THE SHORT STORIES OF ZAKARIA TAMER
Leading writer of short stories
Zakaria Tamer first came to my notice in the early ‘seventies in Beirut when my friend the poet and publisher Yusuf alKhal gave me a copy of a volume of short stories entitled Saheel al-Jawad al-Abyad (The Neighing of the White Horse), which he told me had been written by a young man from Damascus. I was impressed by the originality of the stories and decided to include one of his stories in the volume Modern Arabic Short Stories. This volume, published by Oxford University Press in 1967, was the first volume of short stories from the Arab world to appear in English translation and contained twenty stories by the leading writers of the time, stories by such writers as Naguib Mahfouz, Yusuf Idris, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, Mahmoud Teymour, Yahya Hakki, Tewfik alHakim, Tayeb Salih and Ghassan Kanafani, Latifa el-Zayat and another Syrian writer Abdel Salam al-Ujaili. It is surely significant that I had found a story by a completely unknown writer named Zakaria Tamer worthy of inclusion in such a volume. It seems I was not wrong in my judgment, for this writer was later to make a name for himself as the leading Syrian writer of short stories. Later on I decided to publish a whole volume of his stories in translation and this came out under the title Tigers on the Tenth Day; later still, a series of small but excellent children’s books were published in Cairo by Dar al-Fata al-Arabi. I was asked to make a translation in English of these books, many of which were written by leading writers. Among them were several by Zakaria Tamer, stories that contained the same delightful folkloric wisdom that is the basis of many of his short stories1.
And now the fact that another translator, has interested himself in Zakaria Tamer’s work has made it possible for my original volume to be republished and for several more of his stories, which were
94 BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015