THE SHORT STORIES OF ZAKARIA TAMER
in magazines and publish them in a book. So, I did just that and gave her the collection, and she said to me: “Choose the publisher you prefer, for I know all the publishers in Beirut.” So I chose the publishers of Shi’ir magazine because I thought they would be the ones most qualified to appreciate my writing from the artistic point of view. Two weeks later I contacted Salma, who had just returned from Beirut, and asked her about my stories. I was really surprised when she told me that had she stayed one more day in Beirut she would have brought me a copy of my published book. She said she gave the manuscript to Yusuf al-Khal and he published it immediately, which was true. Yusuf himself told me that after meeting Salma he started reading the manuscript in his office, and then he went and handed it to the press people who were in a room next to his office, separated by a wooden partition.
Yusuf al-Khal was a victim of injustice because he was a devout advocate of modernism in all its aspects – in poetry, theatre, criticism, the story, the novel, art, and even politics. Every time I visited Beirut I made sure that I looked him up, and I remember that in 1961 I met him – he was in the company of Layla Baalbacki and Laure Ghrayyeb – and he asked me suddenly: “What do you think of a quarterly magazine dedicated to the modern short story in the footsteps of Shi’r?” I praised the idea, so he said: “And you will be the editor-in-chief.” I refused, explaining that I was still a beginner, and he asked me sarcastically: “And whom would you suggest as editor-in-chief?” So I replied without hesitation: “Jabra Ibrahim Jabra.” And he said: “No, either you or no one”. Again, I refused apologetically because I was in awe of such a position. I was in my thirties, a new writer; it was unthinkable that I could play the role of a “teacher” – allowing some to be published and turning others down. I was in harmony with myself as a new writer with a future of a long and difficult battle ahead of me, and I knew I had to work hard to improve myself. Even to this day I consider myself a new writer, and try to forget the stories that I have written.
Do you intentionally forget?
Yes, in the beginning I used to try and forget on purpose so that I would start writing as if I were writing my first script, with no specific technique or particular artistic style, because every writer,
120 BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015