THE SHORT STORIES OF ZAKARIA TAMER
Poet of the Short Story
In the mid-1950s, a decade where uproarious turbulences were mingled with storm-foretelling muted calmness, in social as well as political and cultural life of the Arab world, it was neither familiar, nor indeed commonly accepted, for Arabic literature to witness a short story which did not tell a tale, seize a moment, depict an entity, dramatize an experience, develop an anecdote, convey a political message, or any such vocations expected in the short tradition of the epoch.
No less uncommon was that the same short story, already in a ‘rebellious’ mode, so to speak, would also intensify an individual, or even a universal, imagined nightmare, by investing elements taken from the banal daily life cycle of events, to the extent of breaking the borderlines between the imagined and the real, the fantasy and the documented. Moreover, it was new, indeed unfashionable, for that blend to be deployed, but sometimes compressed, in a language so much accomplished in interweaving metaphors and images, inflowing feelings and outpouring perceptions, stemming not from any deliberate play on rhetoric or verbal skills, but rather from a reservoir of poetic fervour, funnelled through a natural raw language, fresh and vibrant and vigorous, both in sense and syntax. And so, the outcome is a short story which is unique in form and content alike, quite forceful and compelling, quite able to leave a sense of real dream
74 BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015