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up against her breast and stuck a nipple overflowing with milk into her mouth. There was a man who was getting dressed, stretching and yawning, and her mother told him she wanted to live to see her daughter grow up and become a girl that men desired.

TRANSLATED BY JONATHAN WRIGHT From the collection Al-Hisrim (Sour Grapes), 2000

Brief Lives

Marwan al-Deek was appointed Minister but after a few months was quickly retired. His life turned into a hopeful wait for the position he had lost. Waiting did not prevent him from going on the hajj every year, yet no one said he was virtuous or pious. All agreed that the sins of the ex-minister were written with the blood of those who had been robbed and oppressed and that blood was ink that couldn’t be wiped off.

Samir al-Falah loved horses and asked on one of the nights of destiny to be turned into one. The following day, noticing that his ears had grown bigger, he wanted to express his happiness for getting his wish but was surprised that he brayed instead of neighing.

As’ad al-Balati longed to become a famous writer in spite of the fact that he had no talent except as a vulgar boor. He stumbled upon an idea that he thought would give him some fame, and that was to walk in the funeral of famous writers with head bowed down and tears in his eyes, to frequent cafés wearing a black suit, and to talk to journalists about his warm relationship with the dearly departed. But when he walked in the funeral procession of the poet Mamdouh Adwan pretending to weep, the poet could no longer hold his tongue and shouted at al-Balati: “Shut up, you retard!”

As’ad al-Balati was not embarrassed, and said to those around: “The dearly departed always liked to tease me. He never published

58 BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015

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