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Wedding Night

Wedding Night: An Egyptian Novel

Yusuf Abu Rayya
Translated by R. Neil Hewison
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    Wedding Night
    Book Description:

    In a small town in the Nile Delta lives Houda the deaf and mute butcher’s apprentice. Revealing the town’s private stories through public sign language, Houda articulates the unspoken and the forbidden, to unsettle the apparent quietude of rural society. But his own unrestrained desire threatens to scandalize the town and rock its codes of public behavior. When it is reported that he has violated the sanctity of his employer’s own house, the whole town, with the butcher and Shaykh Saadoun, the pretending Sufi, in the lead, rises to avenge itself and publicly humiliate and ridicule Houda. The elaborate ruse planned by the butcher and the shaykh, playing on Houda’ s hopes, dreams, and fantasies, is foolproof—but while Houda may be a dreamer, he is certainly no fool. This original, satiric novel, introducing the reader to every public and private corner in the life of a small town, is both a daring critique of contemporary Egyptian reality and a thoroughly good read, a remarkable novel of sustained carnivalesque suspense and wicked black humor that marks the arrival of a true literary talent.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-143-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-2)
  2. Wedding Preparations

    • 1
      (pp. 5-18)

      Blind Amin climbed the minaret of the market mosque. His glorifications fell from the sky of the neighborhood and drifted among the closed windows and doors of the houses; hearts shivered in awe.

      “Praised be He Who was named before He was named.”

      “Praised be He Whose throne is upon the water.”

      “Praised be He Who taught Adam the names of things.”

      Zaki tossed for some time in his bed, and when he heard the call to prayer he rose to turn up the wick of the lamp a little so that the phantoms of the room took shape, dark...

    • 2
      (pp. 19-29)

      Maallim Osman got up and went to the basin to wash his hands and mouth. As she stood beside him holding the towel, straightening the collar of his nightshirt, he saw her evenly parted black hair falling over her snow-white face in the mirror. When he turned to her, he held that face in both hands to gaze at its total beauty and to steal a quick kiss from her lips. She hit him tenderly on the shoulder. “You’ll be late for the shop.”

      She left the towel on his arm and walked away down the wide corridor, taking the...

    • 3
      (pp. 30-35)

      Ashaykh with no Azhar education, he had no experience of standing in pulpits, and did not know all the chapters of the Quran by heart. He also neither led people in prayer nor gave religious pronouncements or judgments. He was just a dervish who wandered all over and loved mulids and zikrs, but did not belong to any particular Sufi sect. It was not his inclination to be a member of a group: he was free and unshackled, and went from place to place and from community to community. He could not bear to abide long in one land. He...

    • 4
      (pp. 36-47)

      Maallim Osman spoke with you, ya Houda, and it was as if he were striking a taut string eager to be played. He leaned toward Shaykh Saadoun and scanned the men working around him, winking at them. “Isn’t that right, men?”

      “It’s all from the goodness of your heart,” they said in one breath.

      You leaped to kiss the maallim’s hand, which he submitted to the proffered lips, saying piously, “God forbid!”

      He asked you through signs to “show us how hard you can work between now and when I settle everything.”

      Your flame was ignited, ya Houda, and its...

    • 5
      (pp. 48-67)

      Shaykh Saadoun performed the evening prayer in the big mosque, then slipped away from the other worshipers surreptitiously so that his brother Hagg Radwan would not ask where he was going. The hagg was reciting some short chapters of the Quran, which he would follow with the nightfall supplications, the long, colored prayer-string of ninety-nine beads never leaving his hand.

      He did not head for his house, across the street from the mosque, but instead made his way down the slope to the market district.

      —The children don’t need me to spend the evening with them, or even to...

    • 6
      (pp. 68-82)

      At the bridge, he considered sending one of the young motorbike riders to buy his hashish from one of the small villages, but thought better of it because they were so rapacious in the share they took of the merchandise, biting off an eighth or a quarter of it before rewrapping it carefully in its cellophane paper.

      They lined up here night and day, near the main gate of the railway station, waiting for the trains and cars, transporting the people of the neighboring villages behind them on their bikes. They wore leather jackets, hard helmets on their heads, and...

  3. Wedding Day

    • 1
      (pp. 85-98)

      What a spin your head is in, ya Houda! Two women in one! How did you leave behind your miserable bed to get there? How were you transported after the dawn call to prayer?

      You were waiting for your brother to wake up. When he rose at his usual time, you wanted to get up too, even though he signed to you: Stay home that’s—what the maallim said—it’s your wedding day. Get yourself ready until I come back this afternoon.

      You were not aware of anything after that. You don’t know how he washed his face, picked up...

    • 2
      (pp. 99-108)

      The heavy knocking at the door woke him. He left behind the creatures he had been sporting with and opened his eyelids to see the pictures of Suad Hosni, Hasan Yusuf, Shukri Sarhan, and Hind Rustum, and the many pictures of foreign actors and actresses, headed by Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren, and Cary Grant, all of them in bathing costumes that revealed more than they concealed—color photographs illuminated by the pale light falling through the glass of the north -facing window.

      The faces of sleep were quickly obliterated, and the other faces were affirmed—faces that he loved but...

    • 3
      (pp. 109-114)

      When Agriculture Street had quietened down and hardly anyone was about, when customers had become very precious, Maallim Osman took out the day’s takings and sorted the money piaster by piaster, placing all like notes together in one bundle and arranging all the bundles in the thick-doored iron safe. He looked around at his men and saw them standing among what was left of the hanging meat with nothing to do, so he issued the order to close the shop. He took Zaki to one side. “I want you to stand firm.”

      “Your secret’s safe.”

      “I know he’s your brother,...

    • 4
      (pp. 115-124)

      The light outside took you by surprise. Was this the last time you would ever leave your dark room? It was a gloomy, gray light, with no sun to it—the remains of the wick of the lamp of the universe, which had been extinguished over there beyond the houses and the fields. In the weak light you could not see the hole of the lock, and your hand shook slightly as you fixed the clasp with it. Why was your hand shaking? Was it because you were leaving the place where you had spent your life with the brother...

    • 5
      (pp. 125-130)

      This was the second time he had come back. The first time, the maallim had said to him furiously, “You’d better dive down and come up with your brother from the depths of the earth.”

      The cars had returned empty, and they had told him they had not found the groom in his room, which was bolted and locked. The whole house was empty, there was no one there, either upstairs or downstairs. They had tried to find a neighbor to ask, but there was nobody around at all.

      The maallim shoved Zaki out. “Go, and don’t come back without...

  4. Glossary
    (pp. 131-136)
  5. Translator’s Note
    (pp. 137-138)
  6. Back Matter
    (pp. 139-140)