Friday Finds: ‘Bahaa and Shareef Escape to New York,’ from Ezzedine Choukri Fishere’s ‘All That Rot’
The November issue of Words Without Borders boasts an excerpt from Ezzedine Choukri Fishere’s كل هذا الهراء [Kol Haza al-Haraa], translated by Jonathan Smolin:
The novel, published in 2017, should be one of the 124 novels in the running for this year’s International Prize for Arabic Fiction, as Fishere gets a free pass in after being longlisted for his Intensive Care (2009) and shortlisted for his Embrace at Brooklyn Bridge (2012). His subsequent novel, Exit Door, was expected on the 2013 longlist, but was, for whatever reason, not there.
As far as I know, the rights to Kol Haza al-Haraa (or All That Rot in my fickle translation) are still available.
The excerpt opens:
Shareef can’t believe how much he loves Bahaa and how little he cares about the consequences. This love was maybe his last chance to get a good grip on his emotional security and self-confidence. But to do that, Shareef knew he had to do something else—he had to come out of the closet. The problem was that Bahaa wanted to keep their relationship secret, something that Shareef grumbled about constantly. And, over time, Shareef’s grumblings turned into rejection, then rebellion and, finally, crisis.
The crisis started the day after Mother’s Day, when the family celebrated Shareef’s mother’s sixtieth birthday. She tells Shareef that she’s got a bride for him. He’ll propose to her and they’ll get married after he graduates, she says. Shareef tells Bahaa he can’t keep living in the closet and he needs them to come out once and for all. Bahaa looks at him for a long time—he knows Shareef’s serious since he constantly brings it up—but this time, from his tone of voice and the look on his face, he senses something’s different. Bahaa objects and tries to make Shareef understand that it’ll be suicide and that it’s not just about him but about Bahaa too, their families, friends, and a whole society with all its cultural and historical garbage piled up through the ages.
But Shareef’s determined. And Bahaa keeps objecting. He tells Shareef he’s looking at the situation through his own eyes, not from the perspective of his lover. Bahaa takes Shareef by the shoulders and, laughing, says he has to stop playing leading man and try to see things from someone else’s point of view. But Shareef’s not listening. He defends himself and his idea passionately, not leaving any room for argument. Bahaa understands his choices: either give in to Shareef and head off on this potentially dangerous adventure or back out calmly then and there. That’ll be painful but he’ll live. And Shareef will eventually understand why he couldn’t go along with it.
Also on ArabLit:
From Mada Masr: