LEADING WRITER OF SHORT STORIES
to be found in various collections, to see the light of day in a single book2.
Today the short story, whether in Arabic or in English, has lost much of its previous popularity. The time was when I could translate a story from the Arabic and know that, here in Cairo, there were several magazines that would include it in their pages. Even, at one time, many of my translations first appeared on the English-language programme put out by Egyptian State Broadcasting. This state of affairs was further proved to me when I looked up in a book on modern Arabic literature of which I had just done a fulsome review. Let’s see, I told myself, what he has to say about Zakaria Tamer. I was shocked to find that the name did not appear in the index. I then looked up the modern Egyptian short story writer Said elKafrawi, a representative volume of whose stories I had published in translation, and here again I found no mention of him. It just goes to show that the short story in the Arab world has lost much of its popularity.
And yet the short story is not a genre that should be ignored. One of England’s most prolific writers of short stories once wrote: “Readers forget novels; short stories stay in their minds.” He’s right; do we not still read Poe, Maupassant, and Chekhov and myriads of other writers of short stories with great enjoyment? Stories like Tolstoy’s “How much land does a man need?” or Hemingway’s “Hills like White Elephants” and “The Snows of Kiliminjaro” stay vividly in my mind while the same writers’ novels have somehow merged into the whole structure of my reading culture without possessing the lasting affect of an outstanding short story.
I hope the same can be said about many of Zakaria Tamer’s stories, for he is a writer who has concentrated all his literary talents on this one genre of literature – the short story.
Notes: 1 These stories for children by Zakaria Tamer include The White Pigeon, Locusts in the
City, The House of White Paper, The Horse and the Merchant, and The Horse of the Green Land, all of which were translated into English by Denys Johnson-Davies and published as single illustrated children’s books by Dar al-Fata al-‘Arabi in 1985.
2 See “The Hedgehog”, a novella by Zakaria Tamer, translated by Brian O’Rourke, and
Other Stories, translated by Denys Johnson-Davies, reviewed below, page 102.
BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015 95
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