Fiction

Excerpt from The Occasional Virgin

The Occasional Virgin coverBy HANAN AL-SHAYKH

Translated by CATHERINE COBHAM

 

The sea had depressed Huda ever since she was a schoolgirl, bent eagerly over a drawing of a Phoenician princess walking with her prince beside the sea, while their dog played with a shell. The creature that lived in the shell had dyed the dog’s mouth a purple color that clashed with the blue sea. She had written below the picture, ‘The color purple was discovered in the city of Tyre. Tyre is a Phoenician city situated on the Mediterranean Sea, like Beirut.’ Then she took her crayons and gave the prince and princess the most beautiful clothes, and colored the world around them like rainbows mingling with the blue of the sea, but instead of being happy that she had finished her homework, she felt a pain, different from when she had a toothache or grazed her knee: it began in her throat and descended into her belly, because the world and the colors she had drawn on the sheet of paper were what she longed for, unlike her house, empty of color and pictures and music. The pain attacked her throat and she felt as if she was suffocating because she would never walk by the sea like this prince and princess and their dog, never set eyes on its blueness or the lovely colors of the prince and princess’s clothes except in her dreams, and only then if she dreamt in color and not in black and white as usual.

Whitney BrunoExcerpt from The Occasional Virgin
Read more...

The Slaves

By GHALIB HALASA
Translated by THORAYA EL-RAYYES


At the borderland between the desert and the plains, Emirate of Transjordan, early twentieth century

 Two men sat near the round threshing floor in the western fields. Each with his rifle on his lap. “What a goddamn year,” Tafish said. He had a skull-like face. Small, sunken, deep-set eyes. Emaciated cheeks with protruding cheekbones. A broad forehead with dark blue veins at the sides. Skin like an aged tortoise. His hair and lower jaw were hidden behind a white keffiyeh, held in place by a black fleece cord around his head. His frame was tall, straight, lithe. He rubbed his nose with his hand, letting a low whistle out of his nostrils. By the time he lowered his hand, a pensive expression of disgust had formed on his face. Staring straight ahead, he spoke, as if to himself: “What a goddamn year.”

Isabel MeyersThe Slaves
Read more...

After Creation, Before The Fall

By MUFLEH AL-ODWAN

Translated by ALICE GUTHRIE

 

Adam

As broken as a venial sin,

and as weary as the last to be created (or the first), 

he looked to the sky, now become his ground. 

Once he’d learned about naming and questioning, and saw what he saw of the blue corridors of space, he asked himself: 

I wonder what the Throne is?

Did the Throne of the Almighty exist before water, or arise after water? And what is water, anyway? 

Despairing, he smacked the trunk of the tree he was sitting under.

DoostiAfter Creation, Before The Fall
Read more...

It Happens

By JAMILA AMAIREH
Translated by THORAYA EL-RAYYES

1

I sit on my old chair, scatter my multicolored toys around me, and start watching evening cartoons on TV. Cool Pancho shoots off through the streets in his car, feeling awesome. He’d bought the car back from the old lady living next door. Never mind that he’d paid too much, more than two thousand pounds. No problem. He slows down, speeds up, and finally stops at the green fields to go for a stroll. The episode ends, but I stay glued to the television, waiting for my truly favorite cartoon: The Adventures of Zaina the Bee. Zaina is a menacing creature; she has no other business but instigating pranks on her friend Nahhul. Nahhul, for his part, has no choice but to come crawling back to his bully-of-a-buddy every time.

Sunna JuhnIt Happens
Read more...

From Husband Number Four

By RYŪNOSUKE AKUTAGAWA
Translated by NATHANIEL GALLANT

I have enclosed this letter in another sent to Mr. Lama Chobuden1 of Darjeeling, India, and expect by now it has been forwarded along from him to Japan. While I am not without my concerns as to whether or not you will indeed receive the letter, if by some chance it were not to make the passage, I am given solace only by the fact that you are not in any particular anticipation of a letter. That being said, if you are to receive this letter, I am certain that you will find yourself taking some amusement in my fate. First, I am living in Tibet. Second, I have become a Chinese person. Third, I share a wife with three other husbands.

Sunna JuhnFrom Husband Number Four
Read more...

Fascinations

By PHILIP BRUNST

1999

My mother comes to visit me every few weeks. There’s nothing unusual about that, except she lives in a nursing home she isn’t supposed to leave. She wraps what used to be my father’s long winter coat over her shoulders, pays one of the nurses to sneak her out, and climbs into the back seat of an idling car that waits outside.

Sunna JuhnFascinations
Read more...

Operating Manual

By Fairooz Tamimi

Translated by Thoraya El-Rayyes

 

How to make a cup of hot chocolate

Stand in front of the window of your kitchen refuge and prepare the following ingredients:

  1. A welcoming, empty green glass.
  2. A bottle of cold, fresh milk.
  3. An orange and brown tin of Cadbury’s Cocoa.
  4. The two large tablespoons locked in an embrace in the drawer (possibly because of your awful dishwashing skills), which have triggered your loneliness. Use them as they are; do not expend any emotion separating them.
Flavia MartinezOperating Manual
Read more...