9 Short Stories by Kuwaiti Women, in Translation

This year, we continue our Women in Translation Month (#WiTMonth) Wednesday series of “9 Stories” lists.

In 2021, we featured short fiction by Sudanese and South Sudanese women, by Algerian women, by Egyptian women, and by Syrian women, all in translation.

In 2022, we added a short collections of work by Palestinian women writers,by Lebanese women writers, by Moroccan women writers, and by Iraqi women writers, also in translation.

This year’s first collection is of short stories by Kuwaiti women writers, with special gratitude to The Common for publishing more than half of them in their excellent 25th issue. For more context on the Kuwaiti short story, read Haifa al-Sanousi’s “The Kuwaiti Short Story – 1947-1985,” I Tijani’s “The Kuwaiti Female Literary Tradition: An Overview” and “Male Domination, Female Fury In Kuwaiti Women’s Short Stories.”

Dear Customer,” by Basima al-Enezi, tr. Sawad Hussain, in The Common. It opens:

Even not-happily-ever-after endings are preceded by a certain amount of speculation about what is to come. As a matter of course, all the important changes in organizational structure and relevant administrative decisions take place on the last Thursday of each month, ushered in by a few days heavy with anticipation and flare-ups among the employees.

Berber Perfumes,” by Hooda Shawa Qaddumi , tr. Nariman Youssef, in The Common. It opens:

They say that, sometime at the end of the nineteenth century, a woman came on a wooden ship from Najd, married a wealthy man from the island, and, when she didn’t conceive, had a maqam built on the ruins of a pagan temple near the cliffs of the shore. Having had a dream where a man holding a staff spoke to her, the woman then named the maqam after the mystic Al-Khidr.

The Eid Bisht,” by Laila al-Othman, tr. in A Taste of Today’s Gulf Literature

That afternoon, my father set off for his real estate office as usual. He always came home in the evenings after the evening prayer, but if he had errands to run, he would let my mother know beforehand so she would not worry. After carefully lock- ing the door, soft echoes of her daily prayers would reach my ears: “May God save you and grant you great wealth and good fortune.” Filled with contentment, she would turn and go back inside the house.

The Kitchen,” by Estabraq Ahmad, tr. maia tabet, in The Common. It opens:

During her worst fits, my waters couldn’t drown out her cries. Stacking plates, cups, spoons, and knives, her fists flailed against the sides of my bowl; she’d stare at the gushing water stream, her head slackened against her chest.

Vermilion Daze,” also by Estabraq Ahmad, tr. Sawad Hussain, in The Common. It opens:

In your stained dishdasha, drooping collar, and sneakers with grimy laces, you stand waiting. You see him poring over a faded paper, its lines glowing red with numbers and scribbles. The paper yells: Overdue payment!

Black Kohl…White Heart,” by Mona Al-Shammari, tr. Sophia Vasalou, in Banipal. It opens:

She steps out of the bathroom fully dressed, looking like the sun on a hot midday, dazzling in her radiance, and strolls to her room.

The Half-Hearted City,” by Bothayna Al-Essa, tr. Sawad Hussain, in The Common. It opens:

In those days, everyone had the right to have feelings.
It was natural to feel things, and the right thing to do about your feelings was to make them known. Feelings were plenty, but broadly they were segregated into two groups: Love and Fear. 
In those days, there was only one way you could sin: by faking your feelings.

The Ringing Body,” by Fatima Yousef al-Ali, tr. William Hutchins, in WWB. It opens:

She always recognized them by the  trembling behind their bravado. From his first “Hello” she was certain  he wasn’t one of them . . . that he had meant to call her, in particular.

A Man’s Staff,” also by Fatima Yousef al-Ali, tr. William Hutchins, in WWB. It opens:

I don’t know why I was upset when my husband reached for the stick, grasping it and starting to twist it around. I gave him a warning look, but Ahmad is extremely proficient at avoiding my warning looks. Pretending to address my words to my father, although my goal was to nip this initiative in the bud, I said, “You must have brought that back as a souvenir of your trip. How much did you pay for it?”