Yesterday, Palestinian writer Huzama Habayeb was awarded the 2017 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature:
Today, we have four short works by Habayeb in English translation.
The Best Night, translated Mona Zaki, for Banipal:
Abu Shawkat paused in the telling of his titillating story (its explicit nature demanded privacy). He sat back, leaving a gap in the almost closed circle of heads. For the old-timers of the coffee shop, their desire to know what happened had become a burning, tantalising compulsion that cooled somewhat when Abu Shawkat paused. Abu Faraj took a nervous drag from his cigarette and then ground its glowing butt under his heel. Abu Riyad irritably tapped his fingers on the table, and carried on doing it more loudly and insistently. Abu Hafez scratched his balls beneath the table with one hand and with the other straightened his coarse moustache. Abu Shadi wiped away the sweat trickling down his neck. As the coffee boy approached Abu Shawkat’s table with the tray of orders, the circle of heads filled with risquÈ images parted unwillingly and waited patiently for him to leave so that they could regroup. Deliberately and slowly the coffee boy handed round the orders. Keep reading.
A Thread Snaps, translated by Catherine Cobham, published in Qissat: Short Stories by Palestinian Women, edited by Jo Glanville.
From the novel – When the Queen Falls Asleep translated by John Peate, for Banipal:
I quit my room, laden with two suitcases: one was filled with some of our clothes – yours and mine; the other, smaller one had your first picture in it. There you were: a one day old creature of delight, enclosed in a frame. There was a photo album, too, recording the time when your days were indissoluble from mine, along with your teething ring, two feeding bottles, half a dozen containers of Similac formula, four packs of Cerelac with wheat and rice, four cartons of Milupa tea, a bag of nappies and four bottles of mineral water. Hanging off my shoulder was my leather college bag, filled with my first short stories, a file of papers, documents and certificates relating to me and my siblings and a little money for unknown times ahead. Queen of my heart, if only we could have packed our homeland and all my shattered feelings into Dad’s car too, the red second-hand Nissan which bore us off to Basra. Keep reading.
One Afternoon, translated by Mona Zaki, for Banipal:
Just like every afternoon, he was sitting on the large sofa in the corner of the narrow balcony. He was the one who had insisted on keeping it – a remnant of an old suite the family had exchanged three years earlier for a newer model half the size. The sofa’s spongy filling was perfect, as was its hard back and broad arm rests which allowed him to spread out comfortably. Keep reading.