THE SHORT STORIES OF ZAKARIA TAMER
A Uniquely Creative Short Story writer
The 13th March is the day that marks both poet Mahmoud Darwish’s birthday and the Palestinian National Cultural Festival. On that day this year, 2015, I was sitting in the hall of the Darwish Museum in Ramallah listening to a recording of Zakaria Tamer’s words on his being awarded the 2015 Mahmoud Darwish Award for Freedom and Creativity, the committee’s recognition of his matchless ingenuity in the short story form, in the art of writing itself.
I was sitting there and a memory came back to me from more than fifty years before of when I had met Tamer for the first time in Damascus. It was an exciting time when his standing as a short story writer was high, not just in Syria, but across the Arab world. His first collection, The Neighing of the White Horse, was still resounding in our heads as a triumphant new departure for the short story form. It was full of poetic narrative, able to cast light on the estrangement of its characters from society, to provide detailed delineations of poor, marginalised characters, their stresses and crises, and their anger against the rich exploiters, master practitioners of tyranny and oppression served by gendarmes, inquisitors and informants. It was a long way from the naivety and elegance of the traditional kind of short story that relied on events and plot. It substituted for them the surreal narrative of dreams, of streams of con-
88 BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015