Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
12 - 18 August 1999
Issue No. 442
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

Books Monthly supplement Antara

Books for a burning month
Holiday reading and what the writers read

Translating Egypt
Hala Halim finds consummate translation skills and less compelling ethnography in Ahdaf Soueif's most recent counter-narrative

Extract from The Map of Love
By Ahdaf Soueif


Metropolitan musings
A new French translation of a Gamal El-Ghitani novel appeared last month. David Tresilian, in Paris, interviews the translator and meanders through the novel Francophone readers

I know what you read this summer
All writers and artists intereviewed by Hala Halim

An elusive graveyard
Ra'ihat Al-Burtuqal (The Smell of Orange), Mahmoud El-Wardani, Cairo: Maktabat Al-Osra (Family Library), GEBO, 1999. pp115

A century of fantasy
Awalim Borges Al-Khayaliya (Borges's Universe of Fantasy), translated and introduced by Khalil Kalfat, Cairo: Afaq Al-Tarjama (Translations) Series, Cultural Palaces Organisation, July 1999. pp140

Author and character
without disguise

Manamat 'Amm Ahmed Al-Sammak (The Dreams of 'Amm Ahmed the Fishmonger), Khairi Shalabi, Cairo: Al-Hilal, 1999. pp285


What the winter said
Youssef Rakha discusses Salah Abdel-Sabour's Layla wal-Majnoun, now part of the Kitab fi Garida Series, a joint project of Al-Ahram and UNESCO, translating an extract from the play

Thus spoke the Ustaz


To see other book supplements go to the ARCHIVES index. 

Abla  

Illustrations courtesy of International Commitee of the Red Cross
"Folk drawings and tales", Cairo, 1996


Thus spoke the Ustaz

By Salah Abdel-Sabour

Salah Abdel-Sabour And like those ancient heroes,
Whose legends endure in the stories of wandering minstrels and in paupers' names,
We'll bid our fallen ones farewell, break down in sorrow over their graves and sigh.
But then we'll recollect what, yearning, has dissolved of the self; sing and pick up our shield; sharpen our spear and depart, like sad knights or sages.
The raging battle
Gives us no respite to grant our honoured ones
Their dues in tears and weeping.
But now let us
Bid farewell to those lost in the wilderness;
Let us remember
That they were our sacrifices to the wind,
So that it might guide us across the sea to future cities.
[...]
Quiet, my son.
There's nothing to be done.
We must place our faith in some god.
[...]
Son, you pain me.
Please, gently,
I want no argument,
Nor do I want to speak.
As I came I asked myself
What we were doing here.
Why do we gather, disperse,
Think, or weep, laugh and engage in
sophistry?
Why scream, smoke,
Feel overjoyed, moan,
Since at night we dozed
And left the pupil of our eye in strangers' hands,
Who claimed her for their own?
We woke to find her violated, lying helpless on her bed of green.
Nor can I forget, nor forgive,
That while the assassins conspired, and split into worshippers of fire and of the knife,
I was nursing my child.
Tell me my son,
Where was I
In the night of death?

From the last scene of Layla wal-Majnoun

illustration: Ihab Shaker

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