All posts tagged: Fiction

The Warehouse

By OSMAN AL-HOURI

Translated by JONATHAN WRIGHT

 

In the not-so-early morning, the beach enjoyed a calm troubled only by the swishing of the waves and the murmur of the sea against a rocky spit that extended into the water. At the foot of the white bakery, the waves broke in a monotonous sequence. The Nile Valley café, next to the bakery, shared in the morning calm—Abdul Farraj was snoozing lazily, and the waiter was having a temporary rest from his labors. Everything was calm. The sun crept slowly up the sky and poured light onto the surface of the sea and the roofs of the wooden houses, while a kite squawked on the minaret of the Askala mosque. On the western side of the horizon, the mountains lay in their blue calm, and between the sea and the mountains lay the city.

The Warehouse
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Joint Account

By THORAYA EL-RAYYES

 

1

sighing, she wraps the fifth layer of white cloth over the body, folding the corner of each sheet away from the stiffened face. “alhamdulillah, like a rose” the corpsewasher says to the windowless room of sullen women as she runs her broad hand over the cold cheek. the last few beads of water drip from the washing table onto the tiled floor and slide toward a large silver drain.

Joint Account
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The Dam

By JAMAL ALDIN ALI ALHAJ 
Translated by JONATHAN WRIGHT

 

It was early in the night, and the village was shrouded in darkness. The uneasy calm heightened the darkness, and he could hear the throbbing of the water pumps all the more clearly as they drew up the Nile water in concert with the moon, which kept out of sight on the grounds that the weather was poor. In this gloomy weather, which presaged an imminent storm, Humayda was battling the laws of nature all on his own.  

He shook the reins and raised his whip to bring it down on his donkey’s back whenever he felt it wasn’t pulling the cart hard enough. The poor donkey looked as if it was pondering how it could ever pull the damned cart and where it would have to pull it to. Being away from home so long, beyond its usual working hours, also made the donkey somewhat confused. It began to twist and turn on itself. Its back leg held its body firm, like a stake stuck in the ground, while the donkey raised one front leg, anticipating digging it into the path to move forward. 

The Dam
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Weeds and Flowers

By BINA SHAH

 

Shazmina’s best friend, Gul Noor, died on a Monday, pinned down under the wheels of a speeding bus on the long road that stretched all the way down to the beach. Or maybe it happened on a Tuesday or a Saturday. Shazmina was never sure about the names for the days of the week. Monday-Thursday-Tuesday-Wednesday-Saturday melted, one into the other, like the trickles of oily water the buses left in their wake.

Weeds and Flowers
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Operation Tamar

By OMER FRIEDLANDER

 

Jerusalem, 1967 

Aba sent us around the neighborhood to cut down sabra, using a knife taped to the handle of a broomstick. We severed the fruit heads, rolled them a few times on the grass to get rid of their thorns, and dropped them into a bucketTamar sat on Eran’s shoulders, her small dancer’s body leaning forward to reach the cactus with the bucket. I handled the broomstick, severing the purplish-orange prickly pear from the body of the cactus. When we were done, Tamar took the fruit to her momso she could make it into jam. Once it was ready, we stored it in the bomb shelter, along with the rest of the emergency supplies. The shelter was in the basement of our building, and we shared it with three other families. Tamar arranged the supplies carefully, as if she were handling explosives. Jars of blueberry and raspberry jam, white bread, dark bread, apples, peaches, and tin cans stacked one on top of the other filled the corner of the room. She wore a turquoise skirt and matching top. Eran grabbed Tamar’s hips from behind, making her jump. 

Operation Tamar
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The Infidel and the Devil

By MOHAMED BADAWI HIGAZI

Translated by ROBIN MOGER

 

Not many of us knew Sharif. He had been gone from the village for more than thirty years, and the few times his name came up, the person in question would glance around and lower their voice almost to a whisper. Men’s heads would cluster together in brief and hasty conference. And should his father, Sheikh Abdennabi Wadd Saleh, appear at the head of the alley and walk their way, or his mother, Hagga Amina Bint Suleiman, approach the store, they would fall silent or change the conversation. 

The Infidel and the Devil
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Translation: I Couldn’t Say When It All Began

Excerpt from the novel by EDURNE PORTELA

Translated from the Spanish by TIM GUTTERIDGE

Excerpt appears in both Spanish and English.

Cover of Formas de estar lejos

Translator’s Note

Edurne Portela’s novel, Formas de estar lejos, recounts the story of the slow disintegration of a marriage, worn down by apparently small acts of emotional violence (invisible, even) which, taken together, gradually destroy not only the protagonist, Alicia, but also the perpetrator of those acts of violence: her husband, Matty. The title of the novel itself, as is often the case, is virtually untranslatable. A literal rendering might be Ways of Being Distant although, as I worked on my translation, I found myself thinking of it, in a nod to Gabriel García Márquez, as Chronicle of a Divorce Foretold, one in which the breakdown of the relationship can be attributed not so much to the inherent incompatibility of the partners (whatever that might mean) but rather to the alienation they experience in their personal and professional lives, and the way they respectively succumb to and exploit wider social forces such as patriarchy, male violence, social conservatism and racism. I don’t think it is giving too much away to say that this situation gradually transforms the narrator of the novel into a prisoner and her partner becomes her unhappy jailor.

Translation: I Couldn’t Say When It All Began
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Counsel

By DAVID MOLONEY

Excerpted from BARKER HOUSE, the new book by David Moloney, out now from Bloomsbury.  

 

I work alone on the Restricted Unit in the Barker County Correctional Facility in New Hampshire. It’s a semicircular room, the curved wall lined with nine cells. Most of the day, the inmates press their faces to scuffed windows, silent. There are no bars. The architects went with rosewood steel doors. Rosewood: the color of merlot.

On Tuesday and Saturday mornings I supervise inmates while they shave in their cells. We don’t leave them alone with razors. I try to talk with them, like we’re just in a locker room, hanging out while one of us shaves. Some don’t talk. I imagine that, cutting their whiskers before a scratched plastic mirror, they think of the other mirrors they’ve shaved in front of, the rooms those mirrors were in, and maybe that keeps them silent.

Tuesday. Inmate Bigsby is shaving. He’s talkative. Not crazy crazy, but it’s always tough to tell.

“This scar, right here,” says Bigsby as a stroke down his cheek reveals a cambered wound, “was when I broke from the sheriffs.” The single blade on Bigsby’s flimsy disposable couldn’t shave a teenage girl’s happy trail, but the inmates make do and pull at their skin.

There is a common perception—you see it in movies—that inmates don’t want to talk about their crimes. But they do. They depend on their past, their scars, to prove they were something else. In what standing, that doesn’t matter.

Counsel
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Excerpt from Godshot

By CHELSEA BIEKER

Image of book cover

Excerpted from GODSHOT, now available from Catapult Books.
Copyright Chelsea Bieker, 2020. 

To have an assignment, Pastor Vern said, you had to be a woman of blood. You had to be a man of deep voice and Adam’s apple. And you should never reveal your assignment to another soul, for assignments were a holy bargaining between you and your pastor and God Himself. To speak of them directly would be to mar God’s voice, turn the supernatural human, and ruin it. So not even my own mother could tell me what her assignment was that unseasonably warm winter, wouldn’t tell me months into it when spring lifted up more dry heat around us, and everything twisted and changed forever.

I longed to know where she went when she left our apartment each morning, returning in the evening flushed, a bit more peeled back each time. I imagined her proselytizing to the vagrants sleeping on rags in the fields at the edge of town, combing the women’s mud-baked hair, holding their hands and exorcising evil from their hearts. I imagined her floating above our beloved town of Peaches, dropping God glitter over us like an angel, summoning the rain to cure our droughted fields. I imagined all these things with a burn of jealousy, for I had not received my woman’s blessing yet, the rush of blood between my legs that would signify me as useful. I’d just turned fourteen but was still a board-chested child in the eyes of God and Pastor Vern, and so I prayed day and night for the blood to come to me in a river, to flood the bed I shared with my mother. Then I would be ready. I could have an assignment too.

Excerpt from Godshot
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The Old Dog

By INÉS GARLAND

Translated from the Spanish by RICHARD GWYN appears below in English and Spanish

 

I translated Inés Garland’s “The Old Dog” shortly after publishing one of her best-known stories, “A Perfect Queen,” in a special Argentine edition of the New Welsh Review, a few years back. I first came across Inés’ short stories on a visit to Buenos Aires in 2011, and was immediately drawn to her portrayal of individuals—almost always women—either at moments of self-realization brought about by the actions of others, or else struggling against an impending sense of loss or betrayal. But there is also a kind of detachment in her writing, as though her characters were teetering on the edge of some other, unknown revelation.

“The Old Dog” attracted me because of the tension between the two elderly human characters, and the way that the animal interloper seems to bring them together, however clumsily. The anecdote about the man’s former wife abandoning the family dog on the roadside—which, it is implied, has also been the fate of the dog in this story —is a horrible reminder of human cruelty, and helps us re-evaluate, perhaps, our initial lack of empathy for the male character.

The Old Dog
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