from jail, Nahiya was not amongst the members of his family that received him – she had died after his being jailed. He struck his face, tore his clothes as a sign of mourning, and began to shout: “Nahiya is dead while the criminal wanders about free.”When his wife asked him who the criminal was, he replied: “He who knows, knows, and he who doesn’t know, a handful of lentils.” And from that time on, he used to recite that proverb and was considered to have lost his reason.
Interestingly enough, the title of the story refers to the tragedy of the father alone – the story was published in the beginning of the 1950s when Arab society was not yet fully ready for any such feminist struggle; the writer had to present the tragedy of the young woman through the tragedy of her father. Also, the story implicitly refers to the purity of women as a benchmark for the entire family’s honour. The narrator emphasizes that ‘Amir does not want in any way to expose that Zahi had profaned his daughter’s innocence.The option of murdering his daughter never occurs to ‘Amir although such a practice has been employed by several communities in the Arab world, even when woman is entirely blameless. On most occasions, the victims are women perceived to be “misbehaving”, mainly when they violate the sexual norms; by murdering their daughters and sisters, the fathers and brothers reassert their control over the women in
The Monument to the Unknown Soldier, Baghdad 1950s
80 BANIPAL 72 – AUTUMN/WINTER 2021