9 Short Stories by Jordanian 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 curated collection is of short stories by Kuwaiti women writers, and our second is short stories by Jordanian women. For more Jordanian writing in translation, check out Snow in Amman: An Anthology of Short Stories from Jordan, edited and translated by I. Rida Mahmood and Alexander Haddad. The anthology includes works by Basma el-Nsour, Magdalene Abu el-Rub, Asmaa al Mallah, Manal Hamdi, and Julnar Zain, among others.

Photo of Amman by dimitrisvetsikas1969.

Thus far, most of the short stories by Jordanian women available online are by Basma El-Nsour, a leading short-story writer admired in Jordan and beyond. There are also a few others by Maheera Migdadi, Jamila Amaireh, Haifa’ Abul-Nadi, Majidah al-Outoum, and Fairooz Tamimi. Our nine:

(1) The Scorpion,” by Basma El-Nsour. tr.  I. Rida Mahmood and Marcia Lynx Qualey. It opens:

“He squirmed a bit, feeling heavy all over, and opened his eyes. They were full of wrath, and it was with great difficulty that he raised his palm and brushed off the layers of dust that had gathered on his eyelids, struggling to move his stiff body. It wasn’t easy. When he stretched out an arm in search of his pack of cigarettes, he glimpsed his naked body,  just the remnants of a thick white cloth that had been wrapped around him. He looked around with contempt.”

(2) Disappointments (and a Few Clarifications),” also by Basma El-Nsour, tr. Andrew Leber. It opens:

“My life would have been a lot easier if only my grandmother had not been a liar. Or, to put it more nicely, if she hadn’t been so imaginative on that winter night when she convinced me that she would never leave me. If she had informed me that she would die, then I wouldn’t have become so naïve. I’m not sure my story is all that important, or whether I even have a story in the first place—at the end of it all, I stand a defeated woman, one who has faced disappointment again and again. But that’s not important now. The important thing is how that woman spoiled me completely.”

(3) That Pathetic Woman,” also by El-Nsour, tr. Thoraya El-Rayyes. It opens:

“It occurred to me to claw up the dirt with my fingers. To wrench him away from his death. To look for traces of myself in his lifeless features. To slap him because he died in her bed. He was with her when his heart suddenly stopped. She was the one who rushed to the emergency room, who the doctor patted on the shoulder as he told her: Life is in hands of God. She is the one who has become his widow, and I am a woman of sin who deserves to be stoned, who steals men from the warmth of their homes.”

For Basma El-Nsour’s superfans, there’s also “The Man Who Crossed the Street,” tr. Aida Bamia, at the website for Banipal.

(4) Sad Woman’s Mirrors, by Maheera Migdadi, tr. Madeline Edwards. It opens:

“She takes her time peeling the heavy blanket from her cold body. Grudgingly, she slides out of bed and drags herself to the bathroom. She wipes her hand over the mirror like she’s waving goodbye; her drowsy face looks back at her from the blurry glass, reminding her of all the hours she hasn’t slept. It warns of the long day ahead. She’ll be holding her breath for the next twenty-four hours. “

(5) My Name is Suleimani,” by Jamila Amaireh, tr. Samira Kawar. It opens:

“Suleimani returned from his job feeling exhausted after a long hard day at the textile factory where he worked as head of personnel and production.”

(6) It Happens,” also by Jamila Amaireh. tr. Thoraya El-Rayyes. It opens:

“I sit on my old chair, scatter my multicolored toys around me, and start watching evening cartoons on TV. Cool Pancho shoots off through the streets in his car, feeling awesome. He’d bought the car back from the old lady living next door. Never mind that he’d paid too much, more than two thousand pounds. No problem. He slows down, speeds up, and finally stops at the green fields to go for a stroll. The episode ends, but I stay glued to the television, waiting for my truly favorite cartoon: The Adventures of Zaina the Bee. Zaina is a menacing creature; she has no other business but instigating pranks on her friend Nahhul. Nahhul, for his part, has no choice but to come crawling back to his bully-of-a-buddy every time.”

(7) “Propositions,” by Haifa’ Abul-Nadi, tr. Elisabeth Jaquette: It opens:


“His coffee lasts. It’s what he starts his mornings with, early, and then he drinks half a cup in the mid-afternoon. It keeps him company. Maybe the smell of it fresh is the reason he keeps sipping it, even after it’s gone cold. Or maybe he has other reasons. Maybe he feels a certain duty, a responsibility toward it. His coffee, poured into a paper cup, changes in color, shape, and size each day, depending on the kiosk he buys it from. The man and his coffee spend the whole day together, and then he leaves it on his desk or the first ledge he sees. He abandons it without a last sip, or even a word of farewell. He leaves the paper cup of coffee and returns to his world, trusting that another one will be waiting for him in another kiosk tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and the day after that.”

(8) The Village Idiot, by Majidah al-Outoum, tr. Alice Guthrie. It opens:

We awoke one morning to news of a death. The person we had lost was the one we used to call the Village Idiot—that buffoon who used to make us laugh and cry at the same time, that leaping, dancing ball of energy who would hurl himself around, wild with enthusiasm, stomping on our toes and crashing into us as he went gesticulating by.

(9) Operating Manual by Fairooz Tamimi, tr. Thoraya El-Rayyes. It opens:

How to make a cup of hot chocolate

“Stand in front of the window of your kitchen refuge and prepare the following ingredients:

“1. A welcoming, empty green glass.

“2. A bottle of cold, fresh milk.

“3. An orange and brown tin of Cadbury’s Cocoa.

“4. The two large tablespoons locked in an embrace in the drawer (possibly because of your awful dishwashing skills), which have triggered your loneliness. Use them as they are; do not expend any emotion separating them.”