At present, Sudan suffers from a horrendous civil war: 1.4 million people have died here, while many more have been displaced. The Weekenders is a collection of fiction and non-fiction that takes an impressive array of British writers into the heart of Sudan's conflict, shedding light on this frequently ignored tragedy (profits from the book are going to help the relief effort).
Here is a mysterious tale from Alex Garland, WF Deedes' debut piece of fiction, and--the centrepiece of the collection--a disturbing novella by Irvine Welsh in which Welsh's trademark skewering of the vileness of human urges is counterbalanced by his fluid prose and the story's troubling setting. Paradoxically, however, the shortest piece of fiction--Andrew O'Hagan's Fish River--is also the most impressive, as O'Hagan succeeds with brilliance and grace in conveying the thought patterns of a Sudanese child whose mother has been raped and enslaved.
But although the setting is grim, the horror underscoring the collection is leavened by perhaps the funniest thing that Tony Hawks has written, as he recounts his doomed attempts to compose music in a war-ravaged town, and--more seriously--the moral dilemmas which arise when rich Europeans descend upon war-torn Africa. These problems are fleshed out more fully by Victoria Glendinning in the final piece, as she considers the ethics of NGOs and big business working in Sudan.
This is an illuminating and thought-provoking book which raises disturbing questions for us all. In an alarmingly prescient fiction on the American bombing of Khartoum in 1998 in their first search for Osama bin Laden, Giles Foden describes the response of the CIA operative in the region:
"Everything was screwed up. Sometimes it blew [his] head what a tangled world it was that he existed in." --Toby Green [via]