Friday Finds: Zakariya Tamer’s ‘The Policeman and the Horse’

Clayton Clark’s translation of Zakariya Tamer’s “The Policeman and the Horse” — which originally appeared in Banipal — has been republished by Short Story Project:

Cheval utilisé pour le transport à Alep en Syrie, from Wikipedia.

The story was published in Tamer’s 1970 collection, Al-Ra’d (The Thunder), and — like many of Tamer’s stories — combines a folktale-esque anthropomorphization, in this case of a horse, with socio-philosophical issues (the horse complains that “justice is lost”) and sharp observations of human behavior, as when he notes how the people stared both fearfully and desirously at the dead policeman’s body, “as if the crushed policeman was the body of a beautiful woman.”

It opens:

Abu Mustafa parked his carriage next to the sidewalk. With a large, gnarled hand he patted his horse’s head, then headed into the nearby shop. He began hoisting bags of firewood on his back and carrying them to the carriage.

The horse was angry for no reason. But his anger began to subside after finding a piece of watermelon rind that he chomped in silence.

Suddenly the horse noticed a small boy standing nearby, staring at him and smiling. The horse said to himself: “I don’t know this boy. If he comes closer, I will kick him. I will kick a kick that’ll break his head.”

ReadThe Policeman and the Horse” online.