All posts tagged: Arabic Fiction

Symphony of the South

By TAHIR ANNOUR 
Translated by MAYADA IBRAHIM 

Dew
Uncle Musa died. A year after his passing, my father headed north. He said he would be back in a month.

It all happened so fast I barely caught it, like a migratory bird resting in a dark corner of the forest, like all the things that crowd my memory. No sooner do they appear than they vanish. When I try to recall the details, to understand what happened, none of it makes sense. Time lures the mind into letting go, submitting to the abyss, but I know the mind is capable of reaching into the well of the past. All these memories, from time to time they pierce through the pitch-black darkness. They gleam and fade into the shadows of this exile, of this rotten world.

On one of the shadowy days before his departure, I accompanied my father to the farm. It was the afternoon. Our farm was just outside the village. People were drying their earthenware in the sun: cups, bowls, pots, censers, jars. Children ran around them and erected little churches. They waded deep into the mud, sinking their hands in as if into spilled blood—the blood of an offering, perhaps—smearing their faces and tossing it at one another. They yelled and called each other names. Their clothes were the color of rust, their faces crocodile-like.

Symphony of the South
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The Day Azrael Committed Suicide

By ARTHUR GABRIEL YAK

Translated by SAWAD HUSSAIN

Note: The following story contains graphic language related to war and sexual violence.

News of the clashes poured into the Gudele district police station from everywhere, not least from the general headquarters of the People’s Army, conveyed by the intermittent, staccato rattling of Kalashnikovs and DShK heavy machine guns, and the roar of tanks that left gutter-deep tread marks on the main roads in their wake. Thick, dark columns of smoke soared skyward from the city of Juba, visible from a distance to Colonel Franco just as he was ending his call with his sister Christina, who told him of how their youngest sister, Rebecca Majok Majak, the doctor working in Bentiu hospital, wife to a Nuer tribesman, was at risk.

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Morning Light

By JEMAL HUMED 
Translated by ADDIE LEAK

The piece appears below both in English and the original Arabic.

 

For the fighter Taha Mohammed Nur [1]

1

The hallway is cold and disquieting, lined with austere doors marked with consecutive numbers, giving no indication of their occupants.

The corridor is never-ending, leading to a room at its end whose grand entryway, formidable and rigid, seems to surveil the movement of the other doors.

He stood in front of it and straightened his service uniform. He took deep breaths, as if to expel the fear that had accumulated between his ribs on this particular morning inside the prison.

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A Cause Postponed

By SIMON ABRAHAM ODHOK AKUDNYAL
Translated by ADDIE LEAK

 

The teacher, Ms. Nyiboth, was tenderhearted and gorgeous, with a small, proud beauty mark on the bottom of her left cheek. Her features added to her charm, and as for her voice, it had some hidden magic; whenever we heard it, we were tickled by a kind of madness that made us go still and quiet, as if a gentle breeze had blown through the class. I remember the time fate smiled on me and I got a perfect score on that month’s test; you wouldn’t believe how happy I was when Nyiboth came close and patted me encouragingly on the head. Her hand was soft, her warm touch enveloped me, and there are no words for how I felt; it gave me goosebumps. And now here I was, being beaten like a mangy donkey in front of her. How degrading!

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A Slippery Coffin

By AHMED SHEKAY
Translated by ADDIE LEAK

I hear a sound at my apartment door, and I just know it’s her. I follow her down the stairs. As I put my left foot onto the first step, I see the tips of her curls as she rounds the bend and, a moment later, glimpse her sneakered left foot as she takes her final step between the stairs and the exit. Then she’s swallowed up by the trees in the Ostpark. I tell myself, Good for Ababa, getting some morning exercise, and run after her, looking for her among the trees and in the forms of the other people out jogging. Every time I see a thick derrière, I’m sure it’s her and no one else, but when I get close, they start looking nervous, fear visible in their eyes, and jump out of my path. It takes me a full hour of looking to figure out why they’re acting this way, at which point, I’ve almost frozen from the cold. My breath has left frost on the tip of my nose, my tongue is parched, and I begin to cough violently. But I have absolute faith that she knocked on my apartment door and then ran away: Who else would do that? She’s the only visitor I’ve been wanting.

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Human Trees Are Not Moved by Wind

By ADAM YOUSSOUF
Translated by ADDIE LEAK

 

The Mango Garden

Birds of prey circled in the distant sky, watching the Earth’s surface: nothing, just warm air and a hot sun that spilled its rays angrily, recklessly. Sando jumped over a stream of dirty water and walked briskly down the road until he saw a group of young boys squatting on the road, defecating on piles of filth. He paid them no heed and continued a bit farther, where he saw another group playing football, bathed in thick dust, creating a commotion as they ran after their small ball. They yelled excitedly, calling each other after famous footballers, bellowing frenzied orders and laughing. One boy whimpered over his scraped knees, and others stood outside the circle, cheering and whispering.

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Excerpts From Great-Grandfather Hage’s Biography

By ABU BAKR KAHAL

The Falling Sun

Great-Grandfather’s name is Hage, which means “revered and noble,” though to some it means “loquacious,” while others deny all definitions and emphasize that the name means “he who imitates the sun or its likeness.”

“At that time, people thought the sun had fallen to Earth. ‘De K’al… De K’al… De K’al… The sun has fallen… The sun has fallen… The sun has fallen…’ they screamed.” That’s how the story was told by our great-grandfather—he who knew all the secrets of the past and how it was. It was known that he had memorized everything that storytellers told about those distant eras and their events.

Excerpts From Great-Grandfather Hage’s Biography
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Zero

By STELLA GAITANO
Translated by SAWAD HUSSAIN

 

I am completely alone, even though I’m not by myself. Here, filthy chickens scratch at the earth around me in search of worms and kernels. Next to me sits a pile of tatty newspapers—old news that I chew over when I’m beset with a yearning to read. I also keep a lot of family photos. Pictures of my children at different ages, from birthdays and other occasions, as well as pictures of work colleagues. Life that we have lived, frozen on these rectangles of stiff paper; how quickly we are ushered into the past by just glancing at one.

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The Library

By NASSER AL-DHAFIRI
Translated from the Arabic by NASHWA NASRELDIN

When my friends and I left the homeland, my second departure from Kuwait, there were five of us and ten suitcases. I knew exactly what was in each bag, just as I knew the pain and angst of the five travelers heading toward the unknown. The suitcases were packed with clothes, kitchenware, Indian spices, and various items we didn’t think we’d be able to find abroad. I could only bring four books with me from my vast library back home: Al-Mutannabi, in two parts; the collected works of Mahmoud Darwish; and just one of the volumes of The Unique Necklace. These would constitute the entire library I would survive on, for however long I ended up living in estrangement. Once we’d settled into our accommodation in a small house on Norris Drive in Ottawa, I arranged the books on the sleek wooden flooring, the place being still unfurnished. Then I sat back and simply gazed at them.

The Library
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Body

By SULAIMAN AL-SHATTI
Translated from the Arabic by MAIA TABET with LAURA ALBAST 

Whenever she spoke, my mother habitually turned down her upper lip and clenched her teeth as if to control the flow of her words—filtering them, if you will. Her teeth were white and strong; they were free of blemishes, except for the three that had been chipped in an old accident. She leaned in toward whomever she was conversing with, an apologetic smile on her face, which our neighbor’s daughter described as radiating kindness. A colleague who was once delivering an urgent message to me couldn’t help but remark that even from a distance her beauty was striking. He must not have seen her moving about with the distorted gait that caused one side of her rear to rise as the other descended. Although it had become less conspicuous with age, her limp harkened to another old story, but whenever anyone inquired about it, my mother just smiled enigmatically. Some of the questions were innocent enough, but others seemed veiled––I couldn’t fathom their subtext, nor could I recall anything from the actual events that might help me discern the questioner’s motive. All I know is that I had grown used to the way her limp caused gasps of astonishment, making mouths salivate with unspoken questions and eyes gleam with curiosity.

Body
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