Society & Culture

Book Review: A Bittersweet Sudanese Story of History and Hope

Agencies – Sudan Events

“The Longing of the Dervish” by Hammour Ziada is a captivating historical novel set in 19th century Sudan during the uprising of a Sudanese religious leader who declared himself as the Mahdi — or guided one — against the Ottoman Empire and the English-Egyptian government in Cairo.
The book was first published in Arabic in 2014 and was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2015. In 2016, it was translated into English by Jonathan Wright, an award-winning translator.
The reader is quickly introduced to Bakhit Manzil, a Sudanese man from the city of Omdurman and an ex-soldier of the religious leader’s army, who has just been released from prison in Khartoum. Although the shackles are off his feet, Manzil’s freedom is bittersweet.
“Freedom had come to them with the warships and cavalry of the invaders. It was September 1898 and the Egyptian army had entered the country.
The Mahdist state was defeated,” an excerpt from the book reads.
Instead of feeling free, Manzil is full of thoughts of revenge. His freedom is tainted and as he passes through the streets of Omdurman, he no longer recognizes the city due to the smell of gunpowder and the bodies on the roadside.
Manzil is on a mission and he will not rest until he succeeds in ending the lives of those who ended the life of his beloved.

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