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Homecoming: Sixty Years of Egyptian Short Stories

Selected and translated by Denys Johnson-Davies
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 372
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Short story writing in Egypt was still in its infancy when Denys Johnson-Davies, described by Edward Said as “the leading Arabic–English translator of our time," arrived in Cairo as a young man in the 1940s. Nevertheless, he was immediately impressed by such writing talents of the time as Mahmoud Teymour, Yahya Hakki, Yusuf Gohar, and the future Nobel literature laureate Naguib Mahfouz, and he set about translating their works for local English-language periodicals of the time. He continued to translate over the decades, and sixty years later he brings together this remarkable overview of the work of several generations of Egypt’s leading short story writers. This selection of some fifty stories represents not only a cross-section through time but also a spectrum of styles, and includes works by Teymour, Hakki, Gohar, and Mahfouz and later writers such as Mohamed El-Bisatie, Said el-Kafrawi, Bahaa Taher, and Radwa Ashour, as well as new young writers of today like Hamdy El-Gazzar, Mansoura Ez Eldin, and Youssef Rakha.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-206-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xii)

    This volume started off as a collection of short stories by the younger writers in Egypt who were now contributing to the Arabic short story. Gradually, however, I realized that so far no one had sought to put together a collection of stories that tried to represent the short story from the time when it first appeared in Egypt right up until today.

    Having studied Arabic at both the newly set-up School of Oriental Studies at London University (it was later to have the words “and African” added to its title) and then at Cambridge University—this just before the...

  5. Chapter 1 Secrets
    (pp. 1-10)
    Ibrahim Abdel Meguid

    “Will you take me hunting with you?”

    This was the first time Bulbul had talked to Abduh.

    “Have you got any traps?”

    “I bought five.”

    Bulbul turned to make sure his friends sitting far off under the light of the tall lamppost at the end of the lane could see him.

    “Then meet me early in the morning.”

    Abduh rushed off as usual, carrying the wire cage filled with sparrow s; in the other hand were his traps, while Bulbul. in disbelief, went back to his friends. They too didn’t believe it.

    The two of them met up in the...

  6. Chapter 2 Grandad Hasan
    (pp. 11-18)
    Yahya Taher Abdullah

    It was Grandad Hasan’s practice, when the holy month of Ramadan had I come in and right through until its thirty glorious days had elapsed, to perform the afternoon prayer communally at the mosque of his grandfather, the late Abdullah, after which he would return and seat himself to the left of the main door, on the bench that had been built of stones taken from ancient sites.

    It was nearly eighty years since this stone bench had been built and Grandad Hasan had first sat on it; since men had gone off with camels to bring back stones fallen...

  7. Chapter 3 Homecoming
    (pp. 19-22)
    Yusuf Abu Rayya

    When the time to leave for the train approached they left the small girl at home with the neighbors and the woman of the house walked off in the lead as she adjusted the piece of muslin on her head. The young boy waited till her hand was free, then he took hold of it and began to run about once more. Behind her, the men ambled along in their clean gallabiyas, with their shawls wrapped round their faces.

    At the first street the sky sent down light, sporadic rain showers that lulled into inactivity the leaves that the strong...

  8. Chapter 4 In the Place for Prayers
    (pp. 23-30)
    Mohammed Afifi

    The Bey, owner of the estate, was seated with his men in the place for prayers under the sycomore tree that was on the bank of the large irrigation canal, waiting for the call to the sunset prayers. The afternoon light had begun to fade, its yellowness veiled by whiteness; the sparrows were flying and chirping above the fields of corn and the white canal water gleamed like mirrors.

    Opposite the place for prayers, on the other side of the agricultural path, lies an old two-story house, its windows looking down at the path, and behind it a large garden...

  9. Chapter 5 At the Level Crossing
    (pp. 31-36)
    Abbas Ahmed

    Dr. Magdi Suweilim was driving along the narrow country road to Mit Yazid where, as he had been informed that afternoon, his father lay dangerously ill.

    His wife Inayat sat beside him. Night had set in and so had the rain. The speedometer, lit up on the dashboard, did not vary between twenty and twenty-five kilometers an hour. Only occasional words were exchanged between them.

    “Shall I light you a cigarette?”


    Most of the conversation took place within them. Inayat felt her body tense with irritation. There was something that shut her off into a frightening isolation, cutting all...

  10. Chapter 6 Sylvia
    (pp. 37-40)
    Ahmed Alaidy

    Now I know what happened.

    If the palm of your hand is as big as mine, clench your fist, then wipe your sticky brow with it.

    It’s the first, second, and third drop to fall on my face. I look up to the top of the building; I hear the snoring sound of the air conditioning and read “Union Air” in green and blue.

    I waited for her to announce to me, “Stars F.M.”

    She exits from the door of the building. His soft voice vibrates across the radio receiver, across my car, to say, “A woman is with you,...

  11. Chapter 7 The Report of Mrs. R Concerning the Last Day of the Week
    (pp. 41-44)
    Radwa Ashour

    It’s a lake. In olden times a Romantic poet would picture himself sitting on its banks, and behind him, or perhaps to one side, would be a willow tree whose branches hung down like the plaited hair of a despondent woman. He stares into the lake and sees the face of Narcissus on the surface, beautiful and miserable, matching his own. He is preoccupied by his face. He feels sorry for himself and mutters, “Who’ll mourn for you, you poor thing?” Then he begins his elegy.

    There’s no willow tree, no face of Narcissus, just my car in which I...

  12. Chapter 8 Drops of Lemon Juice
    (pp. 45-48)
    Ibrahim Aslan

    When I spotted him walking ahead of me in Fadlallah Uthman Lane I slowed down so as not to catch up with him.

    After a while I feared that, were I to walk at this slow pace of mine right to the end of the street, it would draw the attention of someone who happened to see me, as this wasn’t my usual way of walking, while his leisurely pace was only natural for anyone seeing him, since he was a sick man. Therefore, I went back to walking at my usual pace until I had drawn alongside him and...

  13. Chapter 9 The Palm Tree My Aunt Loved
    (pp. 49-52)
    Hana Atia

    She looked at me from high up in the palm tree that stood erect among the graves. She was holding the end of her gallabiya that was curled around the dates. “This year,” she said, “it’s given the best dates ever.”

    Looking hard at her bleeding feet, I said, “Come down. That’s enough, Auntie.”

    They were gathered around us: the young boys with their rowdiness, and the women whispering among themselves and making sucking noises with their lips. I heard one of them say about my aunt that she loved the blood of the dead upon which the date-palm fed....

  14. Chapter 10 Sundown
    (pp. 53-60)
    Shukri Ayyad

    For the twentieth, the seventieth, the hundredth time, he read through the same piece of news. This time the letters drilled themselves into position with superb precision, some moving forward, others taking a step back, while yet others had disappeared completely, had fled the held: some were as big as walking sticks, others as small as ants; some a mere whisper, others a bugle blast. The item of news, scattered over the page of the newspaper, now read approximately as follows:

    Tawfiq Hussein Baligh

    one of the passengers of the ill-fated plane

    on a mission connected

    with the organization he...

  15. Chapter 11 A Small White Mouse
    (pp. 61-66)
    Salwa Bakr

    The lights turned to red and the insane uninterrupted deluge of traffic came to a halt, allowing a surge of people to rush forward and hurriedly cross the street. This caused Husniya to stand up straighter and raise her voice in a shout, “Have a go and see your luck for a shilling.”

    Over and over she repeated the call. When no one stopped by her, she threw a piece of dry bread into the cage of the mouse, who was looking on expectantly, then began once again to gaze at the traffic lights in anticipation of probable customers. Meanwhile...

  16. Chapter 12 The Days of the Black Cat
    (pp. 67-68)
    Rehab Bassam

    Ilive an extremely simple life. On most days I wake up some minutes before the alarm clock goes off and prepare for meeting the world. I go down to the street. I meet the black cat and my heart sinks. I begin my day. The black cat continues to be the first thing I see in the street on the morning of each day, whether it be in Cairo or Alexandria, inside Egypt or outside, whether it be in Medinat Nasr or Maadi or Mohandiseen. On the days when I work in Heliopolis, if I don’t meet up with him...

  17. Chapter 13 The Room Next Door
    (pp. 69-74)
    Mohamed El-Bisatie

    The two rooms on the top floor are next door to each other. I can hear the talk that’s going on in the other room, which is occupied by a mother and her son. The sound intrudes on my privacy. The boy is no more than eight years old and the mother, thin and emaciated, is in her forties. It is always she who is talking, with not a sound to be heard from the boy. She has to persuade him to eat or to change his clothes, and to stop cutting up the paper that covers the floor of...

  18. Chapter 14 A House for My Children
    (pp. 75-82)
    Mahmoud Diab

    It isn’t possible that the idea occurred to me suddenly, for I had always dreamed of having a house. Though in my dreams its features were not sharply defined, it was characterized by a general enveloping air of warmth and serenity. When, therefore, the chance presented itself I grasped it as though my life depended on it.

    While the idea was not a sudden one to me, it came as a surprise to my wife, who was unable to hold back her tears of excitement. I didn’t in fact surprise her with it as an idea, which would not have...

  19. Chapter 15 Hashish Steals the Night
    (pp. 83-94)
    Shehata al-Erian

    I’d crossed Cairo from one end to the other so as to arrive at that distant spot in al-Muqattam. All the while I was going along parallel to the mountain after coming out of Helwan and going right along the auto-strade to Sayyida Aisha, where I took the microbus to Duweiqa. I got off at the end of the route and took another microbus, ending my journey along the narrow, twisting, snake-like road that takes one to the highest point in that part of the mountain, among the dwellings of the craftsmen that look down on Old Cairo. At that...

  20. Chapter 16 Eyes Staring into Space
    (pp. 95-98)
    Mansoura Ez Eldin

    Did he really exist—that boy whom I met five times at the most and with whom I talked on the telephone once a week?

    I am careful to place him in a far corner of my memory and to talk about him as though I’m talking about a fictional character, and I tremble with fear when someone I know reminds me of his actual existence.

    I gaze at the bare walls of my sparsely furnished room, stealing troubled looks at the mirror, after which my hand moves automatically to the telephone. I raise it and press with my finger...

  21. Chapter 17 The Dancer
    (pp. 99-102)
    Shawqi Faheem

    There were five of us in the Peugeot. Not one of us uttered so much as a word during the two hours the journey took from the village to the mountain where the family graveyard was. It was a heavy, conspiratorial silence that was pervaded by the sound of the engine and the ringlets of smoke and dust.

    There was no one more present in the car than Madeeha.

    Madeeha, my cousin, just twenty-one years old. Last night had been the night of her eldest sister’s marriage, with Madeeha being the most beautiful girl I’d seen in my whole life....

  22. Chapter 18 A Place under the Dome
    (pp. 103-108)
    Abdul Rahman Fahmy

    I got to know him when I was working at the Municipality of Kafr Dawwar. At that time I was a bachelor and divided my day between working at the Municipality and sitting in the station buffet. At first glance he didn’t attract my notice for he was one of those Sufi sheikhs with a green turban, a gown made up of all the seven colors of the spectrum and a long, whittled stick, a man in no way different from other dervishes except for his excessive shabbiness and his disregard to the dirt stains on his gown and his...

  23. Chapter 19 The Story of Black Knight
    (pp. 109-112)
    Hosam Fakhr

    I was riding my beautiful black horse, with its long mane billowing in the wind, and I was riding really fast in the corridor, while Granny Amina, with an aluminum dish in front of her, was sitting at the dinner table topping the okra. She’d take off the neck of the okra with the knife and then remove the black threads from the sides, letting them remain sticking to her fingers. When we arrived at the mountain peak, I found that my horse was tired, in a sweat and panting for breath because of the long distance we’d traveled. So...

  24. Chapter 20 Red and White
    (pp. 113-116)
    Ibrahim Farghali

    We really couldn’t believe your crazy stories, Muhammadi. Each time you came along with some new amazing tale. And always we’d believe you. Was that due to the very spontaneous and convincing way you told them? Honestly, I don’t know.

    At first I marveled at your fertile imagination, at your ability to clothe your lies with a sense of reality and with minute details that didn’t complicate the story. You surpassed all other liars by having an extraordinary storehouse of lies and the ability to repeat them with the very same details, without adding to or subtracting from them. So,...

  25. Chapter 21 The Accusation
    (pp. 117-130)
    Suleiman Fayyad

    In the morning he awoke from his second snooze. The time was still before noon. He stretched, yawning, lazily rose to his feet, made the bed and opened the window on to the light of day. The calls of vendors and the shrieks of children flowed in. Leaning on the windowsill, he took delight in the blue autumnal sky, the flat roofs of the houses, the windows. From where he was he could see, through an open window on the ground floor of the house opposite, his fellow-student Abdel Wahhab: sitting in semi-darkness, he was painting a portrait of a...

  26. Chapter 22 A Dog
    (pp. 131-136)
    Hamdy el-Gazzar

    I celebrated my birthday alone at my office.

    Thursday, midnight, is almost the moment at which I was born thirty years ago. Thursday night is a glorious night in our quarter: in the alleyways, lanes, and streets of Tulun the women now take to their beds, they sprawl out on the sheets, with their legs raised high in the air, while the men push their way into them, entering the welcoming bodies and coming out, happy and delighted. The beds creak and screech, and the voices of the women are raised in screams of sexual excitement and ecstasy, while the...

  27. Chapter 23 The Old Clothes Man
    (pp. 137-140)
    Fathy Ghanem

    The incidents of this odd story started exactly three years ago. I remember the date: we were at the end of June. It was a Saturday, the time, five in the afternoon, the weather hot and the sweat pouring from us. The two of us were moving from shoeshop to shoeshop. from one shop window of shoes to another shop window of shoes. In the end Ibrahim bought a pair of shoes, light black and white leather shoes. He paid two pounds and fifty-four piasters. He was happy. I, though, had been thinking of the shoes I had wanted to...

  28. Chapter 24 A Visit
    (pp. 141-144)
    Gamal al-Ghitani

    It was a long street with hardly a soul on it. Every now and again a squall of wind would blow in from the direction of the mountain and would raise small whirlpools of dust. Dirt and straw would crash against the walls of the houses, the silver-colored lampposts, and the legs of the few passersby. The wind was dry and full of tiny particles of sand, while the sky was clothed in a dark yellowness. Along the street, trees emanated from the earth at equal distances from one another. Their leaves had fallen, leaving the branches bare. I’m still...

  29. Chapter 25 Put Out Those Lights
    (pp. 145-148)
    Yousef Gohar

    Hasan Effendi’s life was darkened by the continual shadow of boredom and weariness. A so-called musician in a band that performed at wedding celebrations in the poorer quarters, he was more often idle than working and would spend his days sitting and yawning on his chair in front of the shop in Muhammad Ali Street where the band hung out.

    All day long he would sit staring at the women passing by, at the trams, at the carts bearing professional women mourners going along behind some ‘dear departed’ toward the cemetery of the Imam Shafi‘i.

    Biting his nails or pulling at...

  30. Chapter 26 Cairo Is a Small City
    (pp. 149-154)
    Nabil Gorgy

    On the balcony of his luxury flat Engineer Adel Salim stood watching some workmen putting up a new building across the wide street along the center of which was a spacious garden. The building was at the foundations stage, only the concrete foundations and some of the first-floor columns having been completed. A young ironworker with long hair was engaged on bending iron rods of various dimensions. Adel noticed that the young man had carefully leant his Jawa motorcycle against a giant crane that crouched at rest awaiting its future tasks. “How the scene has changed!’” Adel could still remember...

  31. Chapter 27 The Girls and the Rooster
    (pp. 155-158)
    Abdou Gubeir

    Don’t hit black cats at night.”

    This was said by Sheikh Yasin in his Friday sermon in the village mosque about nine years ago, and it was the same appeal voiced by the young boys, on the recommendation of the mother Sayyida and her mother-in-law Sakina after the triplets were born: Three girls whose father found nothing in which to seek refuge from grief other than to laugh crazily. From that day on he began to mock everything, though in the end he accepted the matter as his destiny.

    With the passing of the years, and as a sort of...

  32. Chapter 28 Mother of the Destitute
    (pp. 159-166)
    Yahya Hakki

    Praised be He whose dominion extends over all creatures and Who knows no opposition to His rule. Here I have no wish but to recount the story of Ibrahim Abu Khalil as he made his way down the steps of life, like the leaves of spring, which, though lifted a little by the wind, contain, even at their height, their ineluctable descent until at last they are cushioned and trampled down into the earth. I was a witness to his descending the last steps of the ladder, but I only learnt later that he was an orphan and had been...

  33. Chapter 29 The Old Man
    (pp. 167-168)
    Gamil Atia Ibrahim

    The old man is in the corner of the room. His period of service in the government has come to an end and the procedures and papers for retirement are being completed. While in the service and at an age of over fifty he had graduated in law, but in regard to promotion he had not benefitted greatly from the qualification. Without uttering a word, the man runs his eyes over the men and women working there.

    When he had entered the faculty of law he had been preoccupied by the question of justice. Why should his wife have died...

  34. Chapter 30 Across Three Beds in the Afternoon
    (pp. 169-180)
    Sonallah Ibrahim

    He was hungry. The alarm clock placed above the television set pointed to eight o'clock. There were still twenty minutes to go before Sayyid returned, and then they would all start to eat.

    He inclined his head slightly, listening to her moving about in the kitchen. He knew that she was now walking about energetically between the sink, the gas stove, and the table with the thin sheet-iron top, despite her sixty-five years, and that everything would be scattered round about her in utter confusion.

    When she had almost finished she would call to him from the kitchen, “Isn’t it...

  35. Chapter 31 The Chair Carrier
    (pp. 181-186)
    Yusuf Idris

    You can believe it or not, but excuse me for saying that your opinion is of no concern at all to me. It’s enough for me that I saw him, met him, talked to him and observed the chair with my own eyes. Thus I considered that I had been witness to a miracle. But even more miraculous, indeed more disastrous, was that neither the man, the chair, nor the incident caused a single passerby in Opera Square, in Gumhuriya Street, or in Cairo, or maybe in the whole wide world, to come to a stop at that moment.


  36. Chapter 32 Undoing the Spell
    (pp. 187-194)
    Said al-Kafrawi

    Iwas listening to the loudspeaker while playing in the lighted space in front of the cloth pavilion that had been set up for paying condolences. By the electric light I could see the loudspeaker hanging on Uncle Abdel Ghani Badr’s sycomore tree. The Quran reciter was repeating the words of the Beneficent God, may He be praised, “Wherever you are death will reach you.” At the time I said the usual response to myself, “Death follows the son of Adam even to the mouth of the grave.” Later, I ran toward the boy Shaaban, the son of Shalabiya, the woman...

  37. Chapter 33 Birdsʹ Footsteps in the Sand
    (pp. 195-204)
    Edwar al-Kharrat

    The world was in its first dawn, devoid of anyone. The virgin air, cloudless and of the desert, had at one and the same time the sea’s moisture and a particular dryness.

    The time was noon, quiet and utterly still.

    The silence was not a solid one; it was a soft silence. Everything was soft and limpid.

    I had returned to this world that never comes to an end, and yet I am a stranger in it; I know that I am not there.

    My mother takes me by the hand as we get down from the train at the...

  38. Chapter 34 The Man Who Saw the Sole of His Left Foot in a Cracked Mirror
    (pp. 205-212)
    Lutfi al-Khouli

    At a quarter to five on Sunday afternoon—as shown by his wrist-watch the hands of which lit up when night fell—the weather was unbearably hot, but what was he to do? The weather—captive—was doomed to be as hot as hell-fire, while he—free—was doomed to live in such weather. Each of them, for some reason or other he did not know and had no desire to pursue, hated the other but they were at the same time shackled to each other like the blacks and the whites in New York. There is no escaping one’s...

  39. Chapter 35 A Murder Long Ago
    (pp. 213-220)
    Naguib Mahfouz

    The Diaries of Alaa al-Din al-Qahiricame out and intruded on the solitude of my old age, sweeping away its peace and calm and its isolation from public life. His name came back to stalk me and open up a wound in my pride. It came, too, as a reminder of a period of being respected and appreciated, also of a time of being alienated and rejected, and finally of a time of failure. Having come into the possession of the book, I became engrossed in reading it. Beginning with the introduction by his nephew, I learned the secret of...

  40. Chapter 36 The Arrival
    (pp. 221-222)
    Mohamed Makhzangi

    Being the doctor on duty the day Naim died of tuberculosis, it was up to me to record the instant of death and its cause and to order that in two hours’ time the body be transferred to the mortuary. I didn’t understand why the woman’s wailing became more agonized on hearing the word mortuary. I had noticed that she was pregnant, in fact in the final months.

    Being the duty officer, I was required to see that this hospital was kept quiet and I therefore ordered Naim’s wife to stop her shouting and wailing. I couldn’t understand why she...

  41. Chapter 37 The Guardʹs Chair
    (pp. 223-224)
    Mohamed Makhzangi

    Adistinguished sculptor who used to work in glass made, for her husband, my friend, a piece portraying a man sitting cross-legged with his head resting on his right hand which was supported on his elbow, creating the shape of a triangle. Her comment about it, which utterly astonished me, was that Ahmad, her husband and my friend, didn’t know how to sit as he was most of the time either standing up or stretched out flat.

    At first I found this both strange and distressing, but I was startled to discover that I too didn’t know how to sit, and...

  42. Chapter 38 A Lover
    (pp. 225-226)
    Mohamed Makhzangi

    A vegetarian, he eats neither meat nor eggs and doesn’t drink milk, and doesn’t have anything to do with milk products. He completely ignores the existence of women and has done so for the past thirty years and has thus remained a bachelor though he is now approaching fifty. No one has an explanation for his exceedingly dapper dress, to which he pays the greatest attention and on which he spends a great deal.

    Thirty years ago, while still a young boy, he was in love with a girl of similar age. Two young beings, each one madly in love...

  43. Chapter 39 The Man with the Mustache and the Bow Tie
    (pp. 227-228)
    Mohamed Makhzangi

    He was standing at the entrance, wearing a white shirt, black trousers, and a red bow tie round his neck.

    Quietly, calmly—so much so that it was only by chance that I noticed—the thin hand crept from behind me as I stood in front of the urinal and placed, without any noise being made, the small triangular pink dish in which was a piece of toilet paper folded with immaculate care on top of the porcelain partition, within reach of my right hand—and I withdrew hastily like a frightened mouse.

    It had been a rapid movement, cautious...

  44. Chapter 40 The Son, the Father, and the Donkey
    (pp. 229-232)
    Sabri Moussa

    Though Shadwan’s body was asleep his head was wide awake.

    The body was weighed down with the burdens of the long day J_ that had cast the first lock of its glowing hair upon the dark, dew-moistened fields, upon the trees and the rivulets and the southern irrigation canal. The body was weighed down, the muscles in the arms swollen, and the veins in the thighs throbbed with the pumping movement of blood. So Shadwan had squatted down on the bed of palm leaves after supper, when the salt, onions, and maize bread had done their work. Benumbed, Shadwan had...

  45. Chapter 41 Naked He Went Off
    (pp. 233-236)
    Mohamed Mustagab

    The man’s naked arm was raised at the entrance to the squalid house. The people were peering into every crack and ant-hole in the front wall of the house in the hope of noticing that anticipated snake-like movement. All eyes continued to strain as they examined the course of bricks and the wood of the façade, the ceiling formed of palm stalks, and the cracks in the walls.

    “I’ll take a pound as my payment.”

    He extended his thin, vicious arm upward, so high up that it almost touched the ceiling, then he turned his head toward the people.


  46. Chapter 42 The Whistle
    (pp. 237-240)
    Abd al-Hakim Qasim

    Along, long line of children slips between the maize stalks putting under them small handfuls of chemical fertilizer; behind them is an .overseer with a long cane and a whistle.

    The boy Hasan and the girl Hanim are at the end of the line, each of them holding a pot full of fertilizer in one hand; their hands, brown and thin, move like the pendulum of a clock between the pot and the roots of the maize.

    The weather is heavy, overcast; spiders’ webs hang between the stalks and stick to forehead and temple; the maize leaves, like pliant knives,...

  47. Chapter 43 The Dental Crown
    (pp. 241-244)
    Youssef Rakha

    Before walking away from the clinic the dentist will give him something wrapped in gauze without so much as a word. He will place the small sphere of gauze for Zakariya inside the palm of his hand and with gentle resolution will close his fingers over it, like someone rich giving alms to someone poor. He then pats the inverted fist and withdraws his hand.

    Zakariya will emerge from the clinic with half a laugh imprisoned there since he had discharged the first half after having kissed the sphere of gauze and rubbed it on his forehead before hiding it...

  48. Chapter 44 Another Evening at the Club
    (pp. 245-250)
    Alifa Rifaat

    In a state of tension, she awaited the return of her husband. At a loss to predict what would happen between them, she moved herself back and forth in the rocking chair on the wide wooden verandah that ran along the bank and occupied part of the river itself, its supports being fixed in the river bed, while around it grew grasses and reeds. As though to banish her apprehension, she passed her fingers across her hair. The specters of the eucalyptus trees ranged along the garden fence rocked before her gaze, with white egrets slumbering on their high branches...

  49. Chapter 45 Paradise Itself
    (pp. 251-256)
    Mahmoud al-Saadani

    Silence and the night reigned over the downward slope of Ibn Tulun and gloomy darkness wrapped around everything in the narrow winding passageway that clung closely to the wall of the ancient mosque. The road was empty of everything but the treading feet of some tired men who were returning to their homes at the top of the slope and a child alongside the wall relieving himself.

    But from the top of the slope the light from the café of Ma‘allim Sultan shone as brightly as sunshine, and the sound of his radio rang out from afar, and in the...

  50. Chapter 46 For the Love of God
    (pp. 257-260)
    Abdul Hamid Gouda al-Sahhar

    Fatima sat on the ground. The room that served as her dwelling and which she shared with her chickens and a goat was immersed in dead silence, a palpable darkness. Were it not for the dim light that came from the wick placed above the oven, reflecting on her brown face, one would have thought the place a deserted grave, for the goat lay in a corner out of reach of the light, while the chickens were perched above a large cage, their feet curled round a palm-leaf stalk, their eyes closed. Fatima sat with her head lowered, frowning, pain...

  51. Chapter 47 The Snooper
    (pp. 261-264)
    Mekkawi Said

    I was a child and she was my neighbor. I was on the threshold of adolescence, while she was at its peak. I claim that I was the first to discover, with her, her body, the first to see its charms at a distance. I became addicted to spying on her as she slipped off her clothes right after she’d returned from school, or as she was about to put on her nightdress, or standing, indifferent to the time, in front of the mirror removing the hair from her armpits with tweezers and taking off her brassiere so as to...

  52. Chapter 48 The Lost Suitcase
    (pp. 265-280)
    Abdel-Moneim Selim

    I began hunting round for my black suitcase but couldn’t find it. While the other cases rested one on top of the other by the door of the flat—one, two and the little one—the black suitcase was nowhere to be seen.

    I remembered well that I had had it with me in the train, that the porter at Cairo station had charged me for three suitcases and that I had carried the fourth, the small one, myself. After that I had taken a taxi and had placed three of the suitcases beside me, while the largest had stood...

  53. Chapter 49 The Clock
    (pp. 281-282)
    Khairy Shalaby

    I was walking along a dazzling, crowded street—I think it was Suleiman Pasha or one like it. I was pushing aside great multitudes of humanity at every step in order to make my way. All the women of Cairo were naked and gave out a smell of kerosene. There were men who looked like gas cylinders licking the backs of the women and placing money between their breasts and their thighs. Suddenly I saw my younger brother in his peasant’s gallabiya and white skullcap. Shoulders, thighs, and breasts separated me from him. Delighted to see him, I began stretching...

  54. Chapter 50 The Man and the Farm
    (pp. 283-292)
    Yusuf Sharouni

    At ten o'clock in the evening Munira felt the first twinges of pain and at eleven her husband, Badawi Effendi, went off at a run—in .spite of his size—to call the doctor.

    Badawi Effendi’s luck was in: the doctor had no other delivery to deal with that evening, though he was not in his clinic when Badawi got there. One of the nurses telephoned him at the club where he was on night call, playing Coon-can with his friends. So he told the nurse to go and find out how urgent it was and to judge for herself...

  55. Chapter 51 The Mother
    (pp. 293-298)
    Ibrahim Shukrallah

    Nagiya awoke at dawn to the dull echo of stabs of pain rising up from her body to her sleep-befogged brain. No sooner was she completely awake than her whole body was racked by the full force of these stabs which came from her side; long stabs of piercing pain which, now that she was quite conscious, followed one another with regular precision. With each separate pang, preceded as it was by an interval of quiet, came the hope that it would be the final one, and she would find herself listening, waiting. But the period of quiet would not...

  56. Chapter 52 The Country Boy
    (pp. 299-304)
    Yusuf al-Sibai

    This story has four main characters and of these only one is, in all probability, still alive today. Of two of them I can say with certainty that they have departed for the other world, and as to the third the good Lord alone knows what has happened to him.

    I know not what has prompted me not to change the name of the characters and so spare myself the trouble of thinking up fictitious names for them; perhaps it is laziness, or maybe the certain knowledge that none of them would be upset if the story were to be...

  57. Chapter 53 Useless Cats
    (pp. 305-312)
    Bahaa Taher

    From the very first day my colleagues in the company treated me as though I was a spy: I had no place either in their homes or in their hearts.

    While I wasn’t a spy, the circumstances under which I had arrived from the company headquarters in Cairo at the desert mine certainly gave the impression that I had come to keep an eye on them, especially given the fact that the director-general, who was disliked by both the workers in Cairo and at the mines, was the person who had deputized me to write a report about the productivity...

  58. Chapter 54 The House of the Spinster
    (pp. 313-316)
    Sahar Tawfiq

    What has caused your face to invade my dreams tonight?

    I haven’t seen you for ages and haven’t dreamt of you, so what brought you into my dreams tonight?

    Sometimes you might go out early to enjoy the morning and the air cleansed by the aroma of dew, along the canal in which horses take their bath, with boys leaping around them as they washed them while playing about in the water on warm summer mornings. The leaves of the trees still carried drops of dew, cradled gently lest they fall down.

    As you stand at the bridge regarding the...

  59. Chapter 55 Abu Arab
    (pp. 317-320)
    Mahmoud Teymour

    In a humble hair-tent near the estate of Imad Bey lived Suleiman Wida and his wife and children. They belonged to those Bedouin Arabs who gain their living by tending sheep, and roam about from place to place in search of pastures. This Suleiman, whom people out of fear and respect called Abu Arab, was a giant of a man, with broad shoulders and a dried-up face, over which the skin was tightly drawn. As he walked along, wrapped in his great white shaw, he was like a swaying camel, and if you heard him chanting his monotonous song over...

  60. Chapter 56 Thirst
    (pp. 321-324)
    Mahmoud Al-Wardani

    The oppressive smell woke me from my sleep. I went on combating sleep without succeeding in overcoming it. I shook off successive nightmares till it seemed to me that in the end I had the sensation of having a burning thirst, while hearing the barking of distant dogs. On the way to the bathroom I came to a startled stop, for the neighborhood to which I had finally moved in preparation for building a conjugal nest was “free of dogs.” I remembered that it was precisely this remark that I had repeated over and over again in order to persuade...

  61. Chapter 57 The Picture
    (pp. 325-332)
    Latifa al-Zayyat

    Amal’s eyes came to rest on the spray that left behind it, against the horizon, a zigzag thread of sunrays in the colors of the rainbow: a marvelous spectrum which could scarcely by seen unless one tilted one’s head at a particular angle and looked hard. She pointed it out to her husband facing her across the table in the cafeteria overlooking the meeting-place of sea and Nile at Ras al-Barr. He could not see it. If only he could have. The spectrum disappears when it’s really there, then one imagines it to be there when in fact it has...

  62. Notes on Authors
    (pp. 333-342)
  63. Glossary
    (pp. 343-344)
  64. Back Matter
    (pp. 345-348)