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A dynamic, beautifully orchestrated debut novel connecting five characters caught in the crosshairs of conflict on the Sudanese border.
A mysterious burnt corpse appears one morning in Saraaya, a remote border town between northern and southern Sudan. For five strangers on an NGO compound, the discovery foreshadows trouble to come. South Sudanese translator William connects the corpse to the sudden disappearance of cook Layla, a northern nomad with whom he’s fallen in love. Meanwhile, Sudanese American filmmaker Dena struggles to connect to her unfamiliar homeland, and white midwestern aid worker Alex finds his plans thwarted by a changing climate and looming civil war. Dancing between the adults is Mustafa, a clever, endearing twelve-year-old, whose schemes to rise out of poverty set off cataclysmic events on the compound. Amid the paradoxes of identity, art, humanitarian aid, and a territory riven by conflict, William, Layla, Dena, Alex, and Mustafa must forge bonds stronger than blood or identity. Weaving a sweeping history of the breakup of Sudan into the lives of these captivating characters, Fatin Abbas explores the porous and perilous nature of borders—whether they be national, ethnic, or religious—and the profound consequences for those who cross them. Ghost Season is a gripping, vivid debut that announces Abbas as a powerful new voice in fiction.
“Ghost Season travels that narrow road between austere and gut-wrenching, and does it with incomparable grace. From the first words of this gorgeous novel to the last, Fatin Abbas holds us spellbound, immersed in the lives and the world that unfolds in its pages. Beyond the debris of war and displacement, she reminds us, rests something else that can never be truly extinguished: hope.”
—MAAZA MENGISTE, Booker Prize-shortlisted author of The Shadow King
“Immersive and astonishing, Ghost Season brings alive with brilliant specificity the...Sudanese border town of Saraaya, and an unforgettable cast of characters linked by circumstance and fate. Fatin Abbas is a remarkable writer, and this novel an extraordinary debut.”
—CLAIRE MESSUD, best-selling author of The Burning Girl and The Emperor’s Children
“Utterly mesmerizing, and a brilliant depiction of the blurry psychological and physical borders that divide Sudan and South Sudan. An extremely promising and important first novel.”
—DAVE EGGERS, author of The Every and What is the What
“A triumph of storytelling: richly imagined, finely wrought and filled with such vivid, wondrous characters. I finished this book and immediately wanted to read it again. Abbas is a writer of prodigious powers.”
—NOVUYO ROSA TSHUMA, author of House of Stone
Fatin Abbas is the author of GHOST SEASON: A NOVEL (W.W. Norton, US & Canada; Jacaranda, UK, 2023; also forthcoming from Rowohlt Berlin in Germany in 2024). Her short fiction has appeared in Granta, Freeman’s, The Warwick Review, and Friction, and her journalism and review essays have appeared in Le Monde diplomatique, The Nation, Zeit Online, Africa is a Country, Bidoun, African Arguments and openDemocracy. She has been a Miles Morland Foundation Writing Scholar (UK), a Fellow at the Akademie Schloss Solitude and Schloss Wiepersdorf (Germany), a Writer-in-Residence at the Jan Michalski Foundation (Switzerland), a Maison Baldwin St. Paul de Vence Writer-in-Residence (France), an Austrian Federal Chancellery/KulturKontakt Artist-in-Residence (Austria), as well as a Mophradat writing grant awardee (Belgium). Born in Khartoum, Sudan and raised in New York, she gained her BA in English from the University of Cambridge, her PhD in Comparative Literature from Harvard University, and her MFA in Creative Writing from Hunter College, the City University of New York, where she was awarded both the Bernard Cohen Short Story Prize and the Miriam Weinberg Richter Award for her writing. She teaches fiction writing in the department of Comparative Media Studies/Writing at MIT.
Photo © Marie Constantinesco
selected essays and reviews
Against White Time on Black time, white time, pandemic time (Kulturaustausch).
Never a Citizen on migration and belonging (Zeit Online).
Letter from Khartoum on the Sudanese capital (Le Monde diplomatique).
Sudan’s Legacy of Slavery on the trans-Saharan slave trade (African Arguments).
Film Review on Sissako’s ‘Timbuktu’ (Africa is a Country).
‘We Are Fed Up!’ on a new generation of Sudanese youth activisits (openDemocracy).
Year of the Boomerang? on Frantz Fanon and the Arab Uprisings (openDemocracy).
The New Face of Warfare on child soldiers (The Nation).
Dining with Devils on Wole Soyinka (The Nation).
Willing Executioners on the Rwandan genocide (The Nation).
film, dance, performance
Mud Missive, 20 mins. Sudan/USA. Sensory Ethnography Lab, Harvard University, 2009.
ABSENT BODIES. Collaboration with choreographer Chris Leuenberger. Premiere: Dampfzentrale Bern, Switzerland, 2021. Photo credit Peter van Heesen.
Ghost Season publicity (US):
Gabrielle Nugent at W.W. Norton
Ghost Season publicity (UK):
Tiffany Cook at Jacaranda
The Wylie Agency
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17 Bedford Square, London
© 2022-23 by fatin abbas