudan I'm so glad that this book exists and that the editor gathered these stories so that in other parts of the world we could read them. Many of them were very good and I would love to read more by the author. They were all very short. I wonder if that was so that 8 could fit in a book or if they were supposed to be. Also, all 8 were men which was disappointing.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Avril Lyons

    Solid collection of short stories. Some were absolutely fascinating. A few were just ok and even sometimes felt incomplete. Potato thief was by far and away my favorite but Holy Warrior was so thought provoking. Overall, I enjoyed this as an insight into the lives of people in South Sudan.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    A few short pieces, nothing mind-blowing, but decent writing and a neat concept to collect these writers.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Favorite: Lexicographicide by Taban Lo Liyong

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mason

    A fantastic example of how short stories can be used to provide a sense of place and history.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Akok Thuch

    A fascinating One from a Genius mind !!!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ciara

    (South Sudan)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Hans

    This is a slim (but mighty) volume with eight pieces written by authors from the new country of South Sudan. The stories open a door into a place that has been dealing with "fifty years of turbulence." One of my favorites is "Potato Thief" by John Oryem. I wish there was a larger excerpt from the poem "Tall Palms" by Arif Gamal. As others have noted on GoodReads reviews, it would have been nice to have the voices of female authors included in the book. Perhaps there can be another volume. Either This is a slim (but mighty) volume with eight pieces written by authors from the new country of South Sudan. The stories open a door into a place that has been dealing with "fifty years of turbulence." One of my favorites is "Potato Thief" by John Oryem. I wish there was a larger excerpt from the poem "Tall Palms" by Arif Gamal. As others have noted on GoodReads reviews, it would have been nice to have the voices of female authors included in the book. Perhaps there can be another volume. Either way, I'm thankful that these stories are available.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jim Lang

    I really enjoyed this slim book of stories (and one poem) from the new country of South Sudan. The stories do not focus on the war and displacement in the region, but rather portray the realities of peoples' lives. Among the best are the story of a young boy falling for a girl while living in a refugee camp, and the one that is told from the perspective of a soldier of the Sudanese army. It's a shame that there were no stories included written by women, but still, this book is a good start for a I really enjoyed this slim book of stories (and one poem) from the new country of South Sudan. The stories do not focus on the war and displacement in the region, but rather portray the realities of peoples' lives. Among the best are the story of a young boy falling for a girl while living in a refugee camp, and the one that is told from the perspective of a soldier of the Sudanese army. It's a shame that there were no stories included written by women, but still, this book is a good start for a nation that is building its literary canon alongside its future.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Feisty Harriet

    A slim book of a few short stories and one poem from the brand new nation (2011) of South Sudan. Some of these are pretty rough, I wish a few were non-fiction essays instead of all fictitious short stories, but I appreciate the effort in tracking down literature from such a new country. And in English, a language that is not the first (or second) language of any of the writers. I do wish a woman had been included as an author, but I hope in future collections Nyuol Lueth Tong will include some m A slim book of a few short stories and one poem from the brand new nation (2011) of South Sudan. Some of these are pretty rough, I wish a few were non-fiction essays instead of all fictitious short stories, but I appreciate the effort in tracking down literature from such a new country. And in English, a language that is not the first (or second) language of any of the writers. I do wish a woman had been included as an author, but I hope in future collections Nyuol Lueth Tong will include some more diversity.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    First of all this is a beautifully deigned book which makes it even more a pleasure to read. one story a day. My favourites were the first and the last of this book of South Sudan set shirt stories, although none are really duds.

  24. 5 out of 5

    brittany

    Are there no women writers from South Sudan?! Come on, this is not a representative selection.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    Coll.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Ann

    Strong collection of stories, but I am shocked by the absence of female writers.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Fatima E.

    loved it. very much thankful for this piece. only wish it were longer.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Justice

    Interesting book. I would definitely recommend to people who are interested in anthropology or studying other culutres.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Poh

  30. 5 out of 5

    Scott Mason

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