General Post (got some new books)

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything (around two long months) but I haven’t abandoned translating “Aisha Descends Into the Underworld” and I’m not even thinking of doing that. I’ve also discovered several typos in the first post so I’ll go over it carefully some time soon. My laptop went haywire a while ago and I just need to get it fixed without formatting -hopefully- because the next part is already translated and ready in my laptop.

So yeah, moving on to more exciting things. I just returned from a short trip to Cairo, Egypt (just spent a week there ’cause we have a pathetic excuse for Spring Break at uni) and although, sadly, I haven’t scoured the bookstores of Cairo as much as I would have liked, I came back with five Arabic books.

And I got all excited and felt like sharing my findings. The following blurbs are all translated by me except for the blurb for ‘Return of the Spirit’ by Tawfiq Al-Hakim, so please tell me if you’d like to use any of those blurbs, and do give credit to me as well if you use them.

bab il5oruj

  • Title: ‘The Exit Door’ by Izzedein Shukri Fasheer.
  • Published by: Dar Al-Shorouk.
  • Year of Publication: 2012.
  • Number of Pages: 483 pages.
  • Blurb: 

“Dear Yahya,

Today is October 20th, 2020, and by the time you get this letter exactly two days from now, I will be a prisoner or a corpse. They would either tell you that your father died a hero, or you would read in the papers the news of my grand betrayal and of my arrest. I, who witnessed with my very own eyes all kinds of betrayal–they would throw me with their disease and escape as they did before, dozens of times. I didn’t try to stop them before, but I won’t let them get away with it this time. No, not this time. This is my fury, the fury of a lifetime; a fury that might be the last, but I won’t let it go to waste. I have taken my precautions and decided to not play the role of the victim, and this letter may be my last lifeline if all the other precautions have failed. So take care of it, for this might be the distinction between betrayal and heroism.”

Nobody knows the content of this shipment except for six people: a Chinese man, two from North Korea, President Al-Kattan, General Al-Maneesi, and I–or that is how it’s supposed to be. But the truth is that this quiet ship with few hands and passengers will be swept by a full troop of American Marines at four in the morning tomorrow, which means exactly twenty four hours later. The truth also is that I -the silent interpretor who never in his life had taken a strong stand- is the one who informed them. I am the traitor.

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  • Title: ‘The Blue Elephant’ by Ahmed Murad
  • Published by: Dar Al-Shorouk.
  • Year of Publication: 2012.
  • Number of Pages: 436 pages.
  • Blurb:

After five years of volitional isolation, Dr. Yahya resumes his work in Al-Abassiya psychiatric hospital where a surprise awaits him…

In “8 West”, the section that determines the fate of crime perpetrators, he meets an old friend who brings back a past that he’d tried to forget for a long time, and one whose fate is suddenly in Yahya’s hands. Surprises rack Yahya and turn his life upside down, and what has started as an attempt to discover the truth about his friend is now an exciting trip of self-discovery.

Or what was left of his self.

Ahmed Murad takes us in his third novel to the nightmares of a strange world that he’d spent two years studying its specifics; a thrilling trip that leads us to discover the deepest and most strange mysteries of the human psyche.

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  • Title: ‘The Pirate’ by Abdelaziz Al Mahmoud (a historical novel).
  • Published by: Bloomsbury – Qatar Foundation Publishing.
  • Year of Publication: October 2011.
  • Number of Pages: 411 pages.
  • Blurb:

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, a bloody and violent struggle took place between the British Empire and the Arab tribes of the Gulf in order to control the region, as well as a frantic race to obtain a rare sword studded with jewels.

The British ruler in Mombai sends a precious sword to Ibrahim Basha, the leader of the Egyptian army, to tempt him to form an alliance with Britain to crush the fledgling Wahabbi movement and its allies from the Arab tribes. But when the ships of Arhama bin Jaber the Pirate attack the British ship that is carrying this invaluable gift, the doors to hell open on the Pirate. He is hunted by the British Navy, and a series of great and successive events begin that changes the reality and future of the region forever.
An exciting novel written in a literary and interesting style about an unknown and important period in the history of our Arab world.

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Both revolution and romance are at the heart of Return of the Spirit, first published in Arabic in 1933.The story of a patriotic young Egyptian and his extended family, ending with events surrounding the 1919 revolution—for al-Hakim, a literal awakening of the Egyptian spirit—Return of the Spirit with its strong expression of nationalist solidarity has particular resonance now. Admiration for the novel by the military entrepreneurs who replaced Egypt’s monarchy in 1952 temporarily dampened enthusiasm for it; but the 2011 Tahrir revolution has made it seem once again as fresh as today’s news.

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  •  Title: ‘al-Sanja’ by Ahmed Khaled Tawfiq.
  • Published by: Bloomsbury – Qatar Foundation Publishing.
  • Year of Publication: October 2012.
  • Number of Pages: 266 pages.
  • Blurb:

The missing or deceased man was a novelist, and it’s said that he’s relatively famous. But the truth is that nobody knows him at all, and nobody has read a word by him previously–which means that he himself is the source of the rumor that he’s a relatively famous writer. Writers always commit suicide in the end. Investigators know that, but they also know that writers don’t put an effort into hiding their bodies after suicide: they are careless and leave their bodies with their exploded brains or slashed veins anywhere, as though other people are their servants. And no wonder, because they are vain as well. So does the man called Esam Sharkawi happen to be the most civilized and organized writer in the last few years?

In the next pages, we will commit a heroic act: we will attempt to find out the secret behind the disappearance of Esam Sharkawi, and this would require us to look incessantly until we find a lead–and maybe we won’t.
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‘Aisha Descends into the Underworld’ (#1 Post) (pgs. 11-29)

‘Aisha Descends into the Underworld’ by Buthaina Al-Eissa

Translated by: H.I. Al-Muhairi

Check out Translator’s Notes at the end as you’re reading to better understand some of the terms here. This is the beginning of the story, it actually starts on page 11.

——-

April 10th, 2011

12:00 a.m.

I am Aisha.
I will die in seven days.
And until then, I decided to write.
I don’t know how writing is supposed to start, probably from a place like this where everything leafs with doubt.

Writing seems to be the only thing I can do. I want to put the last period in the last sentence before I get swallowed by absence.
I have decided for my last days to be like this. I mean, like writing. A word is a fragile and tenuous creature, like me. And I, in my last days, wish to look like me as much as possible. I’m doing this for me; these papers, this writing, this wound: for me.

This writing is not a biography of my life. What has passed isn’t worthy of interest; everything is now done and finished. This writing goes nowhere and I don’t think I have lived a life that deserves to be documented. I am writing to be clear with myself, alone with myself, full of myself. This writing does not cure, but kills. Death is good, and I wish for it with all my heart.

I will become like him soon; I will become similar to him and to his death. I will see my body lying in the same place and thrown in the same whiteness.

My death will arrive soon, and I will obtain that white deathly appearance: cotton in the nostrils, in the mouth, in the ears, and in every cavity that can be—a body stuffed with white. I wondered that day why they tucked cotton into every place that they could get their hands on. I was wondering to the point of bereavement as I was standing in front of his small corpse, so small it contradicts the idea of endings and graves and leaving. They told me then that I can come inside to see him for one last time. It wasn’t the last time; all of my dreams and nightmares carry his face.

What more can I say?
My son has died, O’ world.

April 10th, 2011

1:10 a.m.

This a sick and weak writing for which you can’t find the origin of its question or probe its reality. This is a writing whose purpose is unknown as to why its words were invaded, scattered, and dispersed like tears of glass. Yet, despite that, it looks extremely instinctual, and perhaps brutal. Calling it forth is not difficult, as if it was waiting for me all along.

I am writing the waves of a drowned person, and at the same time, I find my soul stunned in front the gravity of the scene and the depth of the question: why does a drowning person wave his hands?

The drowned person who was placed in a bag, whose feet they tied to a rock, and who was thrown into a depth of thousands of meters of water and salt, where the darkness is a glowing black. This drowned person, my drowned person—why is he waving and to whom?

Not a day passes that I don’t ask myself this question, one nightmare after the other. I am the one sentenced to drown by dying, and to die by drowning, thrown by unknown hands into the depths of the ocean, into the belly of a broken well, or inside a bottomless cup. The nightmare itself repeats with a new version of drowning every time, as does the same question: why does the drowned person wave his hands? Why doesn’t he just die?

I think that the writing that I have committed now looks like the waves of a drowned person: frivolous, desperate, painful, and carry many meanings of goodbye.

I write to drown, I drown to die, and I intend -for a reason that I can’t fathom- to write my death/drowning, and this writing that here and now has no name except for the ‘Waving of a Drowned Person’ is the goodbye that nobody will witness.

The world has disappeared in an orphaned spot of light, which is the last thing a drowned person sees before water fills his lungs, before he becomes a sea.

April 10th, 2011

2:13 a.m.

My son really did die.

There’s no nice way to say it; no right way or word to explain the death of a child. But this is what I will do now, because I can only start from here, from this wound that is multiplying in my inwards.

I will try -like the drowned person waving to life- to write the death of a child.

To write the death of a child as it is, without poetizing the matter, spiritualizing the bereavement, rationalizing the gravity, or justifying the disaster; without complaint; without an excess of sorrow—this is what I’m intending to do.

And although I had done that day all that could be done from wailing and hysteria, when I held him in my arms and ran as if I were crazy (or so I’ve been told) without knowing where I was heading with him, and how I was to save him or save myself from his sudden departure.

I remember how far the sky was, how deserted the earth was, and how extreme the loneliness was yet I, and after around four years, I can think of nothing else except for: how is it that living could be possible after that happened? Adnan was running after me, “Come back! Come back! Give me the kid, you crazy woman!” Could I have ran this fast? I don’t know; it was said that Adnan and I had fought over his body, it was said that I’d dug my nails in his forearms and screamed with my loudest voice, as if he were a thief that wanted to steal the dead body of my son. But they succeeded in removing him from my arms, and moved him to his father’s car, and what was I doing then? Was I screaming and stretching my hand in emptiness, looking for his body? And what did I want anyway? To hide him in the house garden? To bury him in a hidden place like a treasure? I don’t know anything about that day except for all of what I’ve collected from the neighbors’ tales, and the testimony of my husband who has apparently retained his memories.

Life is no longer possible; this is the only thing that I know for sure about me and about this world. I am the one tattooed with this name that contradicts my very existence, the one vowed to living with impetus, or that was how my parents wanted. I would have been more like myself if I had a name similar to my suicidal tendencies—my black abaya{1}, blue lips, the cheeks scratched with tears, the swollen eye-lids, the eternal appearance of crying, and the nearing death.

Aziz died in front me, I mean: behind my back. Why wasn’t I looking at him? I left him in the middle of the street and got busy…with what? With the only thing that I did those days: with arguments. And although he insisted to me, “Mommy, my toys fell!” I did nothing, and he, a five year old…did his childish intuition inform him that was leaving? I asked him, without bothering to look at him, to stop whining, because I couldn’t take two steps and pull him from the grasps of terrifying probabilities. I said to him, “Aziz, I swear to God if you didn’t come here I’ll hit you! I’ll throw your toys in the trash!” These were my last words to my son before his death.

He couldn’t move; one of his toys fell while he was still holding two. Three toys of super heroes and two tiny hands only. Every time he picked up one, the second fell, every time he picked up the second, the third fell. Two tiny hands and a crazy world, that was how a car ran him over while he was bending over his toys, trying to pick them up, trying to protect them from being trampled by a car like the one that trampled him. He will never abandon his toys ever, because he is not like his mother.

In the last moment of his life, he was looking towards me, frightened, as if he had realized something important.

April 10th, 2011

2:45 a.m.

On April 18th, 2007, Abdul Aziz died -my only son- at an age of five and a half because of a car accident that happened when he was standing in the middle of the street, trying to pick up his toys. On that day, my life began to lose its falseness and became more real, became less empty and more impossible. And on that day, my memory began to monitor my days, my heart began to pulse with pain, my eyes began to overflow, and I began to have sins that ate through my soul, and bite marks of regret on my palms, forearms, upper arms, and…Life began to have a color and a meaning.

The color of life is a bright black and its only meaning is death. Just as soon as I realized that -I mean the color and meaning of life- my whole body began to respond to its only truth: the truth of the cessation of being.  I was able to die and to return and to swing between the two worlds, the world of the unseen and the material world, as if I was sentenced to eternally shift back and forth between them, hung by the grapples of my pain in a middle world that never ends.

I have died since my son’s death a number of three times, and I came back three times as well. My deaths coincided with the anniversary of his death, on the 18th of April for the years 2008, 2009, and 2010. My son’s anniversary is due in a week, and along with it, my fourth death, which I think will be my last. This is why I write.

I write because things are no longer understood or capable of being explained, and I, in all honesty, am no longer interested to explain them. Yet, with that being said, I wave with resignation and incapability because this world is much crazier than I thought.

Three deaths, each occurring in a different hour, in a different form on the same date: once by electricity, once by food poisoning, and once by a car accident. All of these accidents and their frequent occurrences in a way that does not allow for the most random of coincidences happened on the 18th of April. The matter is unexplainable as well as undeniable. All that is to the matter is that I, with every anniversary of my son’s death, die.

It’s past two in the morning, the day has just started and I am tucked between the pillows and wrapped in the comforter, writing quickly out of a fear of drying up. I sit contracted on the edge of my end, peering into the darkness where there are no stars and no one.

I am alone as I was the moment I was thrown into life, and alone just I will be under the dirt. Very soon. Loneliness is -then- the only sure, real thing in this life. A family is a myth, friends are a lie, and marriage is a joke. Everybody has abandoned me. Why? Because I die every year once and come back! Because I scare them, it seems. Where are they now? All of them, I’m sure, are thinking of the same thing: How would Aisha die this time? Is she going to drown in a bottle of milk? Or choke on a chewing gum? Their silence says a lot about their terror.

The living weren’t meant to cohabitate with the dead; the unseen divisor between the kingdom of the living and the kingdom of the dead is there for a certain reason. I know that, Adnan knows that, and my mother, sister, and my only brother know that. Even my deceased father knows that, and my son.

With every death -every time I was swallowed by the great hole- they were falling from my life like dried petals, falling outside as if losing me and getting me back multiple times was more than what they can tolerate. All for what? If I was going to die anyway, then why don’t I do it the right way? Why all this playing between worlds and the heresy that comes with it about the beauty of the world and the brilliance of the unseen world? Why not just die and let them have the privileges that family and relatives entertain to mourn my youth and bury me in the belly of the earth and then move on like everybody else? Isn’t that what they want? The ability to move on? I’m the one who is disturbing their fabricated certainty, their utter knowledge with everything related to life and death and the other world?

This is the writing of a person saying goodbye, but it’s not a will. A will requires certainty and I don’t have it; I have nothing but anxiety and the absurd need to write everything, shake out everything, and pronounce everything. I do not write; I just refuse the nonsense of this world. I want to be more pure when I leave, much lighter and similar to his soul so that I might…might touch him there in the light.

A life of thirty three years is a short life, I can’t help but think as I sift through the explicitness of my end. I am afraid if I die to come back for the fourth time.

With every death experience that I’ve been through, I lost bits of me and more of my relatives, starting with my maternal cousins, passing through my sister, and ending with my husband. Every death that I’ve experienced left inside of me scars and scratches and cracks. My body is quivering now, and I feel like I can’t control it. Its quivers are greater than what I can contain, but there’s no time for me to quiver.

Quivering is a luxury of the living, and my time is short, and my age is -also- short. I should write everything in seven days, before I get swallowed by the great hole.

April 10th, 2011

4:02 a.m.

Adnan is sleeping in the living room; he’s been sleeping there for the past six months or more. He doesn’t look me in the eyes or talks to me. He knows we’re about to go through a difficult time and this seems to be the way he deals with it, by abandoning me, who is about to leave. I asked him a while back out of curiosity, “Do you believe that I will die in less than a month?” He didn’t answer and was grimly quiet as his hands moved in an automatic fashion to fix his Ghutra{2}, and then he left. His whole demeanor says, “I wish you’d die”. If I survive this time, I will get divorced from Adnan and make my loneliness more acute.

If I was destined to live, I will get divorced from Adnan and live a year of complete independence and isolation until my fifth death comes because I know that this cycle -the cycle of death and rebirth- will spin around with me forever until one day, there won’t be anyone to save me. One day, I will enter your groves, Death, and I won’t be able to go back. But until that moment comes, I have a lot of things to say.

Two weeks ago, we fought. Adnan claims that I have suicidal tendencies; he asks me, “How can I make sure that you didn’t touch the electrical wires on purpose? That you didn’t throw yourself in front of the car intentionally? How can two people eat from the same food and one gets food poisoning while the other doesn’t?”

Ever since my last death, he hasn’t stopped demanding me to check with the psychology clinic so that doctors would dive in the depths of my unconscious mind, my underworld, which is dubious and rich with anomalous thoughts to extract the reasons that are pushing me to commit suicide. I didn’t commit suicide; if I wanted death I would choose nicer methods. I would swallow a hundred tablets of sleeping pills and lie warm on my bed, dreaming of my son.

The day we fought -for the thousandth time after million- I told him to get out of my sight, that he wasn’t fit to be a husband, and that I curse the hour that I married him, had his child, and everything.

To be honest, I wasn’t being fair to him. I can imagine what living with a woman who’d died and came back three times mean. Adnan experienced losing me three times, and my return three times, and most likely, going through the fourth experience of this sort would be something that terrifies him too. Who wants to live under the threat of demise? We all die, but we don’t think of death no matter how prophetic events urge us to do so; we live grateful to the reality of life, and that death is our postponed ending always.

The night I died for the first time, Adnan fell to his knees and released to the world his sobbing. He said, “Don’t you go too. Don’t leave me, Aisha!” In my second death, he cried less. In my third death, he didn’t cry at all. This time, maybe he will kill me with his own hands and rest.

Adnan’s theory is built upon logical, Freudian, Dogmatic foundations beyond what is tolerated. Adnan’s theory is as follows:

Since my sense of guilt is driving me to commit suicide, and the law of heaven forbids me to do it, my unconscious mind hurries to make my wish come true by killing me unawares to die like my son! Something which is what happens when my feelings of guilt reach their zenith on the 18th of April of every year on the anniversary of Aziz’s death.

This is Adnan’s theory, one that is solid and firm and relies on very scientific foundations, yet it’s still not right. I don’t care if the matter could be interpreted this way, because in the end, spoilt food, traffic accidents, and electric shocks can’t be a thing of my creation.

Isn’t that right?

April 10th, 2011

5:07 a.m.

“Oh Death! I could not remove myself from sweetly contemplating your gentle nature that is closely tied to mine, O’ mirror of my soul and the reflection of my existence!”

–Ludwig Feuerbach{3}

This is a long night of a short life. I will indulge in the praise of death tonight, as I -anyway- do not want to sleep so that my life gets shorter by a few hours. Didn’t Imam Ali{4} say: “People are asleep, and if they die, they awaken”? Awaken to what, I wonder? To the truth of death? Then I am much awakened, aware of every tick of the hands of the clock, to every moment that seeps out of my life.

I will indulge in the praise of death, then. Perhaps if I do that, my terror would lessen, and my pain. Maybe if he came, he would be kind with me, the way unjust Sultans are kind with fawning poets, because this fear that is gnawing at me at its own pace is something that I can’t deny.

I will indulge in the praise of death on the basis that I -and especially in the last year of my life- had immersed myself in contemplating everything that concerns it to the point where I became an expert in the matters of the end, death, extinction, suicide, the old methods of burial, and the other derivatives of death.

If death was yet another instinct, a greedy worm that swallows us at its own pace, then I shouldn’t fear my nature and stray from my instincts. Isn’t it so?

It is said that death linguistically means stillness. Stillness can’t possibly be evil; all of the Positivist philosophies search for stillness; Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism all glorify stillness and sanctify the non-action, the non-movement. Stillness is the thing I want the most.

Arabs have also said that death is a heavy sleep, and that sleep is a light death. I will sleep later then, and death anyway isn’t something bad. If death is a heavy sleep that a person that doesn’t wake up from, then I have nothing to fear, except that I’ve been seeing a lot of nightmares of drowning lately and I fear that they would follow me there.

I will indulge in the praise of death!

The word ‘death’ was mentioned in the Holy Qur’an in 161 places -or so I’ve read- and that ‘death’ always came before ‘life’ and this simply means that death is the beginning and the end, and that life is a middle ground between the two resting places. And now I stand on the edge of the middle world, staring at the abyss as it scowls in my face.

When I saw death for the first time, I was twelve years old. I was with my mother and two of my aunts in Al-Salehiya Mall, dinning in one of its restaurants. I wanted to go to the restroom and passed a dark and narrow corridor with a glass front that overlooked Al-Salehiya graveyard whose gravestones appeared in front me, filling the earth to the farthest I could see, filling the areas and excessively overflowing from the place was the assurance of the only truth that doesn’t accept refutations: the truth of demise. I didn’t know that the dead were this many!

I felt a spasm in my legs, I couldn’t move. I closed my eyes and blocked my ears with my hands, and sat on the ground in front of the glass wall that overlooked the graveyard. I began to whimper in the darkness of the lonely corridor; I wet my clothes, this is what I remember. Mom says that this is a thing of my imagination.

Every time I remembered our first meeting, Death, I wondered: if death is an instinct, Freud, then why is it terrifying to this extent? Death in our heads is always someone else’s death. After that evening, I used to often think: when would my grandma die? Mom? Uncles? I used to think of death as if it was a thing that concerned others, now I know that it concerns me more than it concerns them.

My life in the last year started scaring everyone so much that my imminent death seems like salvation. Why do I deviate from the topic? Why did I stop praising you, Death? Or is it that the enormity of your reality is what is taking over me now and is shaking my tenaciousness? That evening my mother kept complaining about the Mall’s management that gave us that grave view to the garden of nonentity. Does it make sense for one of Kuwait’s most classy, fancy, and expensive malls to overlook a graveyard? I found the matter extremely fitting; when a woman buys a Louis Vuitton bag for a thousand Dinars{5}, then ponders upon the graves of those who are gone, she’ll know then that that bag that she is feeling with her fingertips is a mere lie, that those graves are the only reality of our existence, and that death is our life’s ultimate goal.

Saying that death is an integral part of life is understandable, but saying that death is a being’s instinct is something else. We respond to instincts easily; we love to gratify and relish them. And if death was an inherited instinct in our bodies then why do we hate it so? I don’t think that we own an intuitive certainty in death. It’s most likely that we discover it through experience, just like I slammed into thousands of sprawling graves behind Al-Salehiya Mall and discovered the black hole in my heart.

I will indulge in the praise of death then. I will flirt and cajole with him, I will dig through all of my books and extract his appearances, manifestations, and circumstances. I will play with and tease him, I will read into his face, and ruminate upon his wisdom. I will make him much lighter and simpler.

Death is clear, life is ambiguous. Death is simple, life is complex. Death is a “strange world that the young are fascinated with”, and life is a frightening world that terrifies the adults!

I will indulge in the praise of death.

Your virtues are many, my Lord, for you allow the space for the newcomers and you gift them the areas when the earth narrows on the worlds because you make from our flesh a land, and from our soil the nourishment for crops, and on crops the animals feed, and the human feeds on crops and animals altogether. You are the unknown soldier that never ceased to faithfully serve humanity, and humanity never ceased to scorn his efforts and insist on its spite for him.

We did not give you your due appreciation, we didn’t thank your efforts, and we didn’t mention your virtues at all! We all owe you, Death, because you gave us a space to exist and room to live. You were never late in your work; you are always on time, working night and day with no vacations and no resting breaks. Not a moment passes when you are not taking a soul, and the most important thing is that you have to take the souls of beings, and nobody would take your soul, you poor fellow! You are sentenced to life, Death! I bet that every time you took a soul and released it to fly in the heavens free you wonder, “When is my turn going to come?” Your tragedy is so great, Death; everyone fears you and you have no friends, people avoid you as if you are leprous, people dislike mentioning you, and everybody keeps satirizing you. It would’ve been better for them to think upon your virtues, and to excessively praise you as I am doing, Death.

END OF POST #1.

——————-

Translator’s Notes:

{1} Abaya is a clothing garment that Arab women wear and that is most often black. Unlike how many westerners associate abayas with Islam, it’s more of a cultural symbol. Muslim women around the world don’t all wear abayas and aren’t required to in Islam per se.

{2} Ghutra is a head garment that Arab men wear. It comes in different colors and is most commonly worn by Khaleeji men (men of the Arab Gulf region) although it’s not restricted to them. It is mainly recognized by its white and red pattern (the more dominant type).

{3} I couldn’t find the English version of this quote so I had to make due with what I had and translated it from Arabic to English. So, it’s not a direct quote. Please tell me if you find the original one.

{4} Imam Ali is one of the many men whose life coincided with the prophet Mohammed’s. He was also Prophet Mohammed’s cousin and the fourth Caliphate after his death. Imam Ali was a wise man and whose sayings still circulate among the people.

{5} One Kuwaiti Dinar is equivalent to 3.54 USD.

New Project: ‘Aisha Descends into the Underworld’ by Buthaina Al-Eissa

ImageHi everyone! I want to mention a new project that I will be working on (this time a much longer book than TDoaEYP which is currently on hiatus) from a creative voice in the Arab world. I’ve read a book (more like booklet) by Buthaina Al-Eissa, a Kuwaiti writer, before this one that was basically a collection of extremely short stories that spanned a page or two at most and which I was completely absorbed by. Her prose was unlike anything I’ve read before in Arabic literature (not that I’ve read that much Arabic fiction anyway) and I added all of her books to my ‘to-read’ list.

Aisha Descends into the Underworld has been described by reviewers on Good Reads as a book about death and loss, and a journey that takes the readers into the depth of Aisha’s tired soul.

Here’s the blurb on the back of the book (which is actually the first lines of the book):

I am Aisha.
I will die in seven days.
And until then, I decided to write.
I don’t know how writing is supposed to start, probably from a place like this where everything leafs with doubt.

Writing seems to be the only thing I can do. I want to put the last period in the last sentence before I get swallowed by absence.
I have decided for my last days to be like this. I mean, like writing. A word is a fragile and tenuous creature, like me. And I, in my last days, wish to look like me as much as possible. I’m doing this for me; these papers, this writing, this wound: for me.

This writing is not a biography of my life. What has passed isn’t worthy of interest; everything is now done and finished. This writing goes nowhere and I don’t think I have lived a life that deserves to be documented. I am writing to be clear with myself, alone with myself, full of myself. This writing does not cure, but kills.

Death is good, and I wish for it with all my heart.

Diary of an Elderly Young Person (pg. 22-30) – part #3

I hope I am getting better with every update. I’m starting to get used to Subhi’s subtle humor and the ironic eye with which he looks at everything with. He often makes references to poets and songs so I thought that I’d write notes whenever I spot those references. Hope you enjoy part #3.

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Those Who Have Gone Astray

I start praying. I mumble ‘Al-Fatiha’ until I reach His saying: “nor those who have gone astray”.

Moments of peace, and I am living in the spaciousness of the words. I don’t know how lost do I need to be more in order to be one of those who have gone astray.

I swivel around in an orbit of questions, and there are no answers except for circles of dull words that don’t satisfy me or please me.

[T/N: Al-Fatiha is the first chapter of the Qura’an that is composed of seven short verses. These verses ask God for guidance and the two last verses in Al-Fatiha are: “Guide us to the Right Path. The path of those upon whom Thou has bestowed favors, Not of those who Thou has cursed once nor of those who have gone astray.” I hope this sheds light to Subhi’s thoughts.]

*

What Is Worth Living

Forced silence.

I dive in the last of my academic swamps, and take another step on the road to freedom.

Mahmoud Darwish raises his voice, “On this Earth, there is what is worth living.”

I try to earnestly believe him, but with there’s no use.

 [T/N: Darwish was a Palestinian poet who often wrote of freedom and politics.]

*

Diary of an Elderly Young Person

The remains of cups of used stimulants rest next to the poetry volumes of Amal Dungul. I immerse myself in a swamp of chemical compounds and a creative chaos of papers.

A faint tempo morning…

A tired self and eyes closed from the past and present.

The tired lungs rinses itself from the warm color, the poison is blown out, the closed door and the eyes and the sounds all fade, and I die on the stairs.

God damn it, today’s the exam.

*

Morning Rituals

Waking up early.

A traditional European breakfast: toast crowned with Dutch butter and some processed mango juice. A mental and physical relaxation.

A glance at the road empty from passersby from my big balcony, a partial separation from myself and others. I immerse myself in details; I recall Khalid’s verses:

“Every morning I remove myself from my nostalgia,

I put out some of my remaining flames,

I wipe away the rust of sorrow,

I forget that you were my homeland.”

A deep breath; the air here is so clean to the point that it’s worrying.

The sound of the National Geographic channel urges me to more knowledge, to feel more alive.

A quick scanning of newspapers, and some morning greetings from friends that are seperated from me by three thousand kilometers, joined by a combination of electronic chips and optical fibers.

Good Morning.

*

About Government Departments

Your papers don’t move, unless you move them yourself.

Government employee: is that person whose appreciation towards himself increases peerlessly when he proves to you that the paper is missing a “signature” or a “permit”, or maybe his self-appreciation increases even more if he proved to you that the permit’s form is incorrect and that you have to go in another vicious cycle.

Director of any person’s office: is often a person who has an inferiority complex and worships routine, and, in most cases, an idiot.

Nepotism: a crown on the heads of toll-collectors that is not felt by anyone except for those in the government departments.

Pharmacist: a person that feels a rising appreciation inside of government departments in exchange for passing a strip of ‘tramadol’.

The Eagle Seal: it’s what turns a paper filled with chicks’ scrawls into a gold key.

If you thought that you finished, then know that you’ll be starting all over again.

Come tomorrow: the most famous catchphrase inside any government office, and right now, there are several substitutes like: “Are you in a hurry? If you have something to do, then go and do it then come back”, or “Leave it to me for a while”, or lately, “Ms. Tufeeda is not here today”.

Be a man, and go around in the government departments.

*

The Falling of Blackberry Leaf

Have you ever had the chance to see a very tempting back for which you give half a smile that announces a mixture of the Joker’s slyness and George Bush’s happiness in his invasion of Iraq, and then you proceed and lift your hand with everything you’ve got before “planting” it right on someone’s back on the basis that he is Mohammed, the son of Mrs. Laila, and when he turns around and reveals his fangs to find that he is Mohammed indeed, only he’s the son of El-Shahaat Mabrook -supposing that he has kids- and he goes on to give you a valuable lesson in manners in a practical way?

The funny thing is that you will try to make him sympathesize with you a lot; you will mention to him how “helpless” you are, and how you can’t “hurt” a fly, and that you can barely watch wrestling on TV without fainting. You will tell him about Mohammed, the son of Mrs. Laila, and how similar he is to him, and about Mrs. Laila herself and the party on Friday. You will tell him about the ‘Tae Kwan Do’ belt that you pretend to be the world champion with, and about your morning Foul sandwitch.

You will cry a lot so he wouldn’t harm you.

You will strip away from the lies that are wrapped around you, until the last blackberry leaf falls, and you find yourself completely naked in front of the truth!

Only then will you realize how much resounding falling is.

Diary of an Elderly Young Person (pg. 13-21) – post #2

T/N: Hey! Back with another translation of DoaEYP (long title XP) and I am so incredibly excited that I’m in a pretty good mood for doing this. I think this second post is smoother because I’m starting to get the hang of this. 🙂 So, enjoy Subhi’s thought process~ This is when things begin to get a bit more interesting. What is next picks up from where the first post ended.

Departure

Sometimes our fear of losing others -by their choice- stands as a wall between us and them to the point that it forces us to lose them by our own choosing because we fear that moment when they decide to abandon us.

*

Hamlet

Alone in my room, I unburden myself of the heaviness of details, the length and remoteness of distances, and the aches of the soul. Tired, the flu leaves a rampant stale taste in my mouth; a thousand daggers pierce my throat, and the coughing is almost ripping my chest apart.  I take two tablets of painkillers, and then I drink a cup of warm Anise tea that might reach my frozen insides that yearn for warmth.

I become nothingness itself…a short sigh, and an aspiration for the comfort of naught.

*

Life For Beginners

I have said it before: Truth is, nobody cares!

And another poet has said it in an eloquent Arabic language a thousand years ago: “Don’t complain to people about a wound that belongs to you; the wound hurts no one except for he who has the pain.”

I might have said to him amiably, “A bit of pain is alright, but what do you do about the ache?”

Pain passes; it comes and goes. However, we get completely crushed under the umbrella of the resident ache. Wounds do heal, but aches are chronic, eating away at the soul.

The problem is, we -unconsciously and involuntarily- exaggerate our expectations of other people’s responses beyond reason. We place ourselves in high positions; we think that our actions, words, absence, presence has an exaggerated effect although nothing changes in the universe. We expect others to die because of a disaster that befalls us, because of losing someone precious to us, because of an academic fall back, or for any vice of life’s many vices.

We go and then we return, feeling the features of the road, looking hard for what has changed although the time of absence has been very short…to find that people still go to their work, still throw old jokes, eat popcorn, and watch TV whether we are there or not.

No one will feel for you when your father leaves without a good bye, or when he passes away and he’s not content with you, or when your faith gets crushed under the pressure of consecutive disappointments, or when you lose your best friend–the list  goes a long way. These are aches you can’t only bear with others’ temporary warmth, and any words of sharing would seem trite no matter how articulate they are.

Even the moments of true sharing in the most sincere cases stay below previous personal expectations; people will pat your shoulders, trying to give you some temporary warmth, and they’ll disappear for you to understand on your own that nothing changes in the alphabet of life!

*

Spanish

I was extremely afraid to fail academically, so I found myself in my final year giving way to one of the stylish girls that were once classmates in one class to correct the “bio-calibrations” section that I strongly detest in the practical booklet.

*

Innocence

They whispered.

She appeared to be scared and confused; she stood in the center and they surrounded her, trying to give her internal reassurance.

She yelled, “I’m going to tell him what, exactly?!”

“Alright, alright; don’t be scared. Tell him ‘hello, can I talk to you for a bit?'”

She stood in complete stillness; it seemed to me that she was trying to re-shoot the scene, and then she backed away. They started pushing her until she found herself in front of him.

He was sitting and looked to me like an ice cube.

She was at the peak of her clutter, and he was at the pinnacle of his calmness. She stopped a meter away from him and has fallen silent completely.

*

A Yellow Flower

We sat together on a wooden chair that emitted a distasteful creak sound that we were used to sit on. He took out his American cigarettes and a Qura’an that he always kept in his left pocket. He straightened his position in his chair.

He hid his eyes, and told me in sound English and a shaky voice:

I’m falling in love again.

*

Cordelia

Dear Cordelia,

I am fine, but I am still going around in vicious cycles with a short breath.

I still keep my boring daily routine and bad habits–not to mention a little doll of a bear that is called ‘Mega’ that rests on my desk, which I received as a present from a Canadian colleague in the occasion of Vancouver’s Olympics. I put in his hand a small flag of Holland that I’ve keeping since my last visit to the Magyar.

My lust for writing has stopped, and my desire was extinguished in the midst of my intellectual drought. I don’t know why and for how long; I’m not even excited to know the answer, and I live in a state of a metaphysical wait for everything. But I think I’ve come a long way in the matter of autism with myself after countless debates, and an internal practice of a settling disputes policy, or mitigating them for a while. One of its results was that we grew closer a little although it is -most often- nauseating.

I got a cat that I named after you, but they don’t stop calling her with another silly name with the excuse that it is much easier. I watch the falling of papers from the wall calendar passionately even though the days are extremely similar in a pathetic way.

I received violent shocks in the level of my expectations from others, and especially from the people around me. I became terribly austere when it came to asking for happiness, which I barely believe with a fragile faith in its existence, all fittingly because it’s rare. I still take lots of stimulants, I’m surrounded by many papers, and I am looking forward to buy a new android phone as soon as possible.

Sincerely Yours.

Diary of an Elderly Young Person (pgs. 1-12) – post #1

Before we start:

This is my first ever official post and I hope this is a good beginning. 🙂 Amr Subhi writes very philosophically and with a hint of poetry beneath his words. I hope you enjoy his strange musings and thoughts just as much as I did when I first read them. Over.

DIARY OF AN ELDERLY YOUNG PERSON

AMR SUBHI

APRIL 2011

*

This work is basically a light collection of unconnected thoughts that were mostly published on the internet at different times over the years.

*

To my tainted innocence, to the lines of time engraved in the details of my face, and to my biggest losses in the stock market of life.

–Amr Subhi

*

Five Years of Isolation

I write now -as I’m sharing myself, my dreams, and my hopes- a justified anxiety and a screaming sadness. I don’t know why I write, and to whom I write. The intentions have differed but the writing is one.

Previously, I used to write to enjoy what temporary bliss writing provided for me, yet now, the idea of sharing with everyone reports of my sadness, happiness, and endless misfortunes doesn’t appeal to me. But I write for my soul to get rid of the smugness of discretion and its cold rituals. I started digging in yesterday’s desert for answers to absent questions.

Five years ago, I entered this place uncaring. My memory now wanders around hundreds of faces and places and tens of exams that tear my heart. My crying so violent that I thought I would die from it several times, the volumes of poetry, and the sighs of love–all of these memories emerge and I close the door in their faces with what little faith I have, a scattering of will, and a little conviction.

Girls here are -all in all- infuriatingly repetitive, typical to the point of boredom, and an example of a girl that passed from high school with a high average to a place that she knows nothing of except for the smell of chloral hydrate and course papers.

She studies and waits for a husband that would accomplish for her the feminine dream…and the opening of a pharmacy!

I own a ruined heart that was always a hotbed to a chaos of emotions, but they were the greatest abettors for me to stay. I practiced the worship of discretion to the extent that it keeps you behind the lines of time, surrounded by thoughts that you wrestle frequently in a fight that -most often- ends in the thoughts winning. And despite the fact that I spent a long time making conditional peace with myself and adapting to my aborted dreams, I decided to reconcile with myself by sharing what is left of my concerns and thoughts.

–Amr

*

We Have Our Pains, And You Have Yours

A start

He has no idea how much time it cost for sleep to bless him with its charity. He lies half-drugged, unprovoked by the ticking of the clock or the sun’s rays.

He greets the sun: ‘Sad morning’ and she greets him back with something even better: ‘Morning of pain’.

A repeated and duplicated morning in the honor of sadness.

People sleep and their souls are taken, then they are sent back once again for them to practice pretending to be alive. His soul is sent back in a lackluster way for him to ask himself in sarcastic, artificial excitement, “How much is left of today?”

Worn down to the brink of pain…

He doesn’t feel any desire to leave his coffin; he stares at the wall as if waiting for a miracle from heaven, trying to unburden himself from the heaviness of the memories’ pain on his shoulders.

Nothing hurts more than trying to lessen the pain.

He feels the birth of two tears -furtively- in his sockets before they commit suicide in misery on his cheeks.

*

Wonder

What is up with our joy hugging the thorn of sorrows?

*

She complains to him about her pain, and he assures her that “we are all equal in pain”.

This time he is incapable of counting the generated teardrops; he only feels them make their way through his face that was hardened by sadness and tired from crying, and tastes their salty taste on the edges of his lips.

The memory of things returned, flying around him, and his hands don’t move to get rid of its traces.

She assures him, “It’s enough that it fell away from you, for it might wash from the soul what it desired”

He is worn down from crying.

She retreats, “It might hurt now and then become a philosophy”.

He remains silent for a while, and then he looks at her and she realizes that he has believed in pain and blasphemed the philosophy.

*

Philosophy

(Ask death about you)…Ask the fake joy

(Ask sorrow about you)…Ask the still tear

(Ask happiness about you)…Ask the scared happiness

–Khalid Saleem

He asks her not to carry burdens over her burdens. He passes his hand over her head and whispers in her ear, “There is someone who sins as much as closing the door, and someone who sins as much as opening it widely!”

He knows that there are souls that are still pure despite the pollution of the present and who haven’t lost their virginity on the hands of experience–except the fact that it is not for them two.

The beginning of the matter is like its end, and its end like its beginning; circles of carefully aged pain that never end.

Together they scour the depths of sorrow and the labyrinths of pain looking for hints of breezes of hope, but they don’t get anything but more…pain.

To continue reading: post #2.