Khartoum, according to one theory, takes its name from the Beja word 'hartooma', meaning meeting place. Geographically, culturally and historically, the Sudanese capital is certainly that: a meeting place of the Blue and White Niles, a confluence of Arabic and African histories, and a destination point for countless refugees displaced by Sudan's long, troubled history of forced migration.
In the first major anthology of Sudanese stories to be translated into English the city also stands as a meeting place for ideas: where the promise and glamour of the big city meets its tough social realities; where traces of a colonial past are still visible in day-to-day life; where the dreams of a young boy, playing in his fathers shop, act out a future that may one day be his. Diverse literary styles also come together here: the political satire of Ahmed al-Malik; the surrealist poetics of Bushra al-Fadil; the social realism of the first postcolonial authors; and the lyrical abstraction of the new 'Iksir' generation. As with any great city, it is from these complex tensions that the best stories begin.