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The Sufferers

The Sufferers: Stories and Polemics

Taha Hussein
Translated by Mona El-Zayyat
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    The Sufferers
    Book Description:

    Taha Hussein (1889-1973), blind from early childhood, rose from humble beginnings to pursue a distinguished career in Egyptian public life, but he was most influential through his voluminous, varied, and controversial writings. The stories in The Sufferers were first published in the periodical al-Katib al-Masri in 1946, but were banned by the government when collected in book form in 1947. The collection was finally published in Lebanon, and was only published in Egypt after the 1952 Revolution.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-471-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Translator’s Introduction
    (pp. vii-x)

    Taha Hussein was born on October 28, 1898, in al-Minya province, Upper Egypt, and grew up, the seventh of thirteen children, in a lower middle-class family. At a very early age he contracted a simple eye infection and, due to faulty treatment by an unskilled local practitioner, was unnecessarily blinded. His blindness caused him great anguish throughout his life.

    He was placed in akuttab(a school where children learned the Quran and reading and writing) and was later sent to al-Azhar, where he acquired a thorough knowledge of religion and Arabic literature in the traditional manner. However, he felt...

  4. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    I cannot find a more accurate means of depicting Egypt during the later years of the monarchy than these two dedications. During those distant yet recent years, Egyptians formed two groups. One represented the great majority of the wretched, who burned with a yearning for justice in wakefulness, in sleep, and in the darkest hours of night. The other represented the small minority, which cowered from justice when confronted by the light of day and was terrified of it when engulfed by the dark of night.

    He who belonged to the majority was unable to secure the means of his...

  5. Chapter 2 Saleh
    (pp. 7-24)

    “When you hear the shaykh raising his voice with the lastAllahu akbar, tell me. If you do that, then you are truly my son.”

    The boy smiled at his mother, who had been speaking to him while stroking his cheek, and said, “And if I don’t, then whose son would I be?”

    The boy’s mother was taken aback for a moment, and her sons and daughters around her laughed. But she slapped the boy’s cheek tenderly and said, “You have a cheeky tongue and are given to argument.” Then, slipping a piece of sugar in his hand, she repeated,...

  6. Chapter 3 Qasim
    (pp. 25-38)

    He walked in the deep darkness of night. Everything around him was calm. The world was enveloped in a dreadful, oppressive quiet. Had he raised his head to the sky, he would have seen scattered traces of faint light. But he did not raise his head to the sky, nor did he bow it toward the ground. Rather he went on, his gaze fixed straight ahead as though he were trying to penetrate the thick screen of darkness with his eyes. He turned neither right nor left, like some inanimate object merely carved in the image of a man. Had...

  7. Chapter 4 Khadija
    (pp. 39-48)

    She did not come from the sky as angels mercifully and soothingly descend to earth. Nor did she come out of the river as the beautiful virgin daughters of the water emerged in ancient times from brooks, rivers, springs and wells. The clouds did not carry her to us, nor was she sent by a star. She was raised in the village in one of its miserable, unhappy families as tens, no hundreds and thousands of other virgins are raised in the cities and the villages.

    But she was distinguished from her contemporaries by a face so clear and smooth...

  8. Chapter 5 Al-Mu’tazala
    (pp. 49-62)

    In the title of this piece, ‘The Isolated Ones,’ I do not refer to that famous group of Islamic theologians. Rather, I refer to a wretched Egyptian family that I had forgotten until Egypt was struck by this plague and I was seized by a persistent remembrance of it. I have strained to rid myself of thinking of it, but have failed. I have therefore decided to divert myself by writing about it. Perhaps this narration will transfer it from my personal conscience to the public one. This would alleviate my burden, relieve my anguish, and remedy some of the...

  9. Chapter 6 A Comrade
    (pp. 63-74)

    It was one of those hours of forenoon when the day should have lingered in its stride to cage the youth of thekuttab, confining them to that life of theirs, submitting them to the violence of the master and the cunning of the monitor. It should have lingered to delay that happy moment when they would be allowed the freedom to have the lunch they anxiously awaited, not to satisfy their need for food, but to satisfy their need for liberty and play. The children and youth of thekuttabused to feel that the coming of noon and...

  10. Chapter 7 Safaa
    (pp. 75-90)

    “That was possible in those bleak days. As for now, God has made things easier and has made it possible to leave the darkness of misery and wretchedness for the light of leisure and ease. I don’t like to go into this matter, nor do I like you to.”

    Hanena started to respond, but her son Nasif turned his face away from her and moved aside. He lit his cigarette haughtily, rose with deliberate arrogance, and walked out of the room and out of the house as though he had left no one behind. Hanena remained, quiet and dismayed, then...

  11. Chapter 8 Danger
    (pp. 91-94)

    There is nothing I detest as intensely as sermonizing and preaching, warning the inattentive, awakening the sleeping, or cautioning those on whom neither caution nor forewarning has any effect. Yet, I am absolutely compelled to do so. I feel it is a duty that true patriotism and human dignity impose. It is forced on me by my concern that Egypt should not be exposed to untimely and violent dangers, and by my dream that my wretched homeland should follow its path slowly, gently, and calmly, without being hit by storms or exposed to such uneventful revolutions as have occurred in...

  12. Chapter 9 Social Awareness
    (pp. 95-100)

    The second caliph, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, may God have mercy on his soul, did not realize when he led the Muslims from the pilgrimage in the eighteenth year of the Hijra (A.D. 639), that he and the Muslims of Arabia, of Hijaz, of Najd, and especially of Tuhama, were embarking on a dim, dark year that would test their consciences, their wealth, and their morality. They would be tested in whatever share they had been granted of patience in the face of distress, perseverance in the face of calamity, and forbearance in the face of misfortune. They would be tested...

  13. Chapter 10 The Burden of Wealth
    (pp. 101-106)

    ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Uf had ample wealth. He was one of the earliest believers, who eagerly embraced Islam when the calling came. His fortune had not spoiled him nor had his wealth turned his heart away from godliness. Unlike the other prosperous members of the Quraysh tribe, he did not fear Islam’s call for equality between rich and poor, between powerful and weak, between free men and slaves. Rather, God gifted him with a ready acceptance of Islam. He embraced it with a passion, sacrificing to it the money, wealth, and power he had accumulated. He was ready to endure,...

  14. Chapter 11 Generosity
    (pp. 107-112)

    I do not know if these tales are factual, as I would like them to be and as I think they are, or if they are fictitious, as the detractors would like them to be and think they are. Whether they be true or not, they rouse many notions in my mind and stir many emotions in my heart, and drive me to much thought, as they drive me to dream many beautiful dreams that, if realized, would represent the attainment of the greatest hope, and that, if not realized, would still have allowed me to live a few happy...

  15. Chapter 12 Ailing Egypt
    (pp. 113-120)

    Hardly had I climbed on board the ship and settled down, being done with those infuriating procedures that are forced upon anyone setting sail, whatever port he sails from, than I learned that Egypt was ailing. I listened to this news without much attention or thought. For the item was published in a French newspaper, issued in Marseilles. Much of this type of news about Egypt is published. It neither represents the truth nor indicates anything other than the attitude of its dispatchers: hatred for Egypt, or an inclination to conspire against it and find fault with it or exaggerate...