Lit & Found: Haytham El-Wardany’s ‘The Suspended Step’

This short story — by the acclaimed and beloved Egyptian writer Haytham el-Wardany — appears in Frieze magazine in vibrant, sonic translation by Katharine Halls.

The Suspended Step” opens:

I sat in the shade at the tram stop, smoking a cigarette and watching the heavy traffic that clogged the street. The heat was so intense that the tarmac surface in front of the stop had softened, taking on the imprints of thousands of tyres. The waves of noise washing over and around me were becoming more and more intense despite the dead weight of the heat, seeming to rise and fall and fragment into millions of details, millions of tiny specks of sound ricocheting in every direction. The whine of engine belts, the squeal of brakes, the clank of tram carriages, the hacking of exhausts, the blare of horns, the hiss of overheating motors, children screaming and adults yelling, a murmur of conversation from people sitting nearby. The sounds jostled and overlapped and competed and diverged inside my ears while I sat in silence, until I had finished my cigarette and disposed of the stub with a flick of the thumb and index finger that sent it flying into the gutter. Just as I stood up and found my balance, ready to move on, I had a sudden sense that something dangerous and momentous had happened inside me, which then hardened without any obvious cause into the certainty that I was leaving myself behind at this spot for the rest of time, casting my selfhood away and leaving it to disintegrate amid the rising tide of noise that filled the street. I don’t know what happened, exactly, but I knew then that whatever it was, there was no erasing it or going back.

Read the whole story at Frieze.

Also by El-Wardany:

What Happens When We Sleep?” translated by Robin Moger

Mr. Fahmi Rides the Metro” translated by Katharine Halls