Friday Finds: ‘The Cloven Man’

In honor of Iraqi writer Diaa Jubaili‘s longlisting for the 2018 Almultaqa Prize for the Arabic Short Story, we spotlight his The Cloven Man: Six ways of crossing borders illegally, translated by Yasmeen Hanoosh, which appears on Banipal:

The section opens:

The Iraq-Syria Border

I wonder if my Chechen killer has read The Cloven Viscount. I wanted to ask him, but I couldn’t, being no longer alive as he cleaved my body with his electric saw into two symmetrical halves. The wind was circling in spirals that sent dirt up toward the grey sky, forming a ceiling of dust over this borderland, making it look like a scene from the apocalypse. Once the cleaving operation was over, my Chechen killer performed his ablutions and noon prayer, and then his Afghani colleague invited him to lunch.

I heard them arguing about me.

The Afghani was wondering how to tell my Sunni half from my Shi’i half. The Chechen said that the left half is Sunni, but the Afghani disagreed. He argued that lefties are from hell, as is said in the Qur’an. The Chechen objected: “So what do you want us to say to our fellow mujahideen? We brought you a right half without a heart?”

“Look who’s talking about hearts!” said the Afghani sarcastically. “And what did your heart tell you when you cleaved this man in two?”

The Chechen was vexed, practically tearing out the hairs of his yellow beard: “You told me to do it.”

“Really?!” the Afghani scoffed. “And would you have killed yourself if I’d told you to do that?”

“Yes, I would’ve!” The Chechen answered defiantly.

“Well then,” the Afghani challenged him. “Show me that you’re a man!”

Keep reading on Banipal.