Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories

Arabic Short Story Study

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Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories

 

Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories

Analytical  Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories

 

   

By 

Menonim Menonimus

 

 

  

Internet Edition by

www.menonimus.org

Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories by Menonim Menonimus is a collection of critical literary essays on some select Arabic short stories.

 

First Published: 2019

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Contents

The contents of ‘Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories’ are as follows:

  1. Izz al-din al-Madani’s Short Story ‘The Tale of the Lamp’ — An Analytical Study
  2. Zakariyya Tamir’s Short Story ‘A Lonely Woman’ — An Analytical Study
  3. Tayeb Salih’s Short Story ‘The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid’ — An Analytical Study
  4. Tayeb Salih’s Short Story ‘A Handful of Dates’— An Analytical Study
  5. Muhammad al-Zafzaf’s Short Story ‘The Sacred Tree’ — An Analytical Study
  6. Ibrahim al-Faqih’s Short Story ‘Excerpt from the Book of the Dead’ — An Analytical Study
  7. Najib Mahfuz’s Short Story ‘Qismati and Nasibi’ — An Analytical Study
  8. Hanan al-Shaykh’s Short Story ‘Yasmine’s Picture’ — An Analytical Study
  9. Muhammad Shukri’s Short Story ‘The Night and the Sea’ — An Analytical Study
  10. Idwar al-Kharrat’s Short Story ‘At the Theatre’ — An Analytical Study
  11. Salwa Bakr’s Short Story Ancestral Hair — An Analytical Study
  12. Fuad al-Takarli’s Short Story ‘A Hidden Treasure’ — An Analytical Study
  13. Layla al- Uthma’s Short Story ‘Night of Torment — An Analytical Study
  14. Yusuf Idris’ Short Story ‘A Tray from Heaven’ — An Analytical Study

An Introduction to Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories

The Short Story is a fictional short prose narrative based on reality dealing with a single aspect of human life. Of all the branches of literature that have come into being till today, Short Story is of the latest origin. It began to come into being in the second decade of the nineteenth century only.  In America, a writer named Washington Irving wrote a story entitled ‘Rip Van Wrinkle‘ in 1819 and Nathaniel Hawthorne, another American writer published some stories in 1832 under the title ‘Twice Told Tales’. In their stories, there were some raw features of the short story as a branch of literature but the credit of being the Father of Short Story has gone neither to Washington Irving nor to Nathaniel Hawthorne but to another versatile American writer named Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849). It is because Poe was the first one who tried to formulate a short story and practised it as an independent branch of literature.  He defined the short story in 1837as ‘a prose narrative requiring from half an hour to one or two hours in its perusal.’ In composing a story, he gave emphasis on the ‘unity of effect’ and on ‘brevity’ in achieving the effect. With his theory in practice, he devoted himself to writing short stories and got them published in magazines. Being inspired by his theory of short story some other writers came forward and took to producing this genre of literature with enthusiasm.  Among his followers, there were O’ Brien (1828-1872), Bret Harte (1836- 1902), O’ Henry (1852- 1910), Stephen Crane (1871- 1900) and some others who contributed to the growth of this newly born child of literature.

Simultaneously, in Russia, a writer named Nikolay Gogol (1809- 1852) began to write stories independently without being gone under any direct foreign impact. His stories were more realistic and superior to that of Poe. But woe to Gogol that he did not try to formulate his new genre of creation as Poe did. Otherwise, the credit of being the Father of Short Story would have gone to Gogol, not to Poe. Following Gogol, not Poe, some other young Russian writers such as Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Aton Chekhov, and Leo Tolstoy took to writing even more realistic and successful short stories. It was Anton Chekhov who excelled all others in producing this new genre of literature. He wrote more than two hundred short stories and gave a definite form with subtle technique to it and brought this genre of fictitious prose literature to a glorious perfection.

On the other hand, in France, some writers like Flaubert, Zola, Balzac, Guy de Maupassant, Kafka, Alphonse Daudet, and some others began to practise their hand in the short story almost simultaneously by the Americans and the Russians partly being inspired by the American master Poe and partly by their own intuition. The French short story writers added precision and objectivity to the tradition of writing a short story.  Among the French short story-tellers Guy de Maupassant is the greatest as he has contributed as much as three hundred short stories to the storehouse of world literature. His short sorties are replete with the naked truth of life. Almost all the themes of life, as well as all the classes of people as soldiers, peasants, merchants, priests, housewives, prostitutes etc., have gone under the purview of his short stories with fidelity.

Short Story as a particular branch of prose literature entered England very late. It found its way to England only in the last decade of the nineteenth century and the credit of being the importer of this branch of literature to England has gone to Rudyard Kipling, an Indian-born English writer. He had given birth to several collections of short stories among which mention may be made of ‘The Plain Tales from the Hills’ and ‘The Soldiers’. His short stories are based on his personal observation and experience during his stay in India. He got his short stories published in England and since then the tradition of English short story had begun. Being inspired by his bold initiative, some English writers come out and begin to practise this form of literature with skill. Among them, mention may be made of  R. L. Stevenson,  Arthur Conan Doyle, Mansfield, Galsworthy, H. G. Wells, Somerset Maugham and some others. The English short story writers began their careers under the influences of both French and Russian masters. They began to write on a variety of themes.

The Short Story as a form of fictitious prose literature entered into the domain of the Arabic language through the translation of French, English, and Russian short stories during the last decade of the nineteenth century. Its growth owes much to the influence of some French short story-tellers like Kafka, Maupassant, Emile Zola, Balzac and so on.  At first, hundreds of French, English and Russian short stories were either translated or adopted by the writers of the Arabic world.  By the end of the nineteenth century some Egyptian, Lebanese and Syrian newspapers and magazines gave mind to the publication of translated works of the European short stories and popularised this form of literature throughout the Arabic-speaking world. Initially, Arab writers referred to this type of story as Riwaya, Qissah, or Hikayah. During the twentieth century, many young Arabic writers took their pens in hand and created lots of short stories and enriched the storehouse of Arabic short stories. Among the pioneers of Arabic short story writers mention may be made of M. H. Haykal, Tawfiq al-Hakim, Yusuf Idris, Zakaria Tamer, Faris Farzur, Ghada al-Samman, Mahmud Taymour, Salim Al-Bustani, Labibah Hashim, Khalil Gibran, Mustafa Lutfi al-Manfaluti, Tahir Lashin and some others.

As a reader, I am a lover of short stories and since my student life, I have been sucking the juice and flavour of the world short stories through translation. Once I happened to study some Arabic short stories and found that the Arabic writers though wrote their stories under the influence of Foreign writers yet their stories bear the stamp of some peculiar novelty that can hardly be found in the short stories of other languages. By studying the  Arabic short stories, we can be acquainted with the sorrow and sufferance, pains and tears, sighs and heartbeats of the Arabic-speaking world.

Being bewitched by the naked truth and beauty of the Arabic Short Stories, I was goaded by my intuition to write out analytical studies of these short stories which I happened to study during the first decade of the twenty-one century.  This present book of mine entitled ‘Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories’ is the outcome of such studies. Hope that my readers would like this book as they might be acquainted with the typical flavour of the Arabic short stories in miniature. My dear readers are requested to send their comments on how they find my present work ‘Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories’.

Menonim Menonimus

Shanti Kanan.

2019

Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories

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Analytical  Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories

(Text)

 Izz al-din al-Madani’s Short Story ‘The Tale of the Lamp’ — An Analytical Study

‘The Tale of the Lamp’ is an Arabic short story written by Izz al-Din al-Madani (1938-), a Tunisian novelist, story-teller, essayist and critic. It is a short story of the ancient ‘tale’ kind. Poverty and craving for money is the main theme of the story. The short gives us a picture of the middle ages, especially of Baghdad during the Sultanate’s reign.

Through the story, the author has portrayed a clever man who lived amid opulence and believed that contentment was an everlasting treasure. He was a cobbler and repaired shoes in his shop at day time and at night he kept busy with his family and lived a happy life. But unfortunately, a famine broke out in the land and people had to spend days after days without food. He also spent out all his treasures and had run out of food. He flew into a wild rage. One day he came out of his home armed with a knife in search of food for his family. He thought if needed he would steal or kill people to have food for his family. On the way, he saw people piled up along the street. The sun’s heat was very scorching. He found nothing and returned home with some wax in his bag. Then he went to his shop, took a large sack and filled it with everything he had: sewing needle, thread, some nails, a hammer, knife, and the lamp that hung from the ceiling.

He walked ahead and crossed deserts, wastelands, and oases encountering neither flowers nor animals. The man continued his journey, despite severe hunger, thirst and fatigue.  After some days, on a crystal-clear night, the traveller reached the walls of a city made of red clay which has suddenly appeared in the bleak desert. He knocked at the gate and to his surprise, a guard appeared before him who said, ‘Welcome to the city of Timbuktu. You are among the brothers.’ The guard said, ‘Drink! However, one of the conditions of entry into the city is that you spend the night outside its walls. On the morrow, you enter, provided you have a gift for our ruler, the Sultan.’

The next morning the guard roused the man. The traveller performed his ablution and prayed in the mosque. After this, he was led to the palace. The Sultan greeted him warmly. The traveller was very agitated concerning the gift that he had to give to the Sultan. At last, he took out the lamp from his bag and presented it to the Sultan. After seeing the lamp, the Sultan became surprised and happy.  The traveller explained the use of the lamp. The Sultan in gratitude wanted to make him a minister in his court. But the traveller said, ‘My lord, I am but a commoner, a God-fearing man, I enjoy peace and tranquillity and wouldn’t know how to advise a Sultan.’

Then the Sultan wedded the princess to the traveller. He began to stay there happily. The traveller made thousands of lamps for the Sultan, his courtiers and all the people. He hung them everywhere in the palace, the mosques, the schools, streets, squares and houses. He employed one thousand black men to light the lamp until the entire city and its inhabitants bathed in light night and day. He began to enjoy a life of comfort and happiness. Years passed on and one day he begged the permission of the Sultan to return to his native land. The Sultan agreed and he began to prepare a caravan of camels, horses, donkeys and mules carrying rugs from Kairouan, mastic from Yemen, teak from Niger, amber from Sudan, ivory from Ghana and other fineries.

When he arrived in his city people began crowding around him to grab his possession. Soon fights erupted over them and they even began to kill each other.

Then there came a man who was his neighbour and had a shop just opposite to the traveller’s shop. He was also a sandal maker. He asked about how he came by such riches. Then he told him about the land of the Sultan. As there was still famine the old man set out for the land of the Sultan to get his favour. He travelled a lot and at last, reached the city of the Sultan. The Sultan greeted him well. As a custom of the land, the old man gave the finest sandal to the Sultan as a gift. The Sultan was surprised and ordered his treasurer to bring a present for the man. The treasurer brought a lot of lucre (coins). But the Sultan said that the man’s gift was very wonderful so ‘he deserves a better reward than mere filthy lucre’ and presented him with the lamp that was given by the former traveller as a gift to the Sultan.

Thus the author has brought out the themes of poverty, and crave for wealth in the story.

There are three characters in the story. The first traveller is the main character. He is a very lucky man as he lived amid opulence and contentment with his wife, sons and daughters. He had a shop in the city and did the job of repairing shoes. He believed that contentment was an everlasting treasure. But when the catastrophe of famine broke out in the land then people began to die of hunger. The man also ran out of his food and became disappointed. At last, one day he went to the land of the Sultan where he met his luck. He was treated well there and the Sultan offered him the post of ministry in his court but he said that he was a commoner and he did not know how to advise a Sultan. Then the Sultan wedded him to the princess where he lived in comfort and happiness. After some years he returned to his native land with lots of riches. There are some individual traits in him as he is content and happy, he even intends to steal and kill to meet his need.

The Second traveller who was a cobbler is an unlucky man. He also experienced the severity of the famine. After hearing about the land of the Sultan he also went to the court of the Sultan with a hope to get his favour. The Sultan greeted him with love but he did not get any riches from the Sultan except the lamp which was gifted to the Sultan by the former traveller.

The third character is the Sultan. He is kindhearted and generous no doubt but he is devoid of common sense. He rewarded the former traveller much beyond he wished, but he showed no favour to the second traveller who was in dire need of wealth. The irony lies here in the story. 

In narrating the story, the author has employed a descriptive method. He has narrated the story in the third person and portrayed his characters in his own way.

The structure of the story is coherent and logical. Though the exposition of the story is ancient tale-like yet the author succeeds in presenting the story in an organic way. The climax of the story reaches when the traveller brings out the lamp as a gift to the Sultan. The rest is the denouement. 

The Setting of the story is realistic and fascinating. The author gives a vivid picture of the effect of famine as he writes: ‘Food had run out and people went into the desert to look for cacti and grass to assuage their hunger after their hopes had been dashed, they preferred death over life.’ He also gives a vivid description of the traveling of the traveller through grass, wasteland, desert, and oasis.

The author has employed sparing dialogue in the story skillfully which has brought about the inner motives of the characters.   

The Philosophy of life is also found in the story. The author has expressed his philosophy of life indirectly that good luck does not favour everybody. Royal favour is often illogical and is placed upon the wrong person.

The Language of the story is simple and easy. It becomes fascinating as the author used some similes as:

‘His heart was throbbing like mad, the pulses reverberating like a drum.’

‘He is like a musk and amber, silk and velvet, like a flower and jasmine.’

In maintaining the Qualities of a good short story as —unity of purpose, brevity, spontaneity and universality the author has not succeeded to the real sense though the unity of purpose is maintained throughout the story. 

Though there is almost all the features of a good story yet there is some elements of an ancient tale as the story begins as:

“Once upon a time, there was a man who lived in one of these ancient cities.” 

To conclude it may be said that the story entitled, ‘The Tale of the Lamp’ by Al-Madani is a short story of ideal length dealing with the theme of poverty and craving for money, the characters of which are typed as well as individual, the setting realistic, the dialogue sparing, the language simple and well to read. 0 0 0

Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories 

Zakariyya Tamir’s Short Story ‘A Lonely Woman’ — An Analytical Study

‘A Lonely Woman’ is a Syrian Arabic short story written by Zakariyya Tamir (1931- ….). The main theme of the story is the superstition and sufferance of women in the male-dominated society. In the story, the author shows how a woman by the name of Aziza becomes the victim of the lust of a quack named Sheik Said.

Aziza was a married woman but she was neglected by her husband. She often quarreled with the family members of her husband. Being negligent, her husband was about to marry another woman. She got disappointed and wanted to debar her husband from marrying another woman. So she went to a man named Sheik Said. Sheik Said was a man of evil intention. He took the chance to beguile her. Sheik Said said, ”Do you want your husband to return to you?”

“I want him to return to me,” Aziza replied.

He said that she has been bewitched by one of her cousins and said more that his magic spell would require ten pounds’ worth of incense to get rid of the effect.

Sheik Said told her that he has some jinn under his control who would take away all the magic spells from her and then she would get her husband back.

Sheik Said took her to the inner room where he, in the name of treatment, mesmerized her and seduced her. There she became the victim of his lust and lost her chastity.

Thus the author portrays how a naive and illiterate woman was beguiled and seduced by an adulterous wicked man.

There are two main characters: Aziza and Sheik Said. Aziza is the heroine. She was a beautiful girl with a fear of black cats. She had a buxom body and was attractive to look at. The story-teller has portrayed her as a type of superstitious village woman. When she came to know that her husband was about to marry another woman from the village, she became disheartened. She went to Sheik Said who pretended to help her in getting her husband back. For the treatment, she had to pay him ten pounds. But eventually, she became the victim of the lust of Sheik Said.

The second character of the story is Sheik Said. He is a lustful wicked man who claimed to have the magic power of healing women from a magic spell. He beguiled the illiterate village women and seduced them.

In the  description of the story there is a good deal of sensuality as under: 

“My brothers, the jinn, hate the light and love darkness because their houses are underground.” 

Outside, the day was like a white-skinned woman. The sun’s yellow rays burned down on the streets and fused with the murmur of the crowds. Sheikh Said’s room, however, was dark and quiet.

“My brothers, the jinns, are kind. You’ll be lucky if you gain their love. They love beautiful women. Remove your wrap.” Aziza took off her black wrap, revealing her buxom body, enveloped in a tight dress, to Sheikh Said. The Sheikh started to read from a book with yellow-stained pages in a low, mysterious voice. After a while, he said: “Come closer … Lie down here.”

Aziza lay down near the incense dish. Sheikh Said put his hand on her forehead while he continued reciting strange words. Suddenly, he said to Aziza: “Close your eyes. My brothers, the jinns will arrive shortly.”

Aziza closed her eyes and the Sheikh’s voice rose, in a harsh commanding tone: “Forget everything.”

The Sheikh’s hand touched her smooth face. She remembered her father. The Sheikh’s hand was rough and had a strange smell. It was a big hand, no doubt with many wrinkles. His voice, too, was strange. it rose gradually in the quiet with its dust-coloured walls.

The Sheikh’s hand reached Aziza’s neck. ……. He never once attempted to caress her neck with tenderness. Instead, his clawing fingers would grope the flesh of her thighs.

The Sheikh placed both his hands on her. His hands gently ran across her full breasts, and then moved down along the rest of her body, only to return once more to her bosom. …..”

In narrating the story the author has employed the narrative method and narrates his story in the third person.

The Structure of the story is a logical one. There are a curious opening, climax and denouement. The opening shows that Aziza is going to be the victim of Sheik Said. When she was taken to the dimly lighted room with the smell of incense then the story reaches its climax and the rest portion of the story works as denouement.

The Setting of the story is fine and realistic. The author has succeeded to create a mesmerizing situation as he narrates:

Sheik Said got up and closed the black curtains in front of the two windows overlooking the narrow winding alley. Then he came back and sat in front of the copper dish in which the embers were flowing over smooth white ashes. He threw in some more incense and said:

”My brothers, the jinns are kind. You’ll be lucky if you gain their love. They love beautiful women. Remove your wrap… “

The author has proved himself to be an able creator of dialogue. His dialogues are sparing, direct and purposeful. For example, we can cite the following conversation between Aziza and Sheik Said:

The sheikh grinned and said, “You will lose a little, but you will regain your husband., Do you love him?”

Aziza angrily muttered under her breath: “No, I don’t.”

“Did you have a fight with him?”

“I quarrelled with his family.”

“Does your chest feel tight?”

“I sometimes feel as if I have a heavy weight on my chest.”

The author expresses his philosophy of life in the story indirectly that illiteracy is a curse; it leads people to sufferance.

The Language of the story is simple and easy. The author Zakariyya Tamir has employed some creative similes as:

“… the day was like a white-skinned woman.”

“His eyes were jet black and fiery.”

In maintaining the Qualities of a good short story as —unity of purpose, brevity, spontaneity and universality the author has succeeded praiseworthily. 

In brief, to say, this present short story, ‘A Lonely Woman’ by Zakariyya Tamir, a Syrian story-teller is a fine specimen of Arabic short story that brings about the theme of social evil like superstition and sufferance of women in the male-dominated society. The characters are typed with a bit touch of individuality. The dialogues are sparing, the setting is realistic and the structure is logical where meets all the qualities of a good short story. 0 0 0

Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories 

Tayeb Salih’s Short Story ‘The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid’ — An Analytical Study

‘The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid’ is a Sudanese Arabic short story written by Tayeb Salih (1929-2009). It is a tale-like longer short story. In the story, there is a plot no doubt but it can hardly be called a short story as it has no logical structure, no fidelity. Blind faith, hardship in village life and supernaturalism are the main themes of the story. Through this story, the story-teller has portrayed the uncultured, uneducated, naive village people living in natural hardship with their primitive beliefs.  

The story is told in the first person in the dramatic monologue method. The narrator is a village person who tell about their natural village life, and their beliefs to a foreigner. The narrator tells the foreigner that their village is a strange one where no foreigner can stay for more than two days. It is because the villagers are accustomed to living a life of hardship throughout the year. In the summer season, the villagers are afflicted with the flies. In winter they are infested by the sand flies. In autumn they are inflicted with the disease. The village is far from being gone under the modern facilities of life. The government is also indifferent to their plight. Then the narrator tells the story of the Doum Tree situated in the village on the bank of a river. It is a mysterious tree. Nobody knows who planted it, but there is a story rounding the tree that once there was a very pious man named Wad Hamid who had been a servant to a very rich but wicked man. One night he fled from his master and all the night he spent praying to God. He died there and was buried under the Doum tree. Since then people believed that the tree had some healing power. The narrator goes on to tell more that once a village woman, who was suffering from fever for some months, went under the tree and said, “O Wad Hamid, I have come to you to seek refuge and protection- I shall sleep here at your tomb and under your Doum tree. Either you let me die or you restore me to life. I shall not leave here until one of these two things happens.” The next morning she returned home being healed. Thus there is a touch of supernaturality in the story.

The narrator is the main character of the story. He is a representative of the uncultured, uneducated naive village people. He believes in supernaturalism and he is accustomed to living the hardship of life. The listener is silent throughout the story. He is one among the town folks. He is unacquainted with the lifeways of the village.

In narrating the story the author has employed the Subjective and Dramatic Monologue Method and narrates his story in the first person.

The story, in Structure, is not a coherent one as the logical stages of the structure of a good short story are not maintained in the story.

The Setting of the story is also weak. The author has failed to give a realistic as well as a reliable picture of the surrounding where the event of the story takes place.

The author has ignored an important component element of a good short story and that is Dialogue. There is some use of dialogues but they have failed either to lead the story ahead or to reveal the inner feelings or motives of the characters.  

The Philosophy of Life is also found in the story. The author Tayeb Salih has expressed his philosophy of life indirectly that uncultured and uneducated people are naive no doubt but they are averse to reason also.

The Language of the story is simple and easy to comprehend.

In maintaining the Qualities of a good short story as —unity of purpose, brevity, spontaneity, and universality the author has failed lamentably.

In Length, it is a longer short story and can be called a novella.

The story fails to be a story of any grade because of the author’s senselessness of the component elements of a short story as a genre of independent prose literature. 0 0 0

Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories 

Tayeb Salih’s Short Story ‘A Handful of Dates’ — An Analytical Study

‘A Handful of Dates’ is a Sudanese Arabic short story written by Tayeb Salih (1929-2009). Lust and insolvency is the main theme of the short story. The story is written in the first person. Through this story, the story-teller has shown how a person, whose hobby was to marry women one after another, became insolvent and wretched. 

The author has narrated that in his childhood he used to follow his grandfather wherever he went. Once he went to a garden of dates that belonged to a person called Masood. On that day the ripe dates were being harvested. The author had eaten some dates from the piles. After harvesting the dates, all the sacks of dates were handed over to other people including the author’s grandfather. After receiving the dates the author’s grandfather said to Masood, “You’re still fifty pounds in debt to me.” Then all departed. The author felt pity for Masood. 

The author, his grandfather and Masood are the main characters of the story. The author is very sympathetic to Masood because of his insolvency. The author’s grandfather is a very simple but rightful and dutiful person. He is hopeful of purchasing the remaining land of Masood in the future. Masood is negligent to his duty but lustful to women for which he lost almost all the property inherited from his father.

In narrating the story the author has employed the Subjective Method and narrates his story in the first person.

The story, in Structure, is a good one but the story ends in the climax.

The dialogues used in the story are sparing and reliable which have contributed to the development of the story and succeeded in revealing the inner feelings, emotions and motives of the characters.

The Setting of the story is well and realistic. The author has given a sparing picture of the setting of the story.

The Philosophy of Life is also found in the story. The author has expressed his philosophy of life indirectly that excessive desire for a woman makes one negligent to one’s duty and thus ruins him.

The Language of the story is simple and easy to comprehend.

In maintaining the Qualities of a good short story as —unity of purpose, brevity, spontaneity and universality the author has succeeded somehow.

As all the elements and qualities of a good story are present in it so it may be called a short story of the first grade. 0 0 0

Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories 

Muhammad al-Zafzaf’s Short Story ‘The Sacred Tree’ — An Analytical Study

‘The Sacred Tree’ is an Arabic short story written by Muhammad al-Zafzaf (1929-2009), a Moroccan story-teller, novelist and critic. The short story deals with the theme of prejudice rounding a tree.

Once there was a tree on a hillock. The tree was called the tree of ‘Sidi Daud’. People said that the tree was planted by Sidi Daud on the hillock where he lived. Some people were of the view that the tree was planted by none but just appeared one day supernaturally. People also believed that the soul of dead Sidi Daud had migrated to the tree. People took to worship the tree. One day the government ordered to cut down the tree in order to set up a building there. A cordon of police was sent there and they set some labourers to cut down the tree. People of the locality came to the spot and began to oppose. They demanded that the tree must not be cut down as they worship the tree. If it is cut down then the soul of dead Sidi Daud might harm them. But the people who were set to cut down the tree were firm to enforce the order of the government. People began to oppose it vehemently. They began to hurl stones at the police. A police officer fell down being struck by a stone. Then the police began firing. Some ten people were shot down and the crowd of people began to disperse.

Thus the author has portrayed the prejudice and agitation rounding a tree. 

There are many characters. But the main character is the police chief who was adamant to execute the government order. He is a typeed character as he acts like police with pride. Though he was dead there was no sign of sorrow on his face. 

The story is narrated in the third person as if the author was a spectator on the spot and describes as he saw the situation.

The structure of the story is an organic one. At the opening of the story, we see that people had gathered around a tree that was about to be cut down after the government’s order. Here we guess that something unwelcome is going to happen. The story progresses with the public opinion rounding the cutting down of the huge tree. The story reaches its climax when the police chief is hurled down to death with stones by the crowd.

The setting of the story is the outskirt of the town. The author gives a vivid picture of the businessmen and women who were busy with their respective businesses. The author writes:

Some shopkeepers, greengrocers, spice merchants and other small traders left their goods in order to take shelter wherever they could. A few women who sold henna, herbs, locally produced soap and various magic paraphernalia such as rats’ tails, and crow’s heads, scattered in every direction, abandoning their wares on the pavement. The policemen approached their chief, who signaled to them to take him to one of the cars. One of the policemen was struck by the chief’s extraordinary strength of character when he saw him lying there, still smiling as though nothing had happened.

The Dialogue used in the story is appropriate to the characters and situation. 

The author has failed to express his philosophy of life directly but indirectly he makes us know that when the government goes against public opinion it always creates chaos and disturbance.

The Language of the story is simple and easy to comprehend though the author has used many complex sentences in the story. There is a touch of Moroccan trait in the construction of sentences in the story.

In maintaining the Qualities of a good short story as —unity of purpose, brevity, spontaneity and universality the author has succeeded somehow. 

 In Length, it is a short story of medium length.

In conclusion, it may be summarized that the short story entitled ‘The Sacred Tree’ is a story that portrays the theme of the prejudice of Moroccan society rounding a tree. Though the qualities of a good short story are not apparently present in the story yet it is a good story to be enjoyed. 0 0 0

Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories 

Ibrahim al-Faqih’s Short Story ‘Excerpt from the Book of the Dead’ — An Analytical Study

‘Excerpt from the Book of the Dead’ is a Libyan Arabic short story written by Ibrahim al-Faqih (1929-2009). It is a psychological short story. The main theme of the story is a mental conflict regarding the presence of a girl student in a secondary class of boys’ school.

One day the teacher Abd al-Hafiz noticed a girl student. He was astonished to see her in a boy’s school. As a custom of the land, the girls cannot read with the boys in the same school. There is a separate school for the girls. The teacher Abd al-Hafiz was a man of the conservative mind. He could not bear the presence of a girl student in his class. So his mental conflict began regarding the presence of the girl. She was a nubile daughter of a Minister who was transferred to that remote region of the land. As there was no school for the girls, so the minister sent his daughter to the boys’ school after an understanding with the school authority.

The teacher Abd al-Hafiz was a man of a cynical mind. He always doubted that the school authority was in a conspiracy against him. He thought that the school authority was unfavourable to him and wanted him to leave the school. He thought more that the presence of a girl student in the class was actually a challenge to the teacher designed for the teacher to leave the school. 

The name of the girl student was Zahra Abd al-Salam. She was a calm and quiet girl and took a seat at the back bench with the boys. The teacher noticed that there was a defiance and superiority in her voice. The teacher also noticed that there with the presence of the girl the class seemed to be very calm and disciplined.

The next day he decided to ignore the girl. There was no doubt that the best thing to do was to pretend to forget about her, to ignore her and to teach his class as though she was not in the class at all.  Mr Abd al-Hafiz made up his mind that he would not direct any question to her, nor would he collect her copybook or refer to her presence or absence. He would disregard her with contempt until either she or whoever brought her there became ashamed and she returned whence she had come, humiliated and defeated.

On that day, entering the class the teacher got surprised at the strange silence.  He noticed that the disputes, fights and din had disappeared. He thought that the boys were from another planet, one where there were no cattle pens, forests, monkeys or sand.  The dirt had disappeared from their faces, which gleamed like lamps. They had made an effort with their appearance; their hair was combed, while they were wearing elegant, clean clothes. The poor among them had suddenly become rich. To say in brief there was a behavioural change in the boys. But the teacher’s attitude towards the girl remained the same. He thought that the presence of the girl would bring a catastrophe to the school. But nothing happened.

After someday the teacher noticed that the girl was absent from the class. He noticed the magic that he was once again faced with the boy’s ugliness, poverty and stupidity as they all reverted to their previous despicable state. The classroom had become darker and gloomier; the sun that had risen along the ceiling of the room was extinguished that day.

The teacher always imagined that the girl’s disappearance from the school would constitute a victory for him, and fill his heart with joy and pride. He felt that he had lived on the edge of his nerves these past days; he had fought her magic to get this result. However, this was not a sweet victory. Instead, he felt that a strange sense of grief had gripped his heart, while his throat was as dry as tinder. He felt he had lost something very precious that had filled his heart every morning – a driving force and a challenge. For the first time, he began to reflect on the entire episode and was left with a feeling of remorse. Since then he began to develop a keen love and affection to the girl student and later on he took to playing romance with the girl in his imagination. A behavioural change also began to take place in the teacher as he was paying attention to his appearance. He started wearing the suit he used to save for the Eid. He started to save every morning and put cologne on, whereas previously he would forget to save once or twice a week. The girl began to come to him in dreams.

Eventually, the teacher seemed to be lost in the state of romance with the girl and became eccentric.

Thus the author Ibrahim al-Faqih shows, through the short story, the change of mentality and outlook of men towards women in an Islamic conservative society. Really the writer wishes to show that the co-education of boys and girls should not be a taboo; it is wholesome for creating a congenial educational environment.

There are two main characters in the story. One is the teacher named Abd al-Hafiz and the other is the girl student by the name of Zahra Abd al-Salam.

Abd al-Hafiz is a teacher of Islamic ideology. He is portrayed as a type of teacher with conservative Islamic philosophy. As a teacher, he is punctual and very attentive to the students. But his mind is very conservative towards the womenfolk. He cannot bear the coeducation of the boys and girls. He thinks that the girls should read in a separate school. Their curriculum should be different from that of the boys’. So he was against the presence of a girl student in the same class with the boys. He thought that what was taught to the boys was for males only and any female ought to be embarrassed and ashamed to hear it. He could never have imagined that any girl would depart from the principles of decency and modesty and sit down in the same class together with boys.

But he noticed a change of behaviour in the class among the boys as the boys ceased to be noisy and undisciplined. A change also came in him but subsequently, his mentality seemed to be the victim of the change. He thought that the cause of all his mental unrest was the girl.

The second character is Zahra Abd al-Salam. She is the daughter of a minister who was transferred to the region where there was no separate school for the girls. So she was sent to the boys’ school. The girl is nubile as she is a student at secondary school. She seemed firm and very attentive to her studies. She showed no reaction to the teacher’s injustice done to giving her marks for her assignment. There is some trait in her that makes her some different from other girls as she showed no embarrassment with the boys though she was the only girl student in the class. It seemed that she was of a progressive mind and could cope up with the situation. 

In representing the story, the author has employed the narrative method and narrates his story in the third person.

The structure of the story conforms to the traditional standard of construction of a short story. There is well an exposition, rising action, climax, denouement and conclusion. The explosion is full of curiosity as the teacher Mr Abd al-Hafiz was pondering over his class as it was calm and quiet and thought that the school inspector had arrived before him to conduct an inspection round in order to embarrass him in front of the students and record that he had arrived late for class.

With the entering of the teacher in the class the story rises up and the situation takes a new shape. The teacher noticed a girl in the class sitting among the boys. In this rising action, we see that the teacher is full of agitation concerning the presence of the girl in the class.

From the rising action, the story reaches its height when the teacher began to feel that the presence of the girl was beneficial to the educational environment of the school. 

The falling action revolves round the teacher. In this stage of the story, the teacher got involved in a romance with the girl though not in reality but in imagination.

The falling action goes down to denouement with the teacher’s restoration of outlook towards the girl as it was previously.

The dialogues used in the story are sparing and reliable which have contributed to the development of the story and succeeded in revealing the inner feelings, emotions and motives of the characters.

The Setting of the story is well and realistic. The author has given a realistic and vivid picture of the setting of the story.

The Philosophy of Life is also found in the story. The author has expressed his philosophy of life indirectly that coeducation of boys and girls should not be a taboo. Coeducation brings in a healthy environment in the educational institution. The theme of the story with the philosophy that the author has expressed is revolutionary to human outlook towards women. It may be called a blow in the age-long Islamic philosophy which advocates separate education for girls.

The Language of the story is grand with poetic imagery. The author has employed many abstract ideas in his description. For example, we can cite the following sentences at random:

“In spite of yellowness, beauty emanated from her face, the kind of the beauty of oases filled with date palms, quiet and unassuming.”

“… he felt that a strange sense of grief had gripped his heart, while his throat was as dry as tinder.”

“The sun once more shone in the class, and Mr Abd al-Hafiz noticed with joy that a flock of sparrows now rested in his heart.”

“He would look at the sea, addicted to thinking about this girl who had suddenly entered his life just as she had entered his classroom out of the blue.”

In maintaining the Qualities of a good short story as —unity of purpose, brevity, spontaneity and universality the author has succeeded considerably.

As all the elements and qualities of a good short story are present in the story so it may be called a short story of first grade. 0 0 0

Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories 

Najib Mahfuz’s Short Story ‘Qismati and Nasibi’ — An Analytical Study

‘Qismati and Nasib’ (Destiny and Fate) is a Greek Arabic short story written by Najib Mahfuz (1911- 2006). As the title signifies, the short story deals with the theme of destiny. In addition to this, it also bears the theme of the contradiction of traits between two humans.

The theme of the story revolves around a couple: Mohsen Khalil and his wife Sitt Anabaya.  Mohsen Khalil was a spice seller. He was a God-fearing man and lived in contentment with what he had. He had no dearth of property as there were chicken, geese, rabbits etc. But the couple had no children and it made them unhappy. They had tried everything to get children but to no avail. Sitt Anabaya had sought the advice of loved ones as well as fortune tellers, soothsayers and the like. She even visited shrines. Eventually, she went to see medical doctors. Unfortunately, their verdict was not encouraging in that the problems lay with both husband and wife. They added that there was hardly any hope left for them. So they were unhappy. 

But as Mohsen approached his forty-fifth birthday and Sitt Anabaya turned forty, their prayers were finally answered and Sitt Anabaya, the wife of Mohsen got conceived. When she was certain that she was pregnant, she cried out, “Thank God and Siddi al-Khudri.”

After nine months Sitt Anabaya gave birth to a strange creature, the bottom half of which was indeed joined, with two legs and one abdomen, whereas the top half consisted of two parts each with its own chest, neck, head and face. The couple became astonished and bewildered and Mohsen said, “I wish it had never been born.”

At last, they resigned to their destiny and named the babies as Qismati and Nasibi. Qismati had a deep brown complexion with soft lineaments and hazel eyes while Nasibi had a white complexion with black eyes and a large nose.

As they began to grow up Qismati learned to speak more quickly but had to yield to Nasibi when it came to crawling and walking or playing with things. Nasibi seemed to remain dominant in their early years which were marked by naughtiness. The neighbours who saw them mocked at them. When they grew up to school-going age Mohsen brought them a tutor who instructed the boys in the basics of religion, language and Mathematics. Qismati’s learning was very encouraging but Nasibi had no desire to learn and was slower in his understanding. As a result, he resented his brother and disturbed him by singing, playing and childish teasing.

Qismati was calm and religious and eager to perform salat and fasting. But Nasibi did not. With the passing of time, the babies seemed to develop two contradictory traits of character. Qismati loved the cleanliness, while Nasibi hated the very idea of bathing unless he was obliged to do so.  Qismati was fond of love songs while Nasibi loved loud music. The major source of disagreement, however, was caused by Qismati’s increasing love of reading and knowledge. As they had no playmates their mother provided two neighbouring children named Tariq and Samiha by persuading their mother. Tariq was a year older than the babies whereas Samiha was the same age. They began to develop love to Samiha.

While they reached the age of reason and were on the verge of adolescence their problems reached a peak. Their suppressed dreams began to manifest themselves, threatening to explode. Each of them developed his own way of thinking and regarded the other as a threatening intruder. They were both fed up with the hateful unity that fate had inflicted upon them and from which there was no escape.

Subsequently, Nasibi became indomitable and developed evil intentions like stealing and seducing, and one day he said boldly to his mother, “We need a wife. …. Since you gave birth to us, you’re responsible for getting us married to a nice girl.” The mother was astonished at a loss of words. Thus their characters were opposing to each other and each wished to get rid of the other at any cost.

They seemed like two friends without a friendship, in an alliance without sincerity. However, age prematurely left its traces on Nasibi’s face, revealing that he was rapidly approaching old age. At last one day, Nasibi died while Qismati survived. After the doctor’s suggestion, the dead body of Nasibi was mummified. Since the death of Nasibi, Qismati’s began to feel half dead. He lost all interest in life. 

Thus the author Najib Mahfuz brings about the theme of destiny and the sufferance of a couple through the short story.

There are four characters in the story such as Mohsen, his wife Sitt Anabaya, and their sons Qismati and Nasibi. But among these four characters, our attention goes to Qismati and Nasibi. Through them, the author shows that character and personality differ from person to person.

As for the structure of the story, it is something loose. In the exposition, we see that Mohsen and his wife Sitt Anabaya are unhappy because they are devoid of offspring. In the rising action, we see that Sitti Anabaya has got pregnant. When Sitty Anabaya gives birth to a child with the bottom half of which was indeed joined with two legs and an abdomen, whereas the top half consisted of two parts: each with its own chest, neck, head and face, then the story reaches its climax. In the falling action, the author has depicted the contradictory characters of the two brothers. The story meets its denouement with the death of Nasibi.

The dialogues used in the story are sparing and reliable which have contributed to the development of the story and succeeded in revealing the inner feelings, emotions and motives of the characters. Here to say that Najib Mahfuz is a master of creating dialogue. The following citation is enough to substantiate it.

Mohsen sighed and said, “We will become a laughing stock and the talk of the town!”

“Patience is a virtue!”

“But would not it better to consider the child as two, with a single abdomen?”

“He can’t deal with life except as a single person.”

They stood in silence exchanging glances until she asked him:

“What do you want to call him?”

As he kept silent, she said, “Muhammadayn! Do you think this is a suitable name?”

He did not utter a word, shaking his head in resignation.

The Setting of the story is weak. The author neglects to portray the manners, customs, costumes, atmosphere etc. of the characters and situation in the story.

Through the story, the author wants to convey his philosophy that, ”God creates people the way He sees fit.”

The Language of the story is simple and easy to comprehend though he has used some verses as solace in distress from the Bible.

In maintaining the Qualities of a good short story as —unity of purpose, brevity, spontaneity and universality the author has succeeded somehow.

To conclude it may be said that the story ‘Qismati and Nasibi’ by Najib Mahfuz is a fine and enjoyable short story on the theme of destiny and inborn human traits. 0 0 0

Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories 

Hanan al-Shaykh’s Short Story ‘Yasmine’s Picture’ —An Analytical Study

”Yasmine’s Picture” is a Lebanonian Arabic short story written by Hanan al-Shaykh (1945—) a female writer. The story deals with the theme of love. It throws a flashlight on the effect of the war between Lebanon and Israel on the psychology of the inhabitants of Lebanon.

Really there is no plot in the story. It is a story of character. The story revolves round a picture of a young girl named Yasmine. She is the main character of the story though she is present nowhere in the story. The name of the protagonist of the story is not mentioned by the author. But from the story, we know that he is married to a girl who chose him as her husband. Form the fact we know that the hero of the story has no choice of his own. He is feeble-minded and lives in a state of romance and imagination. The couple, for being war-affected shifted to the other part of the land and began to stay there in a lonely building. There on the wall, he saw a picture. It was a picture of a young girl who was married to an American engineer. Seeing the picture, the protagonist fell in love with her. He seemed that he is absorbed in the picture of Yasmine whom he had never seen nor met in life. In the house, he found her diaries, letters and a collection of songs. Looking at them he imagines her hobbies and personality. He wished had he met her, loved her, and married her.

He was so much obsessed with the picture and thought of Yasmine that he forgot to care for his pregnant wife. At any time he was busy either looking at the picture or observing the diaries, and letters of Yasmine.

There is a good deal of description of Yasmine in the story. She is beautiful with feline eyes. Her forehead is tanned and rising, the nose is delicate and small. Her hair is black. She is higher educated and was married to a foreign engineer and left the land.

The author has narrated the story in the third person.

The structure of the story is feeble as there is no specific plot. The story begins with a picture of Yasmine and ends with the thought of her. The middle part of the story is nothing but a romance that the protagonist imagines about Yasmine.

The author has used a few dialogues in the story. But the dialogues are meaningful and enough to express the motives of the characters. For example, we can quote the following conversation between the protagonist and his wife concerning the picture of Yasmine:

He turned to his wife and asked, “Is she beautiful as she is in the picture?”

She replied rising the bedcover, “I only had a glimpse of her from a distance, when she was with Nawal.” 

There is a fine simile in the story as: “He was like a thirsty man chasing a drop of water.”

The Setting of the story is well and realistic. The author has given a realistic and vivid picture of the setting of the story.

The story bears no philosophy of life, but we can extract out that the world of imagination is more pleasant and colourful than reality and one who is absorbed in the world of imagination is indifferent to the reality of life.

The Language of the story is simple but replete with concrete expression. 

In maintaining the Qualities of a good short story as —unity of purpose, brevity, spontaneity and universality the author seems to be succeeded.

In brief, to say, the present story entitled ‘Yasmine’s Picture’ by Hanan Shaykh is a story of a character which teats with the theme of love to an unknown girl written in a simple but expressive language. 0 0 0

Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories 

Muhammad Shukri’s Short Story ‘The Night and the Sea’ — An Analytical Study

‘The Night and the Sea’ is a Moroccan Arabic short story written by Muhammad Shukri (1935-2003). The story treats the theme of sex and cruelty to animals. There is no specific plot but characters through which the author brings about his themes.

The main character of the story is Zubeida. She is a sex worker and sleeps with people whom she does not love. On a night, on the sea beach, she meets a foreigner named Widad. He is almost old but adulterous. He has come to the land to satisfy his lust for the prostitutes. Zubeida was tall with bulging eyes. She had the kind of body that was always ready to give pleasure to a battalion of soldiers returning victorious from war.

At night they went to a bar where they meet a young man with his girlfriend. She was weeping when she saw her boyfriend with a girl named Naida. Then they ordered some wine and began to exchange kisses. Their romance with wine continued. In the meantime, a black Moroccan man walked in, handsome and smartly dressed. He sat with two others on a table and started to recount how he had saved a girl from drowning on the beach. The black man touched her and she looked at him in the darkness. He smiled at her that nothing could satisfy him. These feelings for a man who longed for her without her having any clear desire were like a dark night to her. Then she departed and the black man followed her swaggering his shoulders.

In addition to the theme of sex, there is the theme of cruelty to animals in the story. Zubeida narrates that one day her mother was cleaning a fish. Then a cat came meowing to her and when she tried to shoo it away, the cat attacked her, sinking its teeth and claws in her hand. Two days later, the cat came again to the same house and her mother found a pretext to punish her in a small room. After a few days, they opened the door and found a ghost-like creature that could barely move. Then her mother sent her son Mustafa and daughter Zubeida to take it to a remote and desolate place to let it free. 

Widad also narrated a story of a cat that belonged to a man called Miloud al-Farsi. He was a bachelor who shared his own food with his beautiful cat. He bathed the cat and let her sleep in his bed. When she grew old and sick her beautiful hair began to fall out, she grabbed her by the neck and held her down in the water until she died.

As there is no specific plot, so there is no logical structure of what the author narrates in the story. It has neither beginning nor end but the sporadic narration of Zubeida’ and some of her customers at a bar of wine.

The setting of the story is on a beach. The author gives a vivid picture of the sea beach where Zubeida noticed an old man dressed in rags was limping along, throwing pieces of bread to the seagulls. She stopped and looked at the small beach huts, most of them without doors. All the bars were closed. The old man was leaving the beach, tossing the last crumbs of bread to the birds. Some of the birds still followed him.

There is a vivid scene of the wine bar as portrayed in the story:

The barman placed a glass of wine and a sugar bowl in front of Zubeida. She scooped a spoonful of sugar into her glass and stirred it in.  Widad thought to herself that Nabil had a similar habit of putting salt in his bar to slow down the effects of the alcohol.”

The Dialogue used in the story is appropriate to the characters and situation. 

The author has failed to express his philosophy of life in the story. 

The language of the story is simple and easy. There are some uses of similes in the story, as:

(1) ‘…she was like a flower without a stem.’

(2) ‘A thought like a perfumed flower blossomed in Widad’s mind, racked with sorrow about the things she had never had.”

As the short story is a story of character without a plot so there is no question of maintaining all the elements and qualities of a good short story in it.

In conclusion, it may be said that Muhammad Shukri’s short story entitled ‘The Night and the Sea” is a story of medium length dealing with the theme of sex and cruelty to animals, written in the third person ignoring the logical construction of a good story. 0 0 0

Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories 

Idwar al-Kharrat’s Short Story ‘At the Theatre’ — An Analytical Study

‘At the Theatre’ is an Arabic short story written by Idwar al-Kharrat (1926- ….), a Greek novelist, story-teller, essayist and critic. The story has no plot but only characterization. The main theme of the story is death and feeling of loneliness.

The story, from the very beginning to the end, keeps its readers curious which has not been quenched till the end. The story is written in the first person. The author narrates that one night he was in Opera Square which looked magnificent. People gathered there in a large numbers. The director of Opera Square came to the front stage and announced:

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is with much regret that I have announced … I have to say … announce … I have some very sad news …”

Then the heavy gilt embroidered curtain opened with a soft, audible metallic sound. At that moment the author saw all the actresses, who had lined up on the stage in a single row, with the actors behind them in a second row. The actresses’ stage clothes were thick and dignified, old-fashioned; they appeared to be brand new, as though they had never been worn before. The multi-coloured blue, green, and purple glistening, heavy, puffed up, and riddled with pleats and embroidery looked stiff. They were all silent solemnly standing, motionless. An expectant silence descended upon the theatre.

Then a tall woman with powerful charisma emerged from the row of actresses. She moved toward the microphone. It was as though the director had disappeared, yet he had, in fact only taken one step back. She paused a moment and then said:

“Ladies and gentlemen … It pains me to stand here in front of you in this hallowed place and announce to you the demise of a magnificent flower of the theatre, a star of the art, our dazzling … and brilliant actress …”

From the announcement, we come to know that a popular actress in Egypt died suddenly. But the author has mentioned her name nowhere in the story. We know that the author was well acquainted with the actress and he praised her much for her career.

With the announcement, the author seemed to be lost within himself. He began to feel loneliness. He could not believe that an actress like one whom he praised would die. He began to see daydream of her. The author thought that she was standing there alone. She was gazing at the author.  He noticed that it was as though the shadow of a smile was engraved on her lips. He thought that she would be in great pain, not of her doing and not for herself, but for the author. 

He felt as if all were a dream for him. Thus the story comes to the end.

In the story, we see that the author’s emotional state of mind revolves round the dead actress and he feels loneliness though he was among the crowd of people.

The story is written in an autobiographical style as the author narrates his story in the first person.

The story has no construction as it bears no plot at all. The story has neither a beginning nor an end but only curiosity from the opening to the closing of it.

The Setting of the story seems realistic and fascinating. The author gives a vivid picture of the theatre hall:

“The marble staircase and the ancient iron gate glistened, while the red carpets muffled all sounds.  ………… The murmur of the voice, the moment of the feet and the peaceful hubbub rose up to me from the hall, studded with turning lights. The red, plush velvet they lit up added to the impression of luxury. Then the three knocks came; the lights were dimmed, and the din and hum gradually died down.”

The dialogues used in the story suit the purpose of the author as they have expressed the inner and outer motives of the characters. The dialogues are simple and direct. For example, we can quote the following imaginary conversation between the author and the actress:

I said: What caused you pain?

She said: An unresolved crisis in the soul has consumed me with grief and sorrow …pride stood between the two of us — is it because I was only free here?

I said: Is there no other salvation …?

She said: To refrain completely from seeing each other.

I said: Should anyone be required to carry this heavy burden?

She said: This is a deserted place. There is no one here.

The author has expressed his philosophy of life indirectly that thoughtful people often suffer from the feeling of loneliness even when they are amid a crowd.

The sentence of the dialogues used in the story is simple no doubt, but the author uses long and complex sentences in his narration, as:

”In a space next to the wings near me I saw fake Roman columns made from light wood; an ancient triumphal stone arch, which was actually plywood; splendid, green, glistening ceramic bases made out of cardboard, huge oak and cypress forests that seemed to run until the distant horizon, in which a fiery red sun went down on a dusty panel; Louis XIV chairs piled on top of one another; black marble tables; walls of country dwellings made of short tree stumps, surrounded by elegant gardens with tulips and velvets; cemeteries stretching out a country coffeehouse; tall minarets and walls of mosques streaked with yellow and dark brown, imposing staircases with wide banisters balconies, their ironwork railings inlaid with bunches of flowers; the square in front of Cairo Central Station; ancient statues with broken noses, wooden platforms and estrades, gas lanterns perpetually lit in streets glistening with rain; large pulleys with thickly knotted ropes; towering stepladders; and thick, dangerously dangling cables.”

As there is no specific plot so there is no logical structure of the story. It goes ahead keeping the same curiosity intact till the closing.

The short story is of ideal length as it is written in not more than two thousand words.

To conclude it may be said that the story entitled, ”At the Theatre” by Idwar al-Kharrat is a short story of ideal length dealing with the theme of death and loneliness written in the first person where there is no plot but only sporadic characterization that ignores the logical structure in narration. 0 0 0

Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories 

Salwa Bakr’s Short Story ‘Ancestral Hair’ — An Analytical Study

Ancestral Hair is a Greek Arabic short story written by Salwa Bakr (born 1949-). It is a short story of character and it bears no specific plot. The main themes of the story are loneliness and death. The story portrays the lonely lives of two neighbouring widows. 

The first one, as the author narrates, is a sixty-year-old widow of a rich husband. The couple had two sons. They had migrated to America but after the death of her husband, she returned to Cairo, Egypt leaving her sons in the New World and began to live in their old house. She felt lonely. She had a strong liking for the ancestral old things among which there were a pillow made of hair, a photo case of her mother and aunt. She was addicted to smoking a cigar.

On the other hand, the second widow was the author herself as we come to know from the narration of the story. She was a neighbour of the first widow. She was poor and after her husband’s death, she also became isolated from society. She had two sons. She had frequented the house of the first widow. She was astonished to see the first widow that she had some fascinating interest in collecting the old ancestral things. One day she went to the house of the first widow unexpectedly. There she noticed a long pillow. She also noticed that the widow had long hair with loose braids on her back. 

The widow said that the long hair on her head was used to be the pillow of her mother. Each time she combed her hair with her ivory comb after her bath and she used to gather whatever hair had come out and put it in a coarse cotton bag until it became a pillow. The pillow was filled in with black, grey hairs. Her mother used to have a plait like a silver thread. Unfortunately, when her mother died she was in hospital as she gave birth to a child and people forbade her not to visit her dead mother as it might fall an effect on her baby.

The widow used to tell the author the stories of her life. Once she told that her father used to smoke narghile after his evening nap. The first time she smoked the narghile with her father and used to draw one or two puffs from it at first until she made sure that it was sure.

There is a theme of death in the story. The second widow was afraid that she might wake up one morning and not find her only certainty in this world. She was scared that her old neighbour Mourina Fathi might suddenly die and deprived of her dose of spiritual stimulation which gave her hope to live.

He often thought of death and wondered about that when she was having thoughts like these while feeling lonely at night, observing her sleeping whale (son) and his snorting that would go into a never-ending crescendo. She often asked herself, “Is death like an absence? If so, of what? The absence of outward appearance, features and body, the absence of the spirit, or the absence of shared moments? She searched for the true definition of death. This remained her obsession for a long time. Whenever she got off work, she would play a game with the computer. One day after putting some data she asked about death and got astonishingly naïve answers: the decomposition of the body and its passing away: the disappearance of a person, the cessation of heartbeats, the stopping of blood circulation, the end of brain function etc.

She thought, “There is a person who dies and on the other, the person who is shocked by the death of the one who dies. How do we evaluate death from the point of view of one party and not the other? Hence what is the assessment of death from the standpoint of the other party?”

Again she put the question to the computer and found:

“The eyes do not see. The ears do not hear. The mouth does not kiss. The hand does not touch …”

After some days, her neighbour, the first widow came to see the author after midnight. She had been knocking persistently. When she awoke and opened the door she found her standing in front of her flat. Looking very faint, she said she felt very sick. The author quickly drew her into her flat and made her lie down on her bed. She ran to the kitchen to get her some water, as she complained her mouth was dry. Soon after, she ran to the telephone and called a doctor from the nearest hospital. Then she rushed back to her and found her lying on the bed, motionless, with her head slumped on the edge of her pillow so that her braid was dangling on the floor.

Thus the author has brought about the themes of loneliness and death in the story. 

The story is written in an autobiographical style being the author a character of the story. Here the author has thrown a glimpse of her personal life that she experienced in life.

The story has no structure as it has no plot. The author has only brought about the characterization of herself and a neighbouring widow.

The Setting of the story seems realistic and fascinating. The author has given a vivid portrayal of the household with its belonging to her neighbouring widow. The opening of the story reads as follows:

Sometimes she seemed to me to be a weird genie who hung her braid from on high for me to climb to the summit of her tower. I then lost myself in her maze as though caught in the invisible thread of a spider’s web. What else could have tied me to this sixty-year-old woman with her six teeth? She could barely read a newspaper and moved with the grace of a turtle. I sometimes blame time, that wretched thief that seizes the days of our lives and mercilessly denies us the opportunity to reflect upon ourselves or others. Other times, I blame the savage geography of this aging city we are destined to live in for casting us onto one of its growing protuberances, like a fungus on its old, flabby body.

The author has employed sparing dialogue in the story skillfully which has brought about the inner motives of the characters.   

The Philosophy of Life is also found in the story. The author has expressed his philosophy of life indirectly that in the male-dominated society women happen to suffer loneliness in spite of having children.

The Language of the story is simple and easy. It becomes fascinating as the author has used some similes as:

‘Should I not get on with my life with a son who is my disability, like a bird whose feathers have been clipped so it cannot rise or fly?”

My son was asleep in the bed like a beached whale.

The short story is feeble in structure as there is no plot to give a logical shape.

The short story is of ideal length as it is written not more than two thousand words.  0 0 0

Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories 

 Fuad al-Takarli’s Short Story ‘A Hidden Treasure’ — An Analytical Study

‘A Hidden Treasure’ is an Iraqi Arabic short story written by Fuad al-Takarli (1927-2008). The story deals with the themes of the hardship of life and love.

First, the author Fuad al-Takarli has shown how a family fell into hardship and coped with it honestly and wisely. The main character named Abdur Rahman belonged to a financially rich family. But when he was sixteen he lost his father and resultantly the family fell into poverty. His father had married two women, the first one being unable to produce children, married another woman who bore four children: three daughters and a son to his father. When his father died the family fell into hardship as the family had to live with the pension of the dead. They lived in a rented house. Once, the house owner treated young Abdur Rahman harshly for not being able to pay the rent of the house. Then he was a student in secondary school. When he told his mother how harshly he was treated by the landlord, his mother embraced him tenderly and said:

“My God forgive him. You’re right, my son, your family is honourable… your family may not have a lot of money… that’s not right, and no one should be expected to bear this. Come on let’s get our act together.”

His mother was illiterate but commonsensical. She did not much regret with what they had lost, instead, she lovingly and naturally focused her attention on what they had, being her daughters and son who was earning an honest living. She said, “Let’s forget everything and celebrate what we have — our health and good looks!”

Then his uncle procured a job for him in an oil refinery and since then the family began to live a better life.

Thus the author of the story brings about how the family overcame the hardship and lived an honourable life.

The second theme of the story is the theme of love: the love between Abdur Rahman and Khadija. When Abdur Rahman was a boy of fourteen the family has a neighbour named Ali Asghar. Khadija was his daughter. Her mother often came to their house and helped Rahman’s mother with chores. She often kept her daughter Khadija in their house. Then Abdur Rahman and his three sisters played with Khadija. They often played hide and seek. Once while playing hide and seek Abdur Rahman and Khadija hid at the same spot then they happen to touch each other unknowingly and suddenly they felt a sensation of love for each other. The author gives a vivid description of their relationship in the story in the first person as under:

“We were free as birds that summer holiday. My sisters, Khadija and I fooled around and played in our large house to our heart’s content, with the innocence of childhood. The game we used to play most was hide-and-seek. It was an exciting game full of cunning, and we preferred it to all others. As we played so often, happened once that Khadija and I were hiding in a dark corner behind a pile of bedding in one of the rooms. We were wedged together next to the wall, hunching in fear of being spotted by my youngest sister, when suddenly felt the combined heat of our young bodies. Next, to her, I felt my shoulder brushing up against her heaving bosom. Her shining eyes radiated with delight, framed by the black hair that cascaded around them. I was shaking, subconsciously wanting to move closer to her and put my arms around her. I felt deliciously dizzy and drew her close to my chest; I started pressing myself strongly against her, feeling the curves of her body while she gave herself over to me.”

Their lovemaking ceased here since the family of Khadija left the place and shifted to another place. The years passed by. After some years, already all the three sisters of A. Rahman were married off. When he was employed in the oil refinery, one day he was called on by Dr Ahmed Raghib, the manager of the plant who asked him to repair a machine of his house. The driver of the manager drove him to their house. He very easily repaired the machine and at the time of returning, he met Khadija, his childhood play-maid. She had been married to the manager five years ago. This meeting reminded them of their childhood love affairs. They exchanged glances to each other. Later on, Khadija invited all the members of Abdur Rahman to their house. There they got a warm reception. The author narrates:

After the meeting, I did not know what had happened to my universe. 1 had fallen victim to a constant state of bewilderment, which worried me more than it did my mother. I was certain that nothing new had happened, so what caused my apathy at work and an unusual loss of interest in the machine world around me? Everything was normal and had been in its place since time immemorial, except that this heart of mine was continuously agitated. 

She invited all of us, by way of her important husband, to her grand house for dinner – all of us … all of us: my mother, my three sisters with their husbands and children, and I…. ‘All of you . . . all of you should come and visit us.’ Faced with this overwhelming desire, we could not but gratefully accept the invitation. 

Our moment of seclusion and kisses, which appeared to me to be engraved on my forehead and in the sky, raced through my mind, conjuring up images of other passionate encounters. I remembered my hunger for her – a special kind of hunger that consumes the mind and body and everything in between. I could not bear to be away from her, except for the briefest of moments, and I did all I could to spend time just with her. It was not always possible, and as soon as she left me, my hunger for her returned with a vengeance, burning my chest and my entire being.”

The story comes to the closing with Abdur Rahman’s following emotional expression:

“The next day I sought refuge in that store of feelings I had proudly told her about, I only found hunger, misunderstanding and hollow echoes, which rang out the name of Khadija.”.

There are three main characters in the story. They are Abdur Rahman, his mother and Khadija. All the characters have got fully portrayed in the story.

Abdur Rahman is portrayed as an honest and responsible son and an emotional lover. He lost his father at the age of sixteen but he did not lose hope in life. He sacrificed his education and took up a job in an oil refinery to earn money for the family. As a government employee, he is very dutiful and earns the good faith of his boss. Later on, he was put in charge of managing the service department at the Doura Oil Plant. Although his salary increased, his ambitions did not change. He lived a modest and honest life. He had the same kind of feelings of contentment that his mother had and he felt comfortable. He was not philosophical about life. Though his niche offered him material possession, he did not force people to pursue him.

Secondly, the author portrays him as a lover. He fell in emotional love with a girl of thirteen named Khadija at the age of fourteen, a daughter of Ali Asghar who was a major sergeant in the army. But circumstances caused the family of Ali Asghar to leave the place and with this, their relationship came to an end. Later on, he met Khadija while he was working in an oil refinery. Khadija was married off to the manager of the oil refinery where Abdur Rahman was an employee. Then the memory of their past love affairs revived in their mind. Even Khadija invited the family of Abdur Rahman to their house. It was a very exciting moment for them. He said:

“Our moments of seclusion and kisses, which appeared to me to be engraved on my forehead and in the sky, raced through my mind, conjuring up images of other passionate encounters. I remembered my hunger for her – a special kind of hunger that consumes the mind and body and everything in between. I could not bear to be away from her, except for the briefest of moments, and I did all I could to spend time just with her. It was not always possible, and as soon as she left me, my hunger for her returned with a vengeance, burning my chest and my entire being.”

The second main character is the mother of Abdur Rahman. She was illiterate but commonsensical. She was honest and ideal to maintain the family after the death of her husband. She did not much regret what they had lost after the death of her husband. Instead, she lovingly and naturally focused her attention on what they had then, being her daughters and son who were earning an honest living. She possessed this rare store of contentment and satisfaction. She said to her children, “Let’s forget everything and celebrate what we have –our health and good looks!” She loved her children very much and appreciated their way of honest thinking. She kept praying to God to keep her children in good health.

Thus the author has represented her as an ideal mother with natural wisdom.

The third character in the story is Khadija. She was the daughter of Ali Asghar, a major sergeant. Their economic condition was not so good, so her mother often came to the house of Abdur Rahman and helped his mother with chores as they were neighbours. She was a striking-looking girl with black eyes, black hair and a pale white complexion. Her mother used to leave her with them. Abdur Rahman did not know why her mother left Khadija with them. Khadija openly showed her fondness for Abdur Rahman and never refused to do anything and was always eager to please him. On the other hand, Abdur Rahman was at the wild age of fourteen reserved shy and too proud to pay any attention to young girls. Khadija would throw dazzling glances at Abdur Rahman. She took a great interest to get involved with him while they played hide and seek. Once at play, she came closer to the bosom of Abdur Rahman and felt a warm love towards him.

Later on, the family of Khadija happened to shift to a remote place and then their relationship came to an end. After some years she was married off to Dr Ahmed Raghib, the general manager of the refinery laboratories where Abdur Rahman was an employee. One day A. Rahman went to the household of the manager to repair a machine. There he happened to meet with Khadija. Their past memory of loving each other came to their mind. They became emotional. Later on, Khadija invited the family of Abdur Rahman to their house.

Thus the author delineated Khadija in the story as an emotional but honest love maker. 

The story contains two events. The first one is the narration of the condition of the family of Abdur Rahman after the death of his father. The second one is the details of the love affairs between Abdur Rahman and Khadija. The first part of the story reads like an autobiographical piece of essay where we get an account of how the family of A. Rahman had fallen into hardship after his father’s death. In the second part, we are introduced to the love affairs between A. Rahman and Khadija. The accidental meeting between the two at the house of Dr  Raghib makes the climax of the story and the denouement happens slowly with the reminiscence of their past relationship. Hence the construction of the story may be called a logical one.

The setting of the story includes the atmosphere, and description of the household environment of the house of A. Rahman, the manners and style of their living.

The Dialogue used in the story is appropriate to the characters and situation. The dialogues, especially the dialogues of Abdur Rahman express the inner motives and feelings which leads the story ahead to an emotional end.

The author has expressed the philosophy of life in the story indirectly as: people who are wise don’t lose their honesty even in times of hardship. Secondly, the feeling of love is innate to human instinct. 

The story is written in the first person as a piece of autobiography and hence the appeal to the content of the story is increased to its readers.

In representing the story the author has succeeded as the purpose of the motives of the author is maintained throughout the story. 

In conclusion, it may be said that Fuad al-Takarli’s short story entitled ‘A Hidden Treasure’ is a fine love story where he has portrayed the theme of love as a natural and instinctive feeling to humans. 0 0 0

Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories 

Layla al- Uthma’s Short Story ‘Night of Torment — An Analytical Study

‘Night of Torment’ is a Kuwaiti Arabic short story written by Lyla al-Uthman (born 1945). The story deals with the theme of conflict of interest (choice)  of man and woman.

The short story has no specific plot but only characterization. The author has mentioned the names of the characters nowhere in the story. However, the main character is an attendant in the ladies’ room at the airport. She is very fond of perfume and wishes to please and draw the attention of her husband to her by means of using perfumes on her whole body.

Her duty is to take care of the ladies’ room in the airport. On a particular day, she started her work by picking up the pieces of paper scattered on the floor and left those on the lids of the bins. Then she checked the white washbasins, cleaned the scum left on the sides with a brush and poured a little Dettol down the plughole, tidied up the loose toilet rolls and gently readied the washroom for the hasty passengers. She would return to her chair hopefully awaiting the generosity of some of the women. All the time she was dreaming of having a bottle of perfume for herself. After the work of the day she went out into the street and felt the combined smell of exhaust fumes of people. As soon as she opened the door to the wretched annexe where she lived, she smelled the suppressed odours rushing towards her like gaping maws, dispelling the street smells and thus leaving only the lavatory odour on her body and clothes.

At night she would be engulfed in grief and besieged by the image of women clad in their expensive accessories and fashionable clothes. She would slowly exhale in an attempt to catch her slightest whiff of the ladies’ perfumes. However, they soon clashed with the smell of her snoring husband, lying next to her. She filled her lungs with the oily smell of sambousak and potato kibbeb which her husband had eaten in the Indian restaurant where he works. She would suppress her overwhelming grief: “Surely he must smell the toilet odours on me.”

Her husband was negligent and inattentive to her. She desired to have his attention and favour by spraying perfumes on her body. She is often carried away by her desire, imagining herself holding a perfume bottle, making her most hidden dreams come true. She thought within herself, “If I spray some of these fragrances on me, all our bad smells will vanish, and we will embrace each other tightly.”

The moment she decided to put on the perfume, the bottle she was holding in her hands turned into something an insect spray pursuing the buzz of a dull fly, she became the fly whizzing around and spraying herself randomly, not caring what she sprays, whether it be parts of her body, her hair or her garments. The sound of the atomizer spray mixed with her laughter, singing and sighs of incipient delight. She emptied the entire bottle, apart from a little bit that remained at the bottom that could be reached by the siphon. She was determined not to leave a single drop; with a pestle she broke the bottleneck, extracted the last drop and applied them to her hair and cheeks, oblivious to the small pieces of broken glass that were scratching her.

She decided not to do any work. She made herself comfortable on the cotton bed and relaxed with the knowledge that he (her husband) would come from his work and slipped into her bed. She felt his head twisting and turning, like someone chasing away silly ideas. He kicked with his legs as though pushing away a mouse or a cockroach that had climbed onto them. Then she heard him sniffing like someone trying to ascertain the source of a particular smell. She realized that he had discovered a new smell. She was under the illusion that he was aroused by her. In her conceit, she moved close to him and grabbed his back. He shook but did not turn towards her. She pounced on him, her body on top of his, confident that he would reciprocate, attracted by her perfume and lusting for her body. Instead, he sighed twice and rolled over to the side she had vacated. He was restless, while his breathing came close to sneezing. She started to have doubts about the perfume. She thought, “Is it possible that no one other than the person wearing the perfume can smell it, or has he got cold.”

Suddenly he turned towards her. Her heart sang, her body shuddered and her hunger grew, but in that brief moment, her smile evaporated and her dream shattered and his dream hit her like a plague. “You smell horrible tonight. I cannot stand it! Go and wash!”

She felt as though her body was falling into a deep well from which rose the stench of filled lavatories. The smell from the soles of her feet swept to the rest of her body. Removing any traces of the perfume.

Thus the author has portrayed the conflict of interest between man and woman.

There are three characters the main is the woman who tries her best to draw the attention of her husband by means of using perfume on her whole body. She may be a type of woman who is very conscious of having the affection of their husbands. But in spite of her all attempts she fails to draw her husband’s attention towards her and experienced great mental suffering.

As there is no specific plot, the structure of the story hardly conforms to the norms of a good short story. Most of the inner characterization of the lady mad of attracting her husband happens in her daydream regarding the use of perfume and its magic action. But in reality, it happens just the dire opposite. However, the story comes to an end with an ironic surprise.

The setting of the story is a busy airport which has been delineated vividly in the story. 

The language of the story is characteristic of the Kuwaiti Arabic as the author has made an abundance use of long and complex sentences full of imageries. The author has enriched her language by using some fascinating similes and metaphors as:

“… even though you were sweeter than an apple and fresher than a rose.” (simile)

“This perfume is truly a magic.” (metaphor)

“You flapped about helplessly like a fish.” (simile)

“She thought of the treasure of her bag, took it  out and cupped it in her palms, like a mother cradling her child’s head.” (simile)

The Dialogue used in the story is appropriate to the characters and situation, especially the dialogue of the lady has succeeded to express her inner mind. 

The author expresses her philosophy of life that the taste of a man differs from a woman.

The story is written in the third person where the author keeps her characters anonymous.

In representing the story the author has succeeded as the purpose of the motives of the author is maintained throughout the story. 0 0 0 

Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories 

Yusuf Idris’ Short Story ‘A Tray from Heaven’ — An Analytical Study

‘A Tray from Heaven’ is a Greek Arabic short story written by Yusuf Idris (1927-91) a Greek novelist, story-teller, essayist, journalist, and critic. The story has no plot but only characterization. Social prejudice is the main theme of the story.

The author has given a detailed account of prejudice that prevailed even in twentieth century Egypt as follows:

Like other towns, Munyat al-Nasr (a town in Egypt) was superstitious about Friday, and any event that took place on that day was viewed as a sure catastrophe. The people of the village were, however, excessively superstitious. They were opposed to any work being done on that day for fear it would end in failure, and thus they postponed all work until Saturday. If you asked them why they were so superstitious about it, they would tell you it was because Friday is a day of misfortune. It was, however, clear that this was not the real reason; rather, it was merely a pretext enabling the farmers to put off Friday work until Saturday. And so, Friday became the day of rest. The word ‘rest’ was considered ugly among the farmers, as well as an insult to their toughness and to their extraordinary ability to work indefatigably. Only townspeople needed rest, that is, those who had fresh meat and worked in the comfort of the shade, and in spite of that, still ran out of breath. Weekly rest was a heresy. So, Friday must surely have been a day of bad luck. As a result, work had to be postponed until Saturday.

There are some characters in the story most of which are naïve and unlettered. Among the characters, a man named Sheik Ali is the main character who has occupied much space of delineation in the story. The author has portrayed him as an extraordinary individual character in the story with whimsical traits. The author has written about him as follows: In fact, he himself was regarded as a joke. His head was the size of a donkey’s, whereas his eyes were as wide and round as those of an owl, except that he had bloodshot in the corners. His voice was hoarse and loud, like a rusty steam engine. He never smiled. When he was happy, which was rare, he would laugh boisterously. When he was not happy, he would scowl. A single word that he did not like was enough to make his blood boil to the extent that it would be turned into fuel, and he would swoop down on the one who had uttered the word that had caused offence. He might even bear down on this person with his fat-fingered hands, or his hooked, iron-tipped stick, which was made out of thick cane. He was very fond of it and cherished it, calling it “the commandant”.

Sheikh Ali’s father had sent him to al-Azhar for his education. One day, his teacher made the mistake of calling him “a donkey”, to which Sheikh Ali, true to type, had retorted: “And you are as stupid as sixty donkeys.” After he was expelled, he returned to Munyat al-Nasr, where he became a preacher and imam at the mosque. 

One day he mistakenly performed the prayers with three genuflections. When the congregation attempted to warn him, he cursed all their fathers, gave up being an imam, and stopped going to the mosque. He even gave up praying. Instead, he took up playing cards and continued to play until he had to sell everything he owned. At that moment, he swore he would give that up too.

When Muhammad Effendi, the primary school teacher in the district capital, opened a grocery shop in the village, he suggested to Sheikh Ali that he should keep the shop open in the morning, which he accepted. However, this only lasted for three days. On the fourth day, Muhammad Effendi could be seen standing in front of his shop, dripping with halva‘ Sheikh Ali had discovered that Muhammad Effendi had put a piece of metal in the scales to doctor them. Sheikh Ali had told him: “You’re a crook.” No sooner had Muhammad Effendi said: “How dare you, Sheikh Ali! Shut up if you want to keep your ‘oh!’ than the sheikh hurled a handful of halva at him. From that day onwards, nobody ever dared to give Sheikh Ali any work. But even if anybody had dared, it would not have mattered as Sheikh Ali himself was no longer interested in working anyway. Sheikh Ali was also a very ugly man as well as irascible and unemployed, and yet nobody in the village really hated him.

Quite the contra; most of the villagers loved him and liked to exchange funny stories about him. Their greatest joy was to sit around him and arouse his anger, much to everyone’s merriment. When he got angry and his features darkened, unable to speak, it was impossible for any of the bystanders to control themselves and not collapse with laughter. They kept on egging him on, while he grew angrier and angrier. They would laugh until the end of the gathering. Everyone would utter: “What a character you are. Sheikh Ali!” They would then leave him alone to vent his anger on “Abu Ahmad”, which is what he called his poverty. He considered Abu Ahmad his archenemy. Sheikh Ali spoke about his poverty as if it were a person of flesh and blood standing in front of him. Usually, the tirade would be sparked if someone asked him: “So what has Abu Ahmad done to you today, Sheikh Ali?” Sheikh Ali would fly into a real rage at that moment because he did not like anyone to talk about his poverty when he was talking to it. And whenever people talked about his poverty he would be driven to rage. Sheikh Ali was, in fact, quite shy, despite his stern features and words. He preferred to go for days without smoking, rather than ask any of the villagers to roll him a cigarette. He always carried a needle and thread about his person in order to mend his jilbab in case it became torn. When his clothes got dirty, he would go far away from the village in order to wash them and would remain naked until they were dry. Because of this, his turban was cleaner than any other turban in the village. It was only natural that the people of Munyat al-Nasr laughed at this new drollery on that particular day. However, in this case, the laughter soon died down and people fell silent, tongue-tied with fear. The word blasphemy was a terrible one to use, especially in a village that, like any other, lived in peace and tranquillity. Its people were good people, who knew nothing except their work and family. Just like any other village, there were petty thieves stealing corncobs, big thieves raiding cattle pens and snatching the excess cattle with hooks; big and small tradesmen; known and unknown loose women; honest folk and liars; spies; sick people; spinsters and righteous people.

However, you found them all in the mosque when the muezzin called the faithful to prayer. You would not find a single one of them breaking their fast during Ramadan.

He seems to be an eccentric rounding whom the people of the town makes jokes and derive merriment. The author portrays his eccentricity as follows:

Sheikh Ali’s head was bare, and his short-cropped white hair glistened with sweat. In his right hand, he clutched his stick. His eyes were glowing like embers, while a look of fierce and senseless anger had settled on his face. He said, addressing the sky: “What do you want from me? Can you tell me what is it that you want from me? I left al- Azhar because of some sheikhs who act as if they are the sole guardians of the faith. I divorced my wife, sold my house, and out of all the people you chose me to inflict Abu Ahmad on. Why me? Who don’t you send down your anger, oh Lord, on Churchill or on Eisenhower? Or is it because you can only do it to me? What do you want from me now? “So many times in the past you made me hungry, and I endured it.  would tell myself: ‘Imagine it’s the month of Ramadan, and you’re fasting. It’s only one day, and it’ll pass.”  But, this time, I haven’t eaten anything since yesterday afternoon, and I haven’t had any cigarettes for a week. I haven’t touched hash for ten days. And you’re telling me that in Paradise there is honey, fruit and rivers of milk, yet you don’t give me any of it! Why? Are you waiting for me to die of hunger? Why don’t you send him to America? Is he my destiny? Why do you torture me? I have nothing, except this gallabiyya and this stick. What do you want from me? You either feed me right now or take me now! Are you going to feed me, or not?” As Sheikh Ali uttered these words he was in a state of extreme fury; he actually began to froth at the mouth and became soaked with sweat, while his voice filled with fierce hatred. The people of Munyat al-Nasr stood motionless, their hearts almost frozen with fear. They were afraid of that Sheikh Ali would continue and become blasphemous. But that was not the only thing that scared them. The words spoken by Sheikh Ali were dangerous … they would cause the wrath of God the Almighty, and it would be their village that would pay the price when His vengeance struck everything they owned. Sheikh Ali’s words threatened the safety of the entire village, and so he had to be shut up. In order to do this, some of the village elders began shouting placatory remarks from afar with a view to making Sheikh Ali regain his senses and hold his tongue. For a while, Sheikh Ali turned away from the sky and directed his gaze towards the onlookers: ….. Should he quit until I die of hunger? Why should á keep quiet? Are you afraid of your houses, women and fields? It is only those who have something to lose that are afraid! As for me, I don’t have anything to be scared of. And if He is annoyed with me, let Him take me! In the name of my religion and all things holy, if someone were to come and take me, even if it was Azrael, the Angel of Death, himself. I’d bash his skull in with my stick. I’ll not be silent unless He sends me a table laden with food from heaven, right now. I’m not worth less than Maryam, who was only a woman after all, but I’m a man. And she wasn’t poor. I, on the other hand, I’ve had to suffer at the hands of Abu Ahmad. By my religion and everything I hold dear, I’ll not he quiet until He sends me a dining table right now!”

The sheikh once again turned to the sky: “Send it to me right now, otherwise I’ll say whatever’s on my mind. A dining table, right now! Two chickens, a dish of honey and a pile of hot bread – only if it’s hot – and don’t you dare forget the salad! I’ll count up to ten. And if the dining table’s not sent down, I’ll not stop at anything.” Sheikh Ali began to count, and the people of Munyat al-Nasr silently counted ahead of him, but they became increasingly nervous. Sheikh Ali had to be stopped. One of them suggested they get the strongest youths of the village to throw him to the ground, gag him and give him a thrashing he would not forget. However, one look at Sheikh Ali’s fiery, rage-filled, mad eyes was enough to forget the proposal. It would be impossible to knock Sheikh Ali down before he lashed out once or twice with his stick. Every youth was afraid he would be the one to be struck, and that instead of Azrael’s head being splattered, it would be one of theirs. For this reason, the proposal foundered. One of them said, impatiently: “You have been hungry all your life, man, why pick today?”

Sheikh Ali’s fiery gaze bored down at him, as he replied: “This time, Abd al-Jawwad, you weakling, my hunger has lasted longer.” Somebody else shrieked: “Alright then, man, if you were hungry, why didn’t you tell us? We would have fed you instead of listening to your nonsense!” Sheikh Ali then set upon him: “Me, ask you something? Am 1 going to beg to you, a village of starving beggars? You’re staging more than I am! Begjo? 1 have come to ask Him, and if He doesn’t give it to me. I’ll know what to do! Abd al-Jawwad said: “Why didn’t you work so that you could’ve fed yourself, you wretch?” At that point, Sheikh Ali’s anger reached its peak. He flew into a temper, quivering and quaking, alternately directing his harangue towards the crowd gathered at a distance, and at the sky: “What’s it to do with you, Abd al-Jawwad, son of Sitt Abuha?! I’m not working! 1 don’t want to work! 1 don’t know how to work. I’ve not found work. Is what you do work, you bovine part?! The work that you do is donkey’s work, and I’m not a donkey! I can’t bust my back all day longº I can’t hang around on the field like cattle, you animals. To hell with all of you! I’m not going to work! By God, if I was meant to die of hunger, I still wouldn’t do the work that you do! Never!”

In spite of the sheikh’s anger and the terrifying nature of the situation, people started laughing. The sheikh was shaking, and said: “Ha! … I’ll count to ten and, by God, if I don’t get a dining table, I’ll curse God and do the unspeakable.” It was clear that Sheikh Ali was not going to change his mind, and that he intended to go ahead with his intentions, which would have unimaginable consequences. As Sheikh Ali started to count, droplets of sweat poured down people’s foreheads, and the noon heat became intolerable.

Some started to whisper that the vengeance of God had begun to unfold itself and that this terrible heat was but the beginning of a terrible conflagration, which would consume all the wheat and crops. One of them made the mistake of saying: “Why don’t any of you get him a morsel of food, so he’ll come down?” Although Sheikh Ali was counting loudly, he heard these words and turned around, towards the gathering: “What morsel, you louts? A piece of your rotten bread and stale cheese that has all been eaten by worms? You call that food? I’ll only be quiet if a dining table arrives here, with two chickens on it.” There was a lot of grumbling in the crowd. Suddenly, one of the female bystanders said: “I’ve got a nice okra stewº I’ll bring you a plate of it.” Sheikh Ali shouted at her: “Shut up, woman! What’s this okra nonsense, you…! Your brains are like okra, and the smell of this village is like that of acid okra!” Then Abu Sirhan said: “We’ve got some fresh fish, Sheikh Ali, which we’ve just bought from Ahmad the Fisherman.” Sheikh Ali roared: “What’s this miniscule fish of yours, you bunch of minions! Do you call that a fish? Damn it, if He doesn’t send me two chickens and the other things I ordered, I’ll continue cursing – and hang the consequences!” The situation became unbearable. It was a question of either.

remaining silent and losing the village and everyone in it, or of shutting up Sheikh Ali by any means possible. A hundred people called out to invite him for lunch, but he refused each time.

Eventually, he said: “I can’t continue with this poverty, people. For three days, no one has offered me even a morsel. So, leave off with the invitations now. I won’t shut up until you give me a dining table full of food sent by the good Lord.”

Heads turned around to inquire who had cooked that day, as not everyone cooked daily; indeed, it would have been highly unlikely for anyone to have meat or chicken. Finally, at Abd al-Rahman’s house, they found a plate of boiled veal, and they took it to Sheikh Ali on a tray together with some radishes, two loaves of crisp bread and onions. They told the sheikh: “Is that enough for you?” Sheikh Ali’s eyes alternated between the sky and the tray; when he looked at the sky his eyes gleamed with fire, whereas every time he looked at the tray his anger grew. The onlookers stood by in silence. Eventually, Sheikh Ali said: “All along I wanted a dining table full of food, you useless lot, and you bring me a tray? And where’s the packet of cigarettes?” One of the villagers gave him a packet of cigarettes. He stuck out his hand and took a large piece of the meat. He wolfed it down, and said: “And where’s the hash?”

They told him: “How dare you? That’s rich!” Indignantly, Sheikh Ali said: “Right, that’s it!” Then, he left the food, took off his jilb a band turban and once again started brandishing his stick, threatening that he would start blaspheming again. He would not be silent until they brought him Mandur the hash dealer to give him a lump of hashish.

Mandur said: “Take it. Take it, Sheikh, you deserve it! We didn’t see, we didn’t know you’d be embarrassed to ask. People sit with you and they seem happy, but then afterward they’re not interested anymore and leave you. We have to see to your comfort, Sheikh. This is our village, and without you and Abu Ahmad, it would be worthless. You make us laugh, and we have to feed you … What do you say to this?” Sheikh Ali again launched into a raging fury, at the height of which he lunged at Mandur, shaking his stick at him and almost hitting him over the head with it. “Laughing at me? What is so funny about me, Mandur, you donkey brain? Damn you, and your father!”

Mandur was running in front of Sheikh Ali, laughing. The bystanders were watching the chase, laughing. Even when the sheikh came after all of them, reviling and cursing them, they kept on laughing. Sheikh Ali remained in Munyat al-Nasr, and things still happened to him every day. He was still short-tempered, and people continued to laugh at his bouts of anger. However, from that day on they made allowances for him. When they saw him standing in the middle of the threshing floor, taking off his jilb and turban, grabbing hold of his stick and starting to shake it at the sky, they understood that they had been oblivious to his problem, and had left Abu Ahmad alone with him for longer than was necessary. Before a single blasphemous word left his mouth, a tray would be brought to him with everything he asked for. Occasionally, he would accept his lot, with resignation.

Thus the author Yusuf Idris has created an unparalleled character like Sheik Ali with so a funny, foolish and crazy mentality that there can hardly be found a second one in the whole range of Arabic fiction.

The story is written in the third person with a meticulous observance that substantiates the author how devoted he was as a writer.

The story has no construction as it bears no plot. The opening of the story is abrupt and full of curiosity as:

If you see someone running along the streets of Munyat al-Nasr, that is an event. People rarely run there. Indeed, why should anybody run in a village where nothing happens to warrant running? Meetings are not measured in minutes and seconds. The train moves as slowly as the sun. There is a train when it rises, one when it reaches its zenith and another one at sunset. There is no noise that gets on one’s nerves or causes one to be in a hurry. Everything moves slowly there, and there is never any need for speed or haste. As the saying goes: “The Devil takes a hand in what is done in haste.”

If you see someone running in Munyat al-Nasr, that is an event, just as when you hear a police siren you imagine that something exciting must have happened. How wonderful it is for something exciting to happen in such a peaceful and lethargic village! On that particular Friday, it was not just one person who was running in Munyat al-Nasr; rather, it was a whole crowd. Yet no one knew why. The streets and alleys were basking in the usual calm and tranquillity that descended upon the village after the Friday noon prayers when the streets were sprinkled with frothy rose-scented water smelling of cheap soap; when the women were busy inside the houses preparing lunch and the men were loitering outside until it was time to eat. On that particular day, the peace and tranquillity were broken by two big, hairy legs running along the street and shaking the houses. As the runner passed a group sitting outside a house, he did not fail to greet them. The men returned the greeting and tried to ask him why he was running, but before they could do so he had already moved on. They wanted to know the reason, but, of course, were unable to find out. Their desire to know compelled them to start walking. Then one of them suggested they walk faster, and suddenly they found themselves running. They were not amiss in greeting the various groups sitting outside the houses who, in turn, also started running.

However obscure the motive, it was bound to be known in the end, just as it is inevitable that people quickly start gathering at the scene of an accident. It is a small village. There are thousands of people who will give you directions. You are able to run its length and breadth without running out of breath. It did not take long before a crowd began to gather near the threshing floor. Everyone who was able to run had arrived; only the old and aged remained scattered in the street. They preferred to saunter, as village elders do, and to leave a space between them and the youngsters. However, they were also hurling, intent on arriving before it was too late and the incident became news.

The author has expressed his philosophy of life indirectly that some people take birth with exceptional unusuality. 

The language of the story is simple, evocative, direct and fully expressive. There are some sentences which may be read as proverbs as:

“If you see someone running along the streets of Munyat al-Nasr, that is an event.”

“The Devil takes a hand in what is done in haste.”

There are similes that have enriched the language of the story as:

‘The train moves as slowly as the sun.’

The short story is of ideal length as it is written within not more than two thousand words. 

To conclude it may be said that the story entitled, ‘A Tray from Heaven’ by Yusuf Idrish is a short story of character written in ideal length dealing with the theme of prejudice that has portrayed an unprecedented character like Sheik Ali with the trait of extraordinary individuality. 0 0 0

Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories 

 

Books of Composition by M. Menonimus:

  1. Advertisement Writing
  2. Amplification Writing
  3. Note Making
  4. Paragraph Writing
  5. Notice Writing
  6. Passage Comprehension
  7. The Art of Poster Writing
  8. The Art of Letter Writing
  9. Report Writing
  10. Story Writing
  11. Substance Writing
  12. School Essays Part-I
  13. School Essays Part-II
  14. School English Grammar Part-I
  15. School English Grammar Part-II..

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Menonimus
I am Menonim Menonimus, a Philosopher & Writer.

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