Cities without Palms

Cities without Palms

Tarek Eltayeb
Translated by Kareem James Palmer-Zeid
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 100
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt15m7hm9
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  • Book Info
    Cities without Palms
    Book Description:

    In a desperate attempt to save his mother and two sisters from famine and disease, a young man leaves his native village in Sudan and sets out alone to seek work in the city. This is the beginning of Hamza’s long journey. Hunger and destitution lead him ever farther from his home: first from Sudan to Egypt, where the lack of work forces him to join a band of smugglers, and finally from Egypt to Europe—Italy, France, Holland—where he experiences first-hand the harsh world of migrant laborers and the bitter realities of life as an illegal immigrant. Tarek Eltayeb’s first novel offers an uncompromising depiction of poverty in both the developed and the developing world. With its simple yet elegant style, Cities without Palms tells of a tragic human life punctuated by moments of true joy. “Once started it is difficult to put down. It is sensational, original, and altogether a magnificent literary debut." —James Kirkup, Banipal

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-162-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. From the Village
    (pp. 1-22)

    Sitting on a rock in front of our mud-brick house, I hold a dry stick in my hand. My many competing thoughts flow into one end of it, while its other end sketches strange lines and letters in the earth. If there is any meaning in these forms, it is unintended, for I am lost in my sad thoughts.

    I press the stick down into the cracked, barren earth in anger and disgust. The violence and bitterness inside of me rises to my throat: I spit on the ground, cursing this merciless poverty and desolation. Then I sigh, remembering my...

  3. To the City
    (pp. 23-50)

    I get off the train with the others, feeling my way forward like someone walking in the dark. Hands flail against me, feet kick out at me, the swinging suitcases slam into my back and elbows—everything is so quick, chaotic. I turn this way and that, trying to take it all in, like a child lost in the crowd.

    The voice of an old man carrying several bags and boxes catches my attention—he addresses me almost angrily, telling me to help him carry his load. I pick up a few of his bags and walk with him until...

  4. To Another City
    (pp. 51-68)

    And so I arrive in Egypt and set foot in this land of legend, this country Sheikh al-Faki had told me so much about. Who in our village would believe that I am here? Sheikh al-Faki himself would not believe it, and if he did find out he would probably go into shock, for he was the only explorer ever to venture out of the village, and he would not be pleased with insignificant Hamza undertaking a voyage reserved for more prominent people.

    These thoughts pass through my mind as I leave the border control area and head to the...

  5. To Other Cities
    (pp. 69-84)

    As I get off the steamer, I listen to the strange, melodic voices of the people and watch them hug, kiss, and greet one another. All the embracing and kissing taking place in the port seem very strange to me: I have never seen women kiss men—or girls kiss boys—so warmly in public before.

    After finishing with the entry procedures, I leave the port and look for the train to Rome. I have no family here, and there is no one waiting to pick me up. I come across a man whose features seem to be Arab and...

  6. To the Village
    (pp. 85-90)

    I quickly clear customs at the Cairo airport, for there is not much in the small suitcase I am carrying: some clothes, a bracelet I had bought for my mother, and two dolls and some sweets for my sisters.

    I go back to the Ain Shams district and ask for Adam, but am told that he has gone to visit his relatives in Sudan. I ask if there are any letters for me, but nothing is there. I stay a day and a half, and everyone is curious about my trip to Europe. I tell the story dozens of times....