Sunday, August 3, 2014

On the Coffee Table: Zakaria Tamer

Title: Tigers on the Tenth Day and Other Stories
Author: Zakaria Tamer
via Tower Books
Syrian Zakaria Tamer is one of the most important living writers in the Arab world.  His short stories - and they are, indeed, quite short - have the feel of folk tales.  Most in this collection are obvious allegories for cruel, oppressive government.  The "Tigers on the Tenth Day" tale itself reveals how the will of a tiger in the zoo is broken down to the point where his cage is no longer necessary.  He instead becomes a citizen.

Another story, "The Ancient Gate," addresses western involvement in the Middle East.  In it, a drunken blond soldier confronts a man and woman in the street.  The situation turns ugly quickly.  Bear in mind, the English-language collection was published in 1985, well before the first Gulf War.

The stories generally have a darker tone but much of the imagery is quite lovely.  From "A Lone Woman":
Breathing heavily, motionless, Aziza felt her fear dwindle.  Leisurely, she experienced a delirium with a new flavour.  Smiling, laughing she beheld white stars and a dark blue sky, yellow plains and a sun of red fire.  Aziza heard the purling of a distant river.  The river.  Far away it was.  It would not remain far away.  She laughed joyfully.  Sadness was a child who ran away from her.
The collection was translated by Denys Johnson-Davies.

6 comments:

  1. Beautiful line about sadness.

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    1. Isn't it? This is not the most cheerful book but some of the lighter moments are truly elegant.

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  2. The writing is almost poetic. Sounds like an interesting book!

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    1. Arabic literature has a rich poetic tradition that has undoubtedly influenced fiction writers considerably.

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  3. This writer is uniquely elegant. Lovely!

    Cherdo
    www.cherdoontheflipside.com

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