Egyptian writer Muhammad Mustajab is a delightful and under-appreciated crafter of short stories:
Over at Youssef Rakha’s Cosmopolitan Hotel, Robin Moger has brought together two short stories — “The Guide” and “A List of Cuts” — that were part of a series published in Al Thaqafa magazine in 1975, and later collected in Al Qissas Al Ukhra (or The Other Stories).
“The Guide” begins:
He wandered into my path. My shoulder knocked into his shoulder and we smiled or apologised. The traffic, he said. I walked on. He turned and followed me. He said again, The traffic. I moved to the kerb and waited. He said shyly, I’m looking for the university placement office? He held out a piece of paper. I didn’t look at the piece of paper. He said, My eldest boy. He said, I’m from Tanta. He said, It’s cold. The traffic.
“A List of Cuts” opens:
Come quickly. Reading the telegram’s summons, it never occurred to me that I would find him murdered. That I would find my father, murdered.
There is also a delightful and weird collection of Mustajab’s work, translated by Humphrey Davies, Tales from Dayrut: Egyptian Stories.