After decades of civil war, the small African nation of South Sudan finally achieved independence in July of 2011. One would think that a nation so young could not inspire a literary anthology. Well, guess again. Last week during one of my library visits what did I find while rummaging through the newly arrived works of international fiction but a copy of There Is a Country: New Fiction from the New Nation of South Sudan. Realizing that such a book is a rare find indeed, I quickly grabbed it and headed to the check-out machines. After letting the short anthology sit on my self for just a day, I picked it up one afternoon and started reading it. Since it’s a shade under 100 pages understandably I breezed through it in only two sittings. Much to my relief, I didn’t dislike this anthology. Since almost all collections tend to be uneven in some way or another, some of these stories I liked and some I did not. Some, like Victor Lugala’s “Port Sudan Journal” and Edward Eremugo Luka’s “Escape” I enjoyed quite a bit. Another particularly good piece, David Lukudo’s “Holy Warrior” I liked because of its sympathetic portrayal of a Sudanese soldier battling against the South Sudanese. (It takes a lot of courage to humanize your nation’s enemies. Kudos to Lukudo for doing so.) The rest of the pieces I found OK, but not outstanding. The closing piece of poetry did nothing for me.
But even though South Sudan is a young country, There Is a Country does not feel like a rush job. Nor does it feel slapped together. I found the collection of fiction small, modest and passionate – just like the newly created nation it represents.