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Leg Over Leg

Leg Over Leg: Volume Four

Fāris al-Shidyāq
Edited and translated by Humphrey Davies
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 576
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  • Book Info
    Leg Over Leg
    Book Description:

    Leg over Legrecounts the life, from birth to middle age, of 'the Fariyaq,' alter ego of Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, a pivotal figure in the intellectual and literary history of the modern Arab world. The always edifying and often hilarious adventures of the Fariyaq, as he moves from his native Lebanon to Egypt, Malta, Tunis, England and France, provide the author with grist for wide-ranging discussions of the intellectual and social issues of his time, including the ignorance and corruption of the Lebanese religious and secular establishments, freedom of conscience, women's rights, sexual relationships between men and women, the manners and customs of Europeans and Middle Easterners, and the differences between contemporary European and Arabic literatures. Al-Shidyaq also celebrates the genius and beauty of the classical Arabic language.

    Akin to Sterne and Rabelais in his satirical outlook and technical inventiveness, al-Shidyaq produced inLeg Over Lega work that is unique and unclassifiable. It was initially widely condemned for its attacks on authority, its religious skepticism, and its "obscenity," and later editions were often abridged. This is the first English translation of the work and reproduces the original Arabic text, published under the author's supervision in 1855.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-8392-9
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Leg Over Leg, Volume Four. Contents of the Book
    (pp. 1-9)
  4. Chapter 1 في اطلاق بحر
    (pp. 10-27)

    Only one who has traveled the seas and experienced the misery of their tempests and swells can properly appreciate the ease of life on land. Whenever, then, my dear landlubber of a reader, you feel a need for clean water, tender meat, fresh fruit, succulent greens, or soft bread, you must bear in mind that your seafaring brethren are deprived of all such things, that their vessel never stops moving beneath their feet, tossing them, turning them, and throwing them up and down, that before every mouthful of food they swallow they must first choke, and that before lying down...

  5. Chapter 2 في وداع
    (pp. 28-49)

    When the time for the Fāriyāq to travel was close, and as soon as he had put his copies of theQāmūsand al-Ashmūnī into his trunk, he set about bidding his wife farewell.⁶ He said, “Just think, wife—we’ve lived together a goodly span of time.” “That’s all I think of,” she replied. The Fāriyāq resumed his narrative. “I asked her, ‘Hatefully or gratefully?’ and she replied, ‘Half the latter and half the former.’⁷ ‘Application ofnaḥtbrings us back to the first,’⁸ I said, to which she responded, ‘or the first brings us back to another meaning of...

  6. Chapter Three فى استر حامات شت
    (pp. 50-61)

    Those who are by nature mendacious and given to slander, or who know nothing about women, will be suspicious of this farewell and attribute it to the embroidering and hyperbole of a poet. But who can gainsay one who has made it her habit, practice, custom, convention, utmost goal,51wont, way, fashion, and observance to riposte, jest, banter, chaff, rally, sally, and respond with alacrity? Often, indeed, two or three of his friends would gather with the Fāriyāq and take on a topic on which she would rise to their challenge, keep pace with them, oppose them, and out-argue them....

  7. Chapter 4 في شروط الرواية
    (pp. 62-71)

    In all his life, the Fāriyāq never spent a more unpleasant and arduous time than he did in that village,55for the villages of England are altogether without places in which to be entertained, to meet, to enjoy oneself, or to have fun; enjoyment and fun are to be had only in the large cities. In addition, such food and drink as are sold in them are no cause for celebration, for anyone who has a chicken or anything special sends it to one of the nearby towns. Anyone who wishes to cut himself off from the world or feels...

  8. Chapter 5 في فضل النسآء
    (pp. 72-83)

    Just as the women of this country are distinguished by this characteristic, so its men are distinguished by that of kindness to the stranger, once they have been introduced to him. Before he’s been introduced, however, if he greets one of them, the response will be a sidelong glance or a brisk nod of the head. Thus it was that one of their students of Arabic, having learned of the presence of the Fāriyāq and having been informed as to his noble pedigree and plentiful property, came to visit him and invited him to go with him to his house,...

  9. Chapter Six في محاورة
    (pp. 84-95)

    When the Fāriyāq had finished his work in that city so crammed with beautiful women, he went to Paris, where he stayed for three days, which wasn’t enough to allow him to write a description of it. We therefore decline to provide one at this point, for a proper description should be comprehensive. From there he went on to Marseilles and then to the island, where God, of His all-encompassing bounty, granted him the boon of beholding his wife in the very house in which he’d left her, though he’d expected to find that she’d flown off with a phoenix...

  10. Chapter 7 في الطباق والتنظير
    (pp. 96-111)

    Humankind, as the Fāriyāqiyyah said, has a predisposition toward discontent and ennui, and no sooner does it gain the object of its desire than a desire for other objects takes over. Likewise, given that the married man is a fixture around the house and hears nothing from his wife but “Fetch!” “Buy!” “Renew!” and “Repair!” he dearly wishes he might be a bachelor again, even if it means being a monk in a cell. Then, if he leaves the latter and sees men walking side by side with women, whether wedded wives or lady loves, he becomes fed up with...

  11. Chapter 8 في سفر معجّل وهَينوم عُقمىّ رَهبل
    (pp. 112-125)

    The Fāriyāq continued to treat the foul of breath but was at his wits’ end, for the treatment did no good. He tried, therefore, to wiggle his way out of this trade, and all the more so as he was by nature given to boredom and disquiet. During this period, it so happened that the August Master, Aḥmad Pasha, Honored Bāy of the Autonomous Province of Tunis, made a trip to France and distributed vast sums of money, that were everywhere spoken of, to the poor of Marseilles and Paris. Then he returned to his seat. It therefore occurred to...

  12. Chapter 9 في الهئة وا لاشكال
    (pp. 126-141)

    After the Fāriyāq returned home, an acquaintance came and asked him why he was leaving, so he took him aside and said, his eye trained on the door to his wife’s room, that the Jewesses of Tunis were still beautiful and that their race hadn’t yet been turned into monkeys, as the Christians pretend—that only applied to the men. From behind the door his wife said, “I heard what you said. You’re wrong—it’s the women who were turned into monkeys,” to which he replied, “Since you heard our private conversation and none of my secrets are hidden from...

  13. Chapter 10 في سفر وتفسير
    (pp. 142-153)

    Among the baggage needed for this journey was, over and above theQāmūs, the following precondition: that if the Fāriyāq were to absent himself from the island for two years, he would, on his return, be reappointed to his original position. He therefore wrote a petition to the ruler and settled down to await the answer. After a few days, the answer arrived accepting the condition. Everything was, he found, prepared for their departure, for his wife had neglected nothing in the interval, and all that was needed was for their passport to be honored by the consul’s stamp and...

  14. Chapter 11 في ترجمة ونصيحة
    (pp. 154-171)

    They now took up residence in that village and the Fāriyāqiyyah began to learn the language of the people. One day her husband said to her, “I want to give you a piece of advice on a matter related to the learning of that magnificent language.” “Out with it!” she replied. “It will be the first piece of advice destined for my ears to have left your mouth.” “And my heart too,” he said. “Speak!” she said. “It is typical of beginners in the science of foreign languages,” he said, “to learn at the very first words relating to the...

  15. Chapter 12 في خواطرفلسفية
    (pp. 172-189)

    After the Fāriyāqiyyah had stayed a while in the land of the peasants, where there was no solace for the stranger and nothing pleasant but the greenery, her patience wore thin, her heart became oppressed, and she was overcome by ennui and anxiety. One day, she said to her husband, “How strange is this world and its ways, the strangest thing in it being this rational beast that walks upon its surface! How strange that no matter how many nights and days pass over him, his desires delude him, while his hopes beguile and distract him in vain, and no...

  16. Chapter 13 في مقامة ممشية
    (pp. 190-201)

    Al-Hāwif ibn Hifām faid in lifping tones,163“I’d heard so much about women I almost ended up withsciatica, for some say that the life of the married man is better than that of thebachelor, one safer in all itentailsthan that of shouldering one’s way up to water holes guarded by jealousmales, or enduring the pangs of thirst andfire, or exposing oneself to public disgrace andire; and that, should life’s worries coat one’s heart withrust, a smile from one’s spouse revealing pearly teeth in aline, a sip of saliva like honey, a...

  17. Chapter Fourteen في ر ثآءولد
    (pp. 202-217)

    It is ingrained in the nature of every father to love all his offspring, no matter how many, ugly, or vicious they may be, to think each of them the best of persons, and to envy anyone, other than his own father or son, who is superior to him in praiseworthy qualities and virtues; and when a man grows old and too weak to enjoy the pleasures of this world, it is enough for him to watch his son enjoy them. Likewise, there is no greater pleasure for a married man than to spend the night with his wife on...

  18. Chapter 15 في الحِداد
    (pp. 218-229)

    Since the Fāriyāq had no choice but to live close to that ill-fated village,177he left with his wife and went to Cambridge. For a long time, they walked around with eyelids half closed and half open, for extreme grief distracts the heart from the natural appetites, or vice versa. Then the knot of sorrow loosened a little from the eyes, though not from the heart because the eyes do not always obey the latter—and how can they when it has been said, “Two weak things will conquer a stronger”?178Each permitted himself first to peer,179peek, and peep...

  19. Chapter 16 في جورالانكليز
    (pp. 230-247)

    When the Fāriyāq had finished his work in Cambridge, he went to London intending to return to the island and a shaking fever went with him. One of the kind doctors of that city, however, shook that shaking fever off his back and charged him nothing. Next, the Fāriyāqiyyah came down with palpitations of the heart and tongue, for she had by now become skilled in the language of those people. Then he in turn was afflicted with palpitations of mind and thought, the reason being that, his leave of absence from the island over and the time for him...

  20. Chapter Seventeen في وصف باريس
    (pp. 248-269)

    The Fāriyāq arrived in that celebrated city on a foggy night and was too blearyeyed to be able to see its distinguishing features. Then, in the morning, he set off to roam its streets as though he were unemployed and had all the time in the world. He found them to be full of slipways201and slides, snares, decoys and baits,(1) traps, lures, ropes, nooses, lassos, nets, hooks, and hunters’ hides. It occurred to him then that the mainstay, working gear, support, and central pole of everything in this capital was the presence of a woman. All the eating houses,...

  21. Chapter 18 في شكاةوشكوى
    (pp. 270-299)

    The Fāriyāq then decided to rent an apartment to live in with his family and they saw a number of places, each of which had its drawbacks. During this process the Fāriyāqiyyah got sore feet from climbing staircases, some of which comprised a hundred and twenty steps or more. In the end, they moved into a place but found that the stove didn’t work properly and it was only a few days before she began complaining, saying, “It surprises me how sometimes people are deceived about something and extol it without first making sure they know what condition it’s in,...

  22. Chapter 19 في سر قة مطرانية و وقا ئع مختلفة
    (pp. 300-307)

    When the Christians of Aleppo suffered their calamity243and were subjected to that pillaging of their wealth and property and that rapine, their religious leaders met and took the decision to send agents on their behalf to the lands of the Franks to collect aid from the governments and churches there to assure their survival. The Greek Orthodox Church chose Khawājā Fatḥallāh Marrāsh244and the Greek Melkite Church chose Metropolitan Atanāsiyūs al-Tutūnjī, author ofAl-Ḥakākah fī l-rakākah(The Leavings Pile Concerning Lame Style),245and with him another man, called Khawājā Shukrī ʿAbbūd. These then set off on a tour of...

  23. Chapter 20 في نبذة مما نظمه الفارياق من القصائد و الا بيات فى بار يس على ماسبقت الاشارة اليه
    (pp. 308-405)

    All hail, theFāriyāq! The time has come topart! This is the last chapter of this book of mine, into which I have put enough of your doings to bore me and the readers alike. Had I known before embarking on it that you’d task me with transmitting everything you said and did, I would never have inserted my neck into this noose or taken upon myself such a heavy load. I thought at first that the exiguousness of your body would obviate the need to put together a composition of any great size, such as this, and I...

  24. الخا تمة
    (pp. 406-407)
  25. Letter to “Sīdi Shaykh Muḥammad, Sayyidna Metropolitan Buṭrus,” etc.
    (pp. 408-411)
  26. بيان مافى هزا الكتاب من الالفاظ المتر ادفة والمتجا نسة
    (pp. 412-427)
  27. ذنب للكتاب
    (pp. 428-481)
  28. Notice
    (pp. 482-484)
  29. Translator’s Afterword
    (pp. 485-494)

    This is the first translation into English of Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq’sal-Sāq ʿalā l-sāq,474a work published in Arabic in 1855 and celebrated thereafter both for its importance to the history of Arabic literature and as a “difficult” text. The book’s literary and historical significance is the subject of the Foreword (Volume One, ix–xxx). This Afterword deals only with translational issues.

    The first element of the work’s title is itself often cited as representative of the book’s difficulties. The wordsal-sāq ʿalā l-sāqare ambiguous and clearly meant to be so. The common meaning of sāq is “shank” and...

  30. Chronology: al-Shidyāq, the Fāriyāq, and Leg over Leg
    (pp. 495-502)
  31. Notes
    (pp. 503-545)
  32. Glossary
    (pp. 546-549)
  33. Bibliography
    (pp. 550-554)
  34. Further Reading
    (pp. 555-558)
  35. Index
    (pp. 559-571)
  36. About the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute
    (pp. 572-572)
  37. About the Typefaces
    (pp. 573-573)
  38. About the Editor-Translator
    (pp. 574-574)