بالأمس القريب، كتبت أن منصورة عز الدين تكتب احسن مني، و هذا ليس بمجاملة أو مديح، ظننت—و مازلت اظن—أن جكمي هذا موضوعي بحت، كما أن منصورة لن تحتاج شهادتي ككافكا أو كامو ( و بالطبع انا لست سابقي الذكر تحت أي مقياس)، أن منصورة لها محبيها و قارئيها، و من يهتم بابداعها الرائق الصاف مثل الجامعة الامريكية التي ستصدر لها الترجمة الانجليزية لروايتها—التي اعتبرها مهمة للغاية— "متاهة مريم" في مارس 2007 إن شاء الله، و احتفاء نادي القلم الدولي بنشر قصة لها في العدد الجديد من مجلته، برفقة كتاب مثل باموق و جونتر جراس.
القصة بعنوان "صداع"، و صدرت ضمن مجموعة منصورة الأولى "ضوء مهتز" عن دار ميريت، و ترجمها إلى الانجليزية د. بول ستاركي.
ألف مبروك يا منصورة.
Found in Translation
UNBUTTONING THE VIOLIN
In August 2006 four young authors from the heart of the Arab world toured the UK with
Banipal Live 2006. We reproduce here examples of the work of each of them, republished
with kind permission of Banipal from Unbuttoning the Violin, published by Banipal
Books for the Banipal Live tour of the UK, 14–20 August
the British Council and The Reading Agency, and generously supported by Arts Council
The sunlight hit you like a truth you were trying unsuccessfully to ignore. You
woke to find yourself on the Corniche, sprawled out on a wooden bench that
had stood for years fixed to the ground.
It was nearly seven in the morning and the cold air was searing you, while
your head felt like a piece of ice shattering under a powerful hammer.
You remembered you’d been walking along drunk with your friend at three
in the morning, when suddenly you decided to flop out like that until daybreak.
You weren’t ready to face a father who’d curse and scold you before throwing
you out of the house, when his nose caught the smell of the vast quantities of
whisky your friend had bought from the Free Zone for the two of you to swig.
It was a drinking ritual that wasn’t complete for either of you unless the other
one was there.
He failed to persuade you that you shouldn’t sleep in the street in this bitter
wintry weather and after a heated argument, as always happens when the
two of you get drunk, he abandoned you with a laugh. You could find no excuse
for this when you sat down later. You were racking your brain to remember the
details of what had happened since you took the first swig from the bottle of
Red Label until he left you and got into the first taxi he could find. You let out a
yawn as you struggled to move from a lying position to a sitting position on the
wooden bench and smiled with the contentment of a man who has woken to
find himself in his own warm bed. An old beggar was sleeping curled up a few
yards away and a large cat crossed the street. Meanwhile, you were busily trying
to work out how many people had greeted the light of day sprawled out where
you were now, since the time when someone had installed a number of benches
– perhaps for passers-by like yourself to sleep on – and he too had passed on to
God knows where.
But why should you bother about the number of these idiots with this headache
that’s practically splitting your head apart? It’s a good thing you’ve decided
to go home on foot. A walk in this foggy morning weather might help you wake
up. Why are you rubbing your forehead like that?
You’ve forgotten the way to the tumbledown house with seven storeys. What
a mess you’re in now! You’re sticking to the wooden bench more than before.
You almost let out a mocking laugh, but it was nipped in the bud by the fear that
suddenly swelled up.
You haven’t lost your memory, as happens in those film melodramas with
flimsy plots. You’ve just forgotten your way home, though apart from that you’ve
been remembering everything in the smallest detail.
A thick fog was settling over a small part of your brain. The paths of memory
began to expand for a short time, then quickly contracted in on themselves,
leading you nowhere. You sat down cross-legged, ignoring the speeding cars,
squatting like some ancient scribe, trying to utilize the smallest details to recall
the things that were eluding you. Dark steps, with no precise colour, that you
never succeeded in counting despite your unceasing attempts. You used to go
up them backwards, with your hand over your eyes, perhaps to avoid looking at
Aunt Amal, the daughter of Madame Jean, your neighbour on the upper floor
who always walked in a hurry looking intensely serious and who never paid you
You often made fun of Amal – of the fact that she wasn’t married and of how
she looked at you. The look had slowly turned into a frown, and you had started
to feel an obscure sadness whenever her eyes met yours because she had made
you realize that the things that are lost to us are not lost like that, all at once and
forever. Rather, they seep away slowly until we come up against their loss in a
frowning look in place of the old sparkle in eyes we know well.
Her brother Samih had gone out to play in the street when your mother
asked you to bring her ‘two cloves of garlic from Aunt Jean’. You prepared yourself
for the shudder that would come over you when you entered their flat,
which was in perpetual darkness. Aunt Amal opened the door for you with the
mischievous look she used to have, and the young boy that was you turned
his eyes from her breast which was visible through her flimsy nightdress. She
closed the door and dragged you into the bedroom where another woman was
lying on the bed, almost naked. Amal dragged you towards her and gave you
a long, greedy kiss while the other girl clapped delightedly. You felt that you
could hardly stand up, there was so much pleasure hidden in that magic thing,
but you also felt extremely embarrassed. Your intuition told you that what had
happened somehow or other concealed a deep mockery of you, and you became
quite certain of it when her friend shouted in an insolent voice, ‘What’s up, son?
Why don’t you grow up a bit?’ Before you realized, you were running down the
stairs. You continued to avoid Aunt Amal for a long time, though you had meanwhile
found your way to other women, while she became more and more of a
confirmed spinster. No one was to blame. Suddenly, your friend’s laugh burst
out in your head . . . Why do you suppose he laughed at you like that? Try to
guess! Have you forgotten the spectre of the woman that flitted before you in
that rundown bar? – the ‘champagne lady’ as you called her.
She belonged to your friend originally, until he passed her on to you in a
vague fit of boredom . . . and you skilfully picked her up like a player receiving the ball. At first, you didn’t have any strong feelings for her, though you
kept up your relationship with her for a whole year before he bet you (again,
with no excuse) a bottle of champagne that he could take her back from you.
If he failed, he’d pay for it, and if he succeeded you’d buy it. You had to pay
a tidy sum from your wages for him to taste his success with champagne, and
for some time he had to avoid mentioning anything to do with her in front of
you, though later you began to talk about her again in passing if the occasion
demanded. To ensure the friendship continued, you both persuaded yourselves
that what had happened was just a passing distraction. A woman, no matter how
important, would never make one of you lose the other. You pretended you had
been wanting to escape from her, while the part he played in this story – often
repeated between you, though sometimes with roles reversed – was the part
of the noble saviour who had rescued you from her before you were killed by
boredom. A relative stability returned to the supposed friendship. But what was
it that brought her spectre to dance between you again?
Don’t walk so fast, you hardly know where you’re going, you’ve forgotten
the way home.
Are you trying to run away from my nagging? Leave your head on the asphalt
in the street, then, for the speeding cars to crush. Stop your evasions and tell me
the truth about that woman. Don’t make do with the few meagre lines you’re
trying to summarize your relationship with Amal with. Why have you stopped
walking? What are these outbursts of raucous laughter from you? Here you are,
still walking through the middle of the crowd. Your friend is staggering along
beside you, the champagne lady’s walking confidently between the two of you,
and behind you Aunt Amal is hurrying along undisturbed, with her ridiculous
spectacles. You can see yourself becoming detached from yourself, breaking
away over and over again so that hundreds of little selves are formed out of you
and disperse in the air. That way you can watch the scene far better . . . and the
variety of viewpoints will certainly assist you.
translated by Paul Starkey
Credit: Original story © Mansoura Ez-Eldin,
translation copyright © Paul Starkey