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The Zafarani Files

The Zafarani Files

Gamal al-Ghitani
Translated by Farouk Abdel Wahab
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    The Zafarani Files
    Book Description:

    An unknown observer is watching the residents of a small, closely-knit neighborhood in Cairo’s old city, making notes. The college graduate, the street vendors, the political prisoner, the café owner, the taxi driver, the beautiful green-eyed young wife with the troll of a husband—all are subjects of surveillance. The watcher’s reports flow seamlessly into a narrative about Zafarani Alley, a village tucked into a corner of the city, where intrigue is the main entertainment, and everyone has a secret. Suspicion, superstition, and a wicked humor prevail in this darkly comedic novel. Drawing upon the experience of his own childhood growing up in al-Hussein, where the fictional Zafarani Alley is located, Gamal al-Ghitani has created a world richly populated with characters and situations that possess authenticity behind their veils of satire.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-149-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. File 1 Containing Profiles of Certain Subjects Residing in Zafarani Alley; Information Drawn from Sources Who Are Closely Informed about All that Goes on in the Alley
    (pp. 1-68)

    Saturday evening, first of Sha‘ban. Usta Abdu Murad, having completed the evening prayer at al-Hussein Mosque and having attended the religious observance organized by the Broadcasting Service on the occasion of the beginning of this Islamic month, came finally to a decision about something over which he had been hesitating for quite a while. He hurried toward the room of Sheikh Atiya on the ground floor of house number 7 in Zafarani Alley. Usta Abdu is employed as a driver by the Cairo Transit Authority. Before joining the said Authority, he drove cars for hire, in which occupation he held...

  3. File 2 Certain Preliminary Events that Took Place on a Friday
    (pp. 69-113)

    When Ali the ironer entered Sheikh Atiya’s room and saw Oweis the baker, his surprise was mixed with embarrassment. His feelings were slightly tempered the moment Radish-head arrived, since the latter had all his life avoided entering his neighbors’ homes, to such an extent that when the time came to collect the Eid gifts for the meseherati, he would stand out in the alley holding a basket and would send his young daughter to collect the cookies or what little money was due to him. His expression changed, however, as his heart quickened. He realized that he had been exposed...

  4. File 3 Containing Some of the Quarrels that Took Place in Zafarani, Some Incidents, and Memoranda
    (pp. 114-189)

    At about 10:00 a.m. Tekirli headed for Oweis’s room. As soon as he appeared, a number of inhabitants looked out of their windows. This embarrassed him greatly. From her balcony, Umm Suhair declared that she had never liked or trusted that Tekirli man, that she had always had her suspicions concerning those visitors of his. Those suspicions had been confirmed when his wife had kept to herself despite the Prophet’s injunction that we look after our neighbors—even unto the seventh one. The previous year, Suhair had gone upstairs to borrow a cup of oil but had come back before...

  5. Special File Detailing the Affairs of Hasan Anwar
    (pp. 190-200)

    Four things you should never trust: money, no matter how plentiful; rulers, no matter how close to you; women, no matter how long you have lived with them; and Time, no matter how good it has been to you.

    These lines occur repeatedly and serve as a heading for the paper. They are followed by the headlines, which he always displays in bright red letters. The following excerpts have been taken from various issues over several days.







  6. The Teachings
    (pp. 201-231)

    An attempt to put together some material for an investigative news report:

    At 11:00 a.m. Qurqur the musician went out, heading for Daturi’s café to meet Hamdi the reporter. It had come to Qurqur’s attention that among the patrons of the café was a young reporter who had been trying for two days to meet one of the men of the alley, without success. Qurqur introduced himself, saying he was a musician, a qanun player, and a Zafaranite. Hamdi the reporter looked interested and clapped his hands, but Qurqur restrained him, saying he was a guest. Hamdi offered him a...

  7. Fear of the Loss of Doubt
    (pp. 232-242)

    In the beginning, Atif hid his feelings; he was cautious and suspicious. It had been a year or more since he made new friends, and he had begun to see his old friends in a new light, and therefore stayed away from them. He wouldn’t seek out Farid or Wagdi unless he was completely overcome with loneliness and felt on the verge of dying alone, or unless he wanted to experience a family atmosphere for a brief moment. At such times, a brief but painful sadness would take hold of him after he had spent time with Farid and his...

  8. Excerpts from a Brief Report to the Director of the Information Authority on the International Developments of Zafarani Affairs
    (pp. 243-300)

    According to reports from news agencies and press attachés in the country’s embassies, Zafarani affairs have begun to attract attention throughout the world. It is interesting that a small French-language newspaper coming out in La Paz, the capital of Colombia, should mention Sheikh Atiya, describing him as the saint of this age who is going to change the world. Such coverage means that his reputation has reached faraway countries. As for the leading European newspapers, no day passes without detailed stories appearing on their front pages.Le Mondehas devoted a regular twenty-five-line column printed in boldface letters in the...

  9. Special File
    (pp. 301-332)

    Over the last few days, Oweis the baker had conveyed several instructions from the sheikh to the people of Zafarani. Some of these sounded mysterious, and others seemed disturbing even though the inhabitants had become accustomed to a number of measures that had gradually changed their lives. Yesterday Oweis had announced that the sheikh intended to reorganize Zafarani’s affairs; each inhabitant was to prepare to leave his house for another lodging. On the same day, Sallam the First Warner held a meeting to which he invited a limited number of Zafarani people: Atif, Hassan, Daturi, Ahmad the carpenter, and al-Bannan....

  10. Glossary
    (pp. 333-338)