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Leg Over Leg

Leg Over Leg: Volume Two

Fāris al-Shidyāq
Edited and translated by Humphrey Davies
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 464
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  • Book Info
    Leg Over Leg
    Book Description:

    Leg over Leg recounts the life, from birth to middle age, of 'the Fariyaq,' alter ego of Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, a pivotal figure in the intellectual and literary history of the modern Arab world. The always edifying and often hilarious adventures of the Fariyaq, as he moves from his native Lebanon to Egypt, Malta, Tunis, England and France, provide the author with grist for wide-ranging discussions of the intellectual and social issues of his time, including the ignorance and corruption of the Lebanese religious and secular establishments, freedom of conscience, women's rights, sexual relationships between men and women, the manners and customs of Europeans and Middle Easterners, and the differences between contemporary European and Arabic literatures. Al-Shidyaq also celebrates the genius and beauty of the classical Arabic language. Akin to Sterne and Rabelais in his satirical outlook and technical inventiveness, al-Shidyaq produced in Leg Over Leg a work that is unique and unclassifiable. It was initially widely condemned for its attacks on authority, its religious skepticism, and its obscenity, and later editions were often abridged. This is the first English translation of the work and reproduces the original Arabic text, published under the author's supervision in 1855.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3846-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Leg Over Leg, Volume Two
    (pp. 1-3)
  4. Contents of the Book
    (pp. 4-7)
  5. Chapter 1 Rolling a Boulder
    (pp. 8-37)

    I have cast from me, thank God, Book One, and relieved my pate of its burden. I scarcely believed I’d ever get to the second book, the first made me feel so dizzy, especially when I set out upon the waves to pay the Fāriyāq a respectful and honorable farewell. Anyway, I’m under no obligation to follow him wherever hegoes, and for a while, after he reached Alexandria and swallowed the pebbles off its ground, my pen just sat there smacking its lips, my inkwellclosed.

    Then my energy returned and I started writing again, thinking it best that...

  6. Chapter 2 A Salutation and a Conversation
    (pp. 38-61)

    “Good morning, Fāriyāq! How are you and how do you find Alexandria? Have you learned to tell its women from its men (for the women in your country do not veil their faces)? And how do you find its food and drink, its clothes, its air and water, its parks, and how its people honor strangers? Is your head stillswimming, your tongue with disparagement of travel stillbrimming?” Replied he, “So far as the city’s situation is concerned, it’s elegant because it’s on the sea, and the number of foreigners it contains adds to its brio: in it you...

  7. Chapter 3 The Extraction of the Fāriyāq from Alexandria, by Sail
    (pp. 62-83)

    A typical example of our friend’s bad luck was that, at the time of his leaving for the island, the Franks had yet to discover the special properties of steam. Travel by sea was dependent on the wind, which blew if it felt like it and didn’t if it didn’t. As al-Ṣāḥib ibn al-ʿAbbād has said,⁶³

    ’Tis but a wind you cannot control,

    For you’re not Sulaymān, son of Dāʾūd.

    It follows that the Fāriyāq departed on a wind-propelled ship of that ilk.

    In the course of his voyage, he learned some words of the language of the people of...

  8. Chapter 4 A Throne to Gain Which Man Must Make Moan
    (pp. 84-103)

    As long as sea’sseaand wind’s not ceased tobe, the Fāriyāq’s ascendant star will never cease toslip, his tongue totrip. When he reached Alexandria, he found a new Bag-man in the place of the old, one who had been through times so rough even Shaykh Khalīl ibn Aybak al-Ṣafadī⁷¹ would have refused to put up with them. As a result, he had failed to advance, and his name was mud among his peers. He had been brought to this pass by his belief that the air in these lands was too warm for him, as a...

  9. Chapter 5 A Description of Cairo
    (pp. 104-113)

    Many an ancient historian toward Cairo has bent hisgazeand on it hosts of poets past have lavishedpraise, and here now stand I, to describe it and to praise it as did no scholar in formerdays. Thus I declare: Cairo is one metropolis among metropoli, one city among cities, one settlement among settlements, one borough among boroughs, one seat among seats, one town among towns, one citadel among citadels, one village among villages, one urban center among urban centers, one capital among capitals, one locality among localities, one territory among territories, one land among lands, one township...

  10. Chapter 6 Nothing
    (pp. 114-115)

    I had thought that, if I abandoned the Fāriyāq and set about describing Cairo, I’d find rest, but the second turned out to be just like the first, or, to put it differently, thevicewas the same as theversa. I must now therefore sit myself down a while in the shade of this short chapter to brush off the dust of my labors. Then I shall arise once more, should the Almighty so allow....

  11. Chapter 7 A Description of Cairo
    (pp. 116-121)

    I am risen to my feet once more, praising and thanking God. Now, where are my pen and inkwell, that I may describe this happy city, which deserves the eulogies of all who behold it, for it is the home of good things, the motherlode of bounty and magnanimity? Its people are refined, cultured, and kind to thestranger, and there’s such amiability in their speech that the grief-struck of getting any sadder need never be indanger. When theyhailyou, theyregaleyou. When theysaluteyou, theysaveyou. After they’ve visited you, you can’t wait to...

  12. Chapter 8 Notice that the Description of Cairo is Ended
    (pp. 122-133)

    We—that is, all my good friends and I—had left the Fāriyāq trying to shake the Bag-men’s bag off his back. Now I, to the exclusion of the others, have come to know that he spent a night pondering the fact that everything that skill may set firmly in place external factors will shake to the core, and, this being the case, he decided to take the shaking business into his own hands. When morning came, he left the place where he’d been playing and started to wander through the markets, shaking his shoulders with every step and saying,...

  13. Chapter 9 That to Which I Have Alluded
    (pp. 134-141)

    The definition of a title in the minds of Orientals is that it is an insignificant fleshy protuberance or a flap of skin,¹¹¹ or an extra bag hung onto an already loaded camel, that dangles from a man’s essential being. The author of theQāmūshas said, “ʿalāqāmeans ‘titles,’ because they are hung onto people (li-annahā tuʿallaqu ʿalā l-nās).” To Occidentals, which is to say Franks, it is a second skin that wraps itself around the body. Our commentary on this is that an insignificant protuberance may be cut off and totally excised with ease, and the same goes...

  14. Chapter 10 A Doctor
    (pp. 142-149)

    May God relieve you—or shrive you or deceive you,¹¹⁷ following those who readṣirāṭorsirāṭorzirāṭor those who say “Demand the choicest of camels as your ransom!” and read the last word as eitherbuṣāqorbusāqorbuzāq—of your sickness, Khawājā Yanṣur! You left the Fāriyāq in a state of unease andapprehension, waiting for an answer from you, morning and evening, in a state oftension. Replied the poet, “It grieves me greatly that your friend’s letter should have reached me while I was feverish and had a headache, thus preventing me from...

  15. Chapter 11 The Fulfillment of What He Promised Us
    (pp. 150-159)

    The Fāriyāq had a friend from the Damascene lands who used to visit him, and he was with him when the servant arrived with the letter and the set of clothes. He told the Fāriyāq, “I shall go with you to see Khawājā Yanṣur, for I have often heard him mentioned and would love to meet him.” “But,” the Fāryaq said, “turning up with another (al-izwāʾ)(1) may be considered a discourtesy to the person visited, for it is inappropriate for an invitee to bring a companion with him.” “Forget about that,” said his friend, “for it’s the Frankish way. In...

  16. Chapter 12 Poems for Princes
    (pp. 160-173)

    Our friend the Fāriyāq had no heavy baggage at the Bag-man’s house other than his own body, so he took his tambour under his arm, put his pen-box in his belt, and told the man, “God has come to my aid and shown me a path different from that laid down for me by you and your company of Bag-men. Today I shall leave you and nothing shall dissuade me.” “How can you leave me, when I’ve done you no injury?” asked the other. “This tambour,” replied the Fāriyāq, “bears witness against you that you did.” “If the tambour-player isn’t...

  17. Chapter 13 A Maqāmah to Make You Sit
    (pp. 174-185)

    I shall not sleep well tonight unless I compose amaqāmahfirst. I have made it the custom of my pen at this point¹⁵⁰ to do nothing butrhyme, producing elegant periods that charm themindand are appetizing and pleasing to the ear. I thus declare:

    Faid al-Hāwif ibn Hifām in lifping tones, “Once, as I walked through Cairo’s markets, my eyes o’er their attractions wanderingaglaze, the beauty of their sideways-glancing girls absorbing mygaze, overtaken by camels from its everyzone, so that now I was against this wall crushed, now at the foot of that one...

  18. Chapter 14 An Explanation of the Obscure Words in the Preceding Maqāmah and Their Meanings
    (pp. 186-291)

    There is no word in this noble tongue of ours, or in that of any other nation, for an active subject or a passive object, or two actives, who, having participated in one and the same act for their own pleasure and advantage, are in need of someone to burst in upon them to inform himself as to what kind of “raising” and “erecting” they are engaged in.¹⁶³ This may be demonstrated by the fact that our wordzawāj(“marriage”) means the joining of one thing to another in such a way that each forms a conjunct (zawj) with its...

  19. Chapter 15 Right There!
    (pp. 292-293)
  20. Chapter 16 Right Here!
    (pp. 294-369)

    The pen has refused to obey my command to leave this stimulating spot and talk of the Fāriyāq and his like, and he too indeed, in all likelihood, would rather stay put than talk about himself. Thus there is no help for it but to resume my description of women, without tendering him any apology.

    I thus declare: certain of our most eminent scholars have said that the woman is more honorable than the man, more imposing, nobler, more clement, more virtuous, and more generous. The argument for her being more honorable rests on the fact that the two witnesses...

  21. Chapter 17 Elegy for a Donkey
    (pp. 370-381)

    “Hello there, Fāriyāq! Where have you been and what have you been up to this long while?”—“Writing poems for princes.”—“I already knew that. I’m asking you for something new.”—“Yesterday I was shocked to lose a donkey of mine. I asked the neighbors about him, but none of them admitted to stealing him, so, for a dirham, I hired a crier who set about crying in the markets, ‘Oyez! Today the Fāriyāq’s donkey ran away, leaving his shackle on its peg. Has any of you seen him?’ but the only response he got was ‘How many a donkey...

  22. Chapter 18 Various Forms of Sickness
    (pp. 382-389)

    Thenceforth the Fāriyāq, being anxious to become known by the title of “Shaykh,” devoted himself to writing verse. To that end it occurred to him to study grammar under certain Egyptian shaykhs, for he’d made up his mind that what he’d acquired in his own country wasn’t enough for the prince’s Panegyricon. In the same month, however, that he declared his intent to study, he was afflicted with a painful case of ophthalmia. When he recovered, he made his first foray into scholarship and studied with Shaykh Muṣṭafā²⁷² a few small books on morphology and syntax. Then he got a...

  23. Chapter 19 The Circle of the Universe and the Center of This Book
    (pp. 390-399)

    This man was a famous doctor in Egypt, but his reputation for causing decease was greater than that for curing it, the reason being that, at an advanced age, he’d married a fresh young girl and fathered on her a daughter and a son. Thereafter he’d ceased to be able to give her her marital rights, so he made it his habit to humor her and flatter her, which is how men usually treat their wives in such cases—falling short of pleasing and satisfying her in this area, he increases his attentions, his demonstrations of affection, and his loving...

  24. Chapter 20 Miracles and Supernatural Acts
    (pp. 400-408)

    The aforementioned Bag-man had living with him a fresh-faced, comely serving girl from his own country. When he resolved to flee, he decided to leave her in his house to look after his things, refusing to take her with him because he was married to a woman less beautiful than she, it being the custom in the lands of the Franks for maids to be, for the most part, superior to their mistresses in form and beauty, though inferior in knowledge and education. It therefore occurred to the wife that, should she fall into the trap before he did, her...

  25. Notes
    (pp. 409-432)
  26. Glossary
    (pp. 433-435)
  27. Index
    (pp. 436-443)
  28. About the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute
    (pp. 444-444)
  29. About the Typefaces
    (pp. 445-445)
  30. About the Editor-Translator
    (pp. 446-446)