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Heads Ripe for Plucking

Heads Ripe for Plucking

Mahmoud Al-Wardani
Translated by Hala Halim
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 176
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt15m7hpb
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  • Book Info
    Heads Ripe for Plucking
    Book Description:

    An Arab tyrant once infamously declared, “I see heads that are ripe for plucking." In Mahmoud Al-Wardani’s novel of tyranny and oppression, an impaled head seeks solace in narrating similar woes it sustained in previous incarnations. Beheadings, both literal and metaphorical—torture, murder, decapitation, brainwashing, losing one’s head—are the subject of the six stories that unfold. The narrative takes us from the most archetypal beheading in Arabo-Islamic history, that of al-Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, via a crime passionel, the torture of Communists in Nasser’s prisons, the meanderings of a Cairene teenager unwittingly caught in the bread riots of 1977, a body dismembered in the 1991 Gulf War, and a bloodless beheading on the eve of the new millennium, into a dystopic future where heads are periodically severed to undergo maintenance and downloading of programs.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-152-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Acknowledgments
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Part One
    (pp. 1-48)

    Oh well, it’s time I got some rest after all. I caught the last train—or so I was told—at the last minute, just as it was starting to drag its carriages slowly out of the station, the screeching of its wheels mingling with the sound of the diesel engine. As I came from afar I had my eyes glued on the train, which was brand new, its trunk sparkling in the dusk, as if it had just come fresh from the factory.

    I raced down the slope that overlooks the station with an impetus I couldn’t curb, and...

  4. Part Two
    (pp. 49-110)

    Another morning like every other morning, though I do not know why I recalled that my beheading in this sudden manner, which barely took a few seconds, is better than amputation, dismemberment, castration, and flaying, as happened to Muhammad ibn Abbada, who was captured in the days of Caliph al-Muatasim Billah, or to Ahmad ibn Abd al-Malik ibn Attash, commander of the Ismaili Citadel of Isfahan, who was skinned until he died and his body was stuffed with straw, or to the Damascene jurist Abu Bakr al-Nabulsi, whom Caliph Muatazz not only flayed and stuffed but also crucified.

    My beheading...

  5. Part Three
    (pp. 111-153)

    Al-Husayn’s murderers were not the only ones with such black hearts. Impalement and dismemberment were devised by the Assyrians and further developed by the Ottomans. As for burning at the stake, this was practiced in Europe before Joan of Arc; the number of men burned by the Inquisition in a single year came to two thousand, and it was also in the course of a single year that Calvin put to death fourteen women whom the church council in Geneva had accused of conjuring up the devil and conspiring to lure him to the city. Dózsa, the leader of the...

  6. By Way of Epilogue
    (pp. 154-156)
    Sahil Rawd al-Farag

    Another morning—though not like any other morning.

    I open my eyes before the sun rises, in those few moments when I feel the refreshing chill in the air.

    At first, I cannot believe it when the two small, soft palms touch my head and start tenderly pulling the skin off the top of the iron bridge it is stuck to. I do not even scream but give a series of short gasps until my head has been actually set free. I shut my eyes as I confront what I had thought was an impossibility ever since I barely made...

  7. Translator’s Afterword
    (pp. 157-164)

    Among the longstanding, albeit repeatedly contested, protocols of Egyptian literary life is the labeling of writers by generation. Introducingal-Qissa al-qasira fi-l-sab‘iniyat(‘The Short Story in the 1970s’), a 1982 anthology he edited that was to be seminal in launching the 1970s generation of writers, novelist and critic Edwar al-Kharrat (b. 1926) insightfully suggests that the generational criterionmay not be germane to the “new sensibility” he locates in these writers’ work, which can be traced back tomuch earlier texts, even in the absence of a direct line of descent. But he rightly observes that the social and political climate within...

  8. Glossary
    (pp. 165-166)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 167-170)