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Five Texts by Zakaria Tamer
Translated by Marilyn Hacker
Who are you?
Who is the Syrian?
The Syrian is an unknown citizen, he did not become famous for having chosen death, prison, and endurance over suffering and self-abasement as the path to freedom. The Syrian is a citizen living outside Syria and a citizen living within its borders readying himself to leave as soon as he is able, and what unites Syrians inside and outside Syria is a loathing of tyrants and their regimes from A to Z.
The little one is eaten and the big one is eaten
The great thief devoured many little thieves, and the people exchanged satisfied glances, and they whispered in hushed voices: Justice always comes late, and the big thief will be swallowed up by an even bigger thief, and the biggest thief will be swallowed by the blood of the martyrs.
Sheikh Mahmoud told his young pupils to go to the window and to look at the sky from there, so the pupils rushed to the window, and Sheikh Mahmoud asked them:
“What do you see in the sky?”
The pupils said “An airplane flying.”
Sheikh Mahmoud said “Look harder! What else do you see?”
The pupils said “We see some clouds, and a sun.”
Then Sheikh Mahmoud questioned them insistently: “What else do you see besides the sun, the clouds, and the airplane?”
So the pupils stared at the sky, and then they said, sure of themselves, “Nothing, besides the sun and the clouds, because the airplane has disappeared.”
Then Sheikh Mahmoud said to them, his voice full of anger: “You are worthless! It is as if I were teaching blind men, who perceive nothing!”
And when the little pupils left the school, they walked along the street imagining they were blind beggars knocking on all the doors for alms, but no door opened for them, and they looked up at the sky, but they saw nothing but the clouds and the sun.
What is left
Each writer is what he writes, and that’s all, neither more nor less, and any other noise he makes has no more value than grains of sand piled onto other grains of sand. Today there are writers who fill the public forums of Syria sighing and moaning about their support for the revolutions, but all that they wrote before the revolution was no more than whispers and insinuations in locked bedrooms where women are preparing to undress, and they are no more than what they had written, not what they claim now.
Don’t be timid!
The writer: I’m going to write about the growing number of beggars, and I will give the reasons for that with an in-depth analysis.
The pen: Why don’t you write about those men whose timidity keeps them from joining forces with the beggars?
[These texts were published in Arabic on the author's Facebook page al-Mihmaz (The Spur) and translated by Marilyn Hacker]
[Zakaria Tamer (b. 1931, Damascus) is one of the pioneers of the Arab short story. He has published eleven short story collections, two books of satire, and dozens of chidlren's books. He lives in London]
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