Men in the Sun Intro

February 21, 2008

This is the beginning of Ghassan Kanafani’s Men in the Sun. It follows Abu Qays, a Palestinian refugee from Yafa as he tries to make it to the oil fields of Kuwait for work. This excerpt from the beginning of the book was taken from Bassam K. Frangieh’s An Anthology of Arabic Literature, Culture, and Thought, From Pre-Islamic Times to the Present.


Men in the Sun 1

February 21, 2008


Abu Qays rested his chest on the damp ground, and the earth started to beat underneath him: the beats of a tired heart moving through the grains of shaking sand, then crossing into his cells. Every time he layed his body on the dirt, he felt that heartbeat, as though the heart of the Earth was still, since he layed there the first time, blazing a difficult path to light, from the deepest depths of hell. When he said that, once, to his neighbor with whom he shared a field, there in the land he left ten years ago, he answered him sarcastically:
“That’s the sound of your heart you hear when you stick your body to the ground.” What nonsense. And the smell, then? The smell that, if he inhaled, would swell in his brow and then disappate into his veins? Anyone who smelled the smell of the earth as he layed upon it would imagine he was smelling the hair of his wife, after she had come out of the shower, and washed her hair with cold water. That smell, the smell of a woman washed with cold water who has then spread her hair out over his face, no longer wet.
The heartbeat itself, it’s as though you’re holding a small bird between your two curving hands.
The damp earth, he thought, is no doubt whats left of yesterday’s rains. No, it didn’t rain yesterday. These days, the sky can’t rain anything but heat and dust. Have you forgotten where you are? Have you forgotten?

Men in the Sun 2

February 21, 2008


He turned his body around and laid on his back, cradling his head in his hands, and looked to the sky. It was white, and shining. There was a lone black bird soaring high in the sky, aimlessly. He didnt know why he was filled, suddenly with the stagnant feelings of the solitude of exile. It seemed, for a moment, that he was about to cry. No, it didn’t rain yesterday. We’re in Aab now. Have you forgotten? This flowing empty road, like a black eternity. Did you forget it? The bird was still sailing alone in the sky, a black dot on the glowing expanse above him. We’re in Aab! So, then, why is this moisture in the ground? It must be the coast! Did you not see it extended out as far as you can see in front of you?
“And where the two great rivers meet to form one great river that is the Shatt al-Arab, starting a little before Basra and extending to…”
Professor Saleem, the wizened, gaunt, and grey, said that ten times in his loud voice to a small child standing at the blackboard. He was a passerby, then, in front of the school in his village. He climbed a rock and started listening in at the window. Professor Saleem stood facing the small pupil and shouting at the top of his voice while shaking a long stick in his outstreched arm. “And when the two great rivers meet, the Tigris and Euprates…” The child was shaking with fright, which amused the rest of the students, who were laughing. He put out his hand and tapped a student on his head, who turned to see where he had been eavesdropping at the window. “What happened?”
The student laughed and answered him whispering, “Goat!”
He turned around and got down off the rock, finished his trip, the words of Professor Saleem still ringing in his ears, over and over: “and when the two great rivers meet…”

Men in the Sun 3

February 21, 2008


That night he saw Professor Saleem sitting in the hall of the headman, smoking a hookah. He had been sent to their village in Yaffo to teach the children. He had spent so much of his life teaching that the word ‘professor’ had become an inseperable part of his name. One of the men there that evening asked him, “You’re going to lead prayers this Friday, right?”
Professor Saleem answered him simply, “No, I am a teacher, not an Imam.”
The headman said to him, “What’s the difference? Our Teacher was an Imam.”
“He was a teacher of writers, I am a school teacher”
The headman replied, “What’s the difference?”

Professor Saleem didn’t answer, but glanced around the room as if calling for the help of someone present, despite the fact that all seated seemed confused by this, like the headman. After a long silent period, Professor Saleem cleared his throat and said in a clear voice, “Fine, I don’t know how to pray.”
“Don’t know how?”
The group gasped and Professor Saleem reiterated himself: “I dont know how!”

Men in the Sun 4

February 21, 2008


The people seated exchanged glances and then settled their gazes on the headman, who felt he must say something, so he pressed out without thinking, “So what do you know then?
It seemed as though Professor Saleem had been expecting a question such as this, but he replied quickly while getting up, “Many things. How to shoot, for example.” He got to the door and turned around. His gaunt face was shaking. “If you are attacked, wake me up. You may find me useful.”


Here was the coast Professor Saleem had spoken of 10 years ago!
May you rest in peace, Professor Saleem, may you rest in peace. No doubt it was God favoring you when he took you one night before the fall of the poor city at the hands of the Jews. One night only, my God.

Is there divine comfort greater than this? It’s true that men were working at burying you, and welcoming your death, but you stayed there, stayed there, you saved yourself humiliation and debasement, and saved your years from shame. May you rest in peace, Professor Saleem. You see that if you lived poverty would sink you like it sunk me. Would you do what I’m doing now? Would you be carrying all your years over your back and escaping across the desert to Kuwait just to find a morsel of bread?

-Ghassan Kanafani

from the book An Anthology of Arabic Literature, Culture, and Thought, From Pre-Islamic Times to the Present, by Bassam K. Frangieh

Translated by Josh Berer

The Girl and the Lion Intro

February 20, 2008

This is a story from a stack of childrens books I found. It’s very easy reading and it’s handwritten in a nice easy way. Its from the “Green Library,” a set of childrens books that range from very easy to more advanced.

The Girl and the Lion 1-5

February 20, 2008


The Girl and the Lion

One day, a merchant wanted to travel to buy merchandise he needed for his business. He brought together his three daughters before his trip to ask each one what gift she would like him to bring her when he returns from his trip.

The oldest said, “Father, please bring me a necklace of precious pearls.” The middle one said, “Father please buy me a gold watch with a beautiful band.” The youngest said, “dear father, please

bring me a while rose.”
She wanted it not to cost her father a thing, and not to burden him with her request, like those of her two older sisters.

She had, at all times, great taste, and was a lover of flowers of all types. She didn’t notice that it was winter time, and the weather was intensely cold, and there was snow everywhere, layers of snow on the trees, and the lakes were frozen. It wasn’t easy to get a white rose at that time of the year. There were no planes at that time to take flowers from warm areas to cold ones, as happens now.

There also no greenhouses, warmed with generated heat in which to grow flowers and trees in cold countries, as happens

today. She didn’t know that the flower she asked for would be the cause of much sadness for her and her father in the future.

The youngest daughter was the most beautiful of the three, and the most emotionally sensitive. Her father had already firmly decided to take pains in order to get the flower his daughter had asked for.

The merchant kissed his wife and three daughters, they kissed him and then they bid each other farewell. He took a personal servant with him on his trip. The merchant then went on his journey

to buy merchandise from another country.

After he had purchased the merchandise he needed, he thought of returning to his country and his house, and so he bought the oldest daughter the gift she had wanted, and he got the middle daughter the watch she liked, and started looking in every garden for a rose for
his beloved daughter, but didn’t find one.

He continued to repeat the question and kept looking while he was returning from his trip, whenever he would see a garden, hoping he would find the flower his daughter had wanted. People were surprised by his strange question, and answered him saying, “do you think the flower will appear in snow, with intensely cold weather, when the temperature has dropped below zero?” The merchant was hurt whenever he heard this rational answer, and rational assumption. His sadness increased

because he couldn’t realize the desire of his youngest daughter, for it was a simple desire, with no cost during warm seasons when there were many flowers.

Her father continued traveling on his path, his mind troubled, worrying because of the rose he had wished to find to bring to his daughter, until he saw a big castle, surrounded by a strange garden. It was vast, and split into two parts. In the first section, one would find the weather warm, like the summer, with green leafy trees and see many beautiful flowers, of many different types. In the second section, one would find white trees, covered in a layer of snow and without leaves, and see no trace of flowers. The weather there was winter weather, where water freezes and snow falls.

The merchant was surprised by this strange view, and to find two different climates

The Girl and the Lion 6-10

February 20, 2008


at one time, and to find two gardens, one summer and one winter in the same castle. Then he looked at his servant and said to him, “What good luck, to find this summer garden in this castle! It appears this garden is heated artificially at this time of year, for I see many pretty trees and flowers. I’m going to ask permission from the gardener and pick one white rose.

The servant went, and they shouted [for the gardener] in the garden, and didn’t meet anyone, so the servant picked a white rose from a rose bush, gave it to his master, and the merchant was very happy. So the two rose off on the road, happy with their rare gift.

After a little while, they saw a wild lion running behind them and roaring a terrifying roar, and gaining upon them. The lion said to the merchant, “how dare you steal that rose without permission?”

The merchant answered him by saying, “we called and tried to get permission from the gardener, but we didn’t find anyone to ask! I am so, so sorry, I didn’t know it was your garden!”

The lion said, “you’ve already taken the flower, and stolen from my garden, so I am determined to kill you.”

The merchant said, “I beg you to forgive me for this offense, and not kill me,

I’m prepared to give you whatever you want, no matter the cost.”

The lion said, “I do not want money. I’m not going to let you go alive unless you promise me a firm promise: that you’ll give me the first thing that greets you when you return home”

The merchant didn’t know what to do. He began to think before he agreed to the conditions imposed upon him by the lion, so he said to himself, “My little girl might remember to run out to welcome me when I return home, because she loves me so much. What do I do if she greets me, for she is the dearest thing I have in this life.

The servant made the issue easier for his master. Fearing for his life, he said “maybe the dog or the cat will be the first thing to greet you when you get home.”

The merchant was forced to agree to this condition, and promised to give the lion

whatever greeted him first when he arrived home. The lion agreed, his heart untame.

The merchant took the flower with him and the lion returned to his garden and the merchant went on his way until he returned to his house.

Then the youngest daughter heard the sound of her father’s voice she quickly ran to greet him, delighted by his safe return. She kissed him and welcomed him. She was the first to greet him, unluckily.

When she saw that he had brought her the flower she wanted, her joy and happiness in seeing her father increased, delighted with the rare and beautiful gift her father brought her. She didn’t know what was waiting for her as a result of this flower.

While her joy was increasing, so was her father’s sadness and grief. He started to say, “I am so sorry my dear daughter, for I bought this flower with something that isn’t worth money or jewels, the price is extremely expensive,

The Girl and the Lion 11-15

February 20, 2008

and I cannot pay it. You don’t know what it is.”

She asked him, “why do I see you sad, Father? What is the price you want?”

He answered her, “I’m sad for you, scared for your life. I promised a ferocious lion that I would give him the first thing that greeted me when I got home. That is the price of this flower. I fear he will eat you if he sees you.” He then told her everything that had happened, and he was determined that she not go, to [not] let happen what would happen.

She made the issue easier for him, saying, “calm down, Father, don’t be sad at all, and don’t fear for me. I’m calm, and good sense and good thinking will overcome this. Harm won’t touch me. You can keep your promise and let me go. Don’t worry about me, I’ll get the better of this, and make him let me come home safe to you, God Willing.

Her father was surprised by her thinking, cleverness, and agreement to fulfill his promise. He let her go, and put the matter in God’s hands.

The next morning, she said goodbye to her father and asked him the way to go, and got ready. She left her family and went out, her heart full of bravery and courage.

The lion was a sorcerer prince and would change himself and the men and servants around him into lions during the day, and in the evening they would become men and return to their original shapes before they were enchanted. When the girl arrived at the castle, it was late afternoon, and the sorcerer prince greeted her in the form of a lion, and greeted her with politeness and respect. He started talking like a human would, and told her his life story. He then informed her that she was to be married, and she was pleased. At the very moment she agreed, the effects of the magic ended,

and the prince returned to his natural human form. After a few days, there was a marriage party at the enchanted castle, and the newlyweds lived a happy life.

The prince continued to leave his spouse every morning, and be absent during the day, then return in the evening with his men, and his wife would greet him with all kindness.

One night he said to her, “Tomorrow your big sister is getting married,

and they’ll celebrate the wedding with a great celebration at your father’s house. So if you want to go see your family and partake in the joy, it’s alright by me.”

The prince’s wife thanked him for his noble feelings, and then became very happy with this joyous news, and saw this as a chance to see her father and her family. She had been cut off from news of her family since she left, and everyone thought she was dead and the lion had torn her apart the day he saw her.

The sorcerer prince’s wife left for her trip, and her family relatives and friends welcomed her arrival with great joy. She reassured them, saying, “Don’t be afraid.”

She then told them her story and the story of her husband, and that she was extremely happy, and that her joy was now doubled: her joy, and the joy for her sister. She stayed until the end of the wedding party, then

asked permission from her father to return to her husband, and bid her family farewell for her journey. Her father gave her permission, everyone bid her farewell, and she returned to the castle.

The sorcerer prince was very happy when happy upon his wife’s return, and gave her a hearty welcome. After a short time, they had a beautiful baby, and he was the joy of their lives.

One day, the prince and his wife received an invitation to the wedding of the second sister. She said to her husband, “This time I’m not going alone. Please come with me to see my whole family and participate in the joy together.”

He said to her, “I would love to go with you, and not be away from you, but my going there would be very dangerous. If any rays of light touch me during the party, my situation will turn bad, and my form will change, and I will become a white bird, like a dove. I will be forced

The Girl and the Lion 16-20

February 20, 2008


to wander the Earth aimlessly for seven years, moving from place to place.

She said to him, “We’ll use every means so that no rays of light hit you during the party.

The sorcerer prince was reassured, and traveled with his wife to see her family and so that they may see him, and to partake in the joy, and they took their small beloved child with them.

His wife chose a large hall with thick walls for the unfortunate prince to sit in alone, after his wife closed him him, fearing that the a ray of light might touch him. She didn’t notice a small opening in the door, from which light may enter.

When the marriage party started, women and children who were guests of the party walked with candles and lamps outside the door where the sorcerer prince was confined, and a few rays of light fell upon the poor prince, and he turned into a white bird. His soul was in pain, but he persevered. When his wife came in to find him after the party finished, she found only a while bird. She screamed and began to cry and asked, “Why did this happen? I closed the door and windows, how did the light get through stone?”

She didn’t know the door had a small opening in it through which the light came in upon the poor prince.

The prince consoled her, saying “There’s no benefit in crying, you need to be patient. Don’t be sad, know that it was ruled that I

would fly seven years on the face of the Earth, roaming the world. But I will, from time to time, leave you a white feather, you’ll know from it the places I’ll head for, and the regions I’ll travel to, and you can follow me and travel to the places I do. You may find me in the end. My salvation will be by your hand if you carry this burden seven years. I advise you to leave our child with his grandmother for education, and because it will not be easy to take him with you. This sentence is upon him,

because of this punishment upon us.”

She promised him she would do as he advised and wouldn’t leave him wherever he went, and would travel wherever he did.

The unfortunate bird left the house and his wife left after him, after leaving their child with her mother. The family was extremely sad for what happened. The wife followed the bird everywhere he went, and started to roam with him. Every time he went somewhere, he’d leave her a white feather so she could know where he went. She followed him in his journeys and travels seven long years and she didn’t feel any comfort during this time, nor did she leave him for a moment, so that he wouldn’t be separated from her. She was a faithful and loyal wife.

The days passed, and the seven years came close to their end, and happiness started to come into the heart of the poor wife, and she started to forget the

The Girl and the Lion 21-25

February 20, 2008

wretched times, now coming to an end. However this thought did not materialize, as there was a long distance between her and comfort. She did not see the comfort as soon as she had thought. It happened when she was traveling: she lost the white feather. This white feather was like a magical mirror, she saw in it the place in which the the tortured bird would land, and know from it where to go. With extreme misfortune she lost that precious enchanted feather, and that was bad luck. She looked around to see her white bird, but couldn’t see him. She started to look everywhere, but couldn’t see her poor husband, like when she had the white feather, and could look at it and see her husband immediately

and know where he was.

Her soul hurt terribly, and her husband the bird left her and she didn’t know where he went. She didn’t know what to do about it, so she started thinking about a solution to the problem. She made up her mind to go to the sun for help. She waited until mid-noon, when the sun was in the middle of the sky, looked up at it and said, “O Shining Sun! You light the world and everything in it! Your light is radiant everywhere! From the peak of the mountain to the bottom of the earth one sees your light! In seas and rivers one sees your effects. Have you seen anywhere in the world a white bird, he’s lost me and I’ve lost him, so now I don’t know where he is.

The Sun answered, “O loyal and patient lady! I am so sorry, but I have not seen your white bird, but I

will give you a precious gift, in admiration of your loyalty to your husband, and appreciation of your patience in your pursuit. I will give you a precious box, inside it a rare gift. But don’t open it until you’re at the end of your strength, and you feel your strength is scarce.”

The wife thanked the Sun for its gift and advice, and took the present, and went on her way until the Sun went down. The full moon appeared in the sky, and she thought to ask the Moon, and seek help

from it. She called out to it, and said, “O Moon! You light the world by night! You light fields and forests, you light the mountains and the seas and the rivers, villages, cities, and countries! Have you seen, anywhere in the world, during your rise, an enchanted white bird? He lost me and I don’t know where he is now.”

The Moon answered, “I am so sorry, I haven’t seen him anywhere I’ve been, but out of love for you, I’ll give you a precious golden egg as a present. You have gotten very tired these past seven years, and you have been faithful and true to your husband during his hardship and absence. My advice to you is not to break this egg unless you are in dire straits.”

The wife thanked the Moon, and cherished her knowledge and gift, and left her. Then she went on her way until the Northern Winds started to roll in,

and the gentle morning wind appeared, and so she appealed to them for help, saying, “O beautiful winds! You roll across every place on Earth, you blow through every tree, you go under every leaf of every tree. Have you seen anywhere, in any tree or nest, a white bird?”

The Wind answered, “My lady, I have not seen him and I am very sorry. But I will look for him, and I’ll ask the other three winds, perhaps they’ve seen him.”

While she was speaking, the Eastern Wind came up, and she asked her about it, and she replied that she had not seen him

The Girl and the Lion 26-30

February 20, 2008


Then the Western Wind came, and she asked her about it, and she replied that she had not seen him on any tree. Then the Southern Wind came and the wife asked the question and she replied, “Yes, I saw the enchanted white dove, he was flying to the Red Sea, and he changed from a white bird to a lion, as he was before.” For the seven years had ended. “He is now fighting with a giant enchanted snake, who originally was an enchanted princess. She is trying to take him from you, and come between you and him in order to marry him and control him with her magic.” The poor wife was hurt, and said, “What can I do to get him away from this tyrannical princess?”

The Northern Wind answered and explained the way she could break the spell, and return him to his natural state, and take him from the tyrannical princess. She said to her, “Go to the coast

of the Red Sea, he is near there. You’ll find lots of wooden sticks. Count ten sticks, but leave them as they are, and when you arrive at the eleventh stick, cut it and take it with you. Then, hit the snake and the lion with this magic stick. The snake will be defeated and the lion will vanquish her. Then hit them both with the magic stick again and both will then return to their natural human states. The snake will return to a princess as she was, and the lion to a prince as he

was. At that moment take your husband from the princess and then go far away immediately. Go back to your country and your home. Be brave and guard against indecision, and listen to my advice and remember it.”

The poor wife thanked the Northern Wind for her advice and went to the Red Seat coast, and found everything as the wind described it. She saw wooden sticks and counted ten, then cut the eleventh. She then looked and found the the snake battling the lion between the wood. She hit both of them with the stick, and the snake was vanquished by the lion. She then hit them both a second time with the magic stick, and the snake turned back into a princess as she had been before she was enchanted, and the lion back to a prince as he had been before he was enchanted. After that the poor wife stood there at a loss, not knowing what to do. She forgot the rest of the advice that

the Northern Wind had given her.

She forgot to take her husband immediately and return to her home and country.

The princess seized this opportunity and took the prince by his arm and snatched him away. He surrendered to her and she travelled to her castle, leaving his wife alone, without thinking about her. The traitorous princess and the prince went far away, without a trace.

The unlucky wife stood there confused, not knowing what to do. She started to criticise herself for forgetting the last peice of advice, then decided to go and travel, and try to find her husband again, and get him away from the hand of the princess that kidnapped him. She became patient, and said: “Oh God, you know my situation, you have no need for my question.” She started to say, “As long as the world turns like it does, as long as the sun rises from

the East and sets in the West, despair shall not touch my heart. I shall look for my husband until I find him again, and get him away from the princess who kidnapped him, even though I took her and rescued her from magic and turned her from an ugly snake to a girl as she was before. I was waiting for her to thank me for rescuing her and returning her to beauty. She knew perfectly well I was his wife, I can’t imagine how she kidnapped him from me, taking his arm and leaving with him. He was in a state of bewilderment, and didn’t feel I was his wife, and had suffered for him for seven years, even rescuing from the magic and making him human again.

The poor wife resumed her life of travel and went from one country to another, until finally she arrived at the princess who had kidnapped her husband’s castle. The wife noticed, in front of the castle, a movement which was not

I’m gonna stop it here because this story is boring and I dont care what happens to her.


The Multicolored Lizard

October 30, 2007

This is a children’s book that was left in my flat in Amman when I got there. Two years later I got around to dealing with it.

– Josh

The Multicolored Lizard 1

October 30, 2007


A long time ago, the animals in the forest got together to choose a king to sit on his throne, and rule fairly. After some discussion, they chose the lion and put the crown on his head, and that was because he was brave and strong and pure. But the pig had wanted to be king, and did not agree, so got upset and angry.

Vocabulary and Translation Notes

غابة – Forest

عرش – Throne

عدل – Fair

مشاورة – Discussion

تاج – Crown

صريح – Pure, honest

خنزير – Pig

طمع – To covet, to wish, to desire

ثار – Stir up, excite

Translation Notes

يجلس على عرشها – In this case, since “king” is masculine, the –ha at the end of 3arsh must refer to the animals, since they are not human they take the feminine singular.

The Multicolored Lizard 2

October 30, 2007


The next day the lion was wearing his crown and sitting on his throne, and had appointed the fox as his employee as a gatekeeper, standing in front of the door. The fox was protecting him and serving him. After a little while the pig came and entered the lion’s area without permission. The lion and the fox became furious.


عيّن – To appoint

ثعلب – Fox

حاجب – Gatekeeper, doorman

إذن – Permission

اغتاظ – To become furious

The Multicolored Lizard 3

October 30, 2007


The lion endured the pig until he left his throne-room. He called the fox and said to him, “That conceited pig made me furious, so now I intend to kill him. If he does that again let’s kill him” The fox said “No, make it so he lives submissively and miserably.”


صبر على – To endure, to suffer s.o. or s.t

نادي – Call, bring together

مغرور – Arrogant, conceited

ذليل – Lowly, humble

حقير – Wretched, inferior, contemptible

The Multicolored Lizard 4

October 30, 2007


The lion said “You’re right. A wretched life is worse than death. But how do we humiliate him?” The fox answered, “Order that a running competition be held among the animals. The lion was surprised and said, “But any animal can beat the pig.” The fox smiled and said, “Leave that to me, you’ll see the lizard beat him.”


عقد – To hold, convene

مسابقة – Competition

الجري – Running

تعجّب – To get surprised

ابتسم – To smile

حرباء – Lizard

The Multicolored Lizard 5

October 30, 2007


The lion held a celebration for the competition. The gazelle and the wild donkey competed, and the donkey ran further faster, but the gazelle beat him in speed and agility. All the animals applauded the gazelle, and the wild donkey congratulated the gazelle for his victory over him.


وحشي – Wild, untamed

أقصى – The furthest. As in Masjid al-

خفّة – Agility

صفق – Cheer, applaud

هنّأ – To congratulate


The Multicolored Lizard 6

October 30, 2007


The elephant stood up and strode forward swinging and swaying between the animals and said, “Who will compete with me?” and the rhino said, “Me! I’ll compete with you!” So the rhino and the elephant ran together, and after a lot of toil, the elephant won. The lion presented him with a bundle of sugar cane and congratulated the Rhino.


تهادي – To swing, sway, walk with a swagger

تمايل – To swing, sway, walk with a swagger

وحيد القرن – Rhinoceros, literally “One Horn”

مشقّة – Toil, effort, work

حزمة – Bundle

قصب – Sugar cane, reeds

The Multicolored Lizard 7

October 30, 2007


Then the pig sat down amongst the animals and said with pride, “Woe unto he who races me! You’ll only end up with sweat and fatigue.” All the other animals were afraid of him! Not one of them ran against him in the competition, but they heard a weak voice say, “I will. I’ll race you, you snob.” They looked and found the lizard challenging him!


غرور – Arrogance

الويل ل… – Woe unto…

ربح – To profit from, to end up with

عرق – Sweat

تهيب – To fear, to dread

تحدّ – To challenge

The Multicolored Lizard 8

October 30, 2007


The pig said, surprised, ‘You, lizard?” The lizard replied mockingly, “yes, me.” The pig got wildly excited and he started to run and run, and he didn’t see the lizard next to him, but he didn’t feel him on his back, and he was extremely happy. But, at the very end of the race he saw the lizard in front of him!


سخرية – Mockery, sarcasm

طار – To hasten to, hurry

صواب – get wildly excited

صار – and her sisters)  كان Start to, become  (one of

ظهر – Back

فرح – Joy

The Multicolored Lizard 9

October 30, 2007


The lizard had performed the plan he learned from the fox. The pig didn’t know how he had beaten him. His rage grew and he fell on the ground. The fox ran over to him saying, “don’t be sad big brother! You’re not the first strong one to get beaten by a weak one. Come on, get up and get ready for another race!


نفذ – To perform, carry out

حيلة – Plan, scheme

اشتدّ – Get more intense, increase

أسرع الى – Hurry over to

 هزم – Defeat

انهض – Get up

استعدّ – Prepare, get ready

The Multicolored Lizard 10

October 30, 2007


Then, the tiger and the elephant came up to the lion. The tiger said, “the pig has disgraced animals who eat meat, he needs to be forbidden from eating meat.” The elephant said, “the pig has disgraced animals who eat grass and plants. He needs to be forbidden from eating grass and plants.”


عندئذ – At that time

نمر – Tiger or leopard, depending on context

فضح – To disgrace

لحوم – Meats

منع – Prohibit

عشب – Grass

نبات – Vegetables

The Multicolored Lizard 11

October 30, 2007


The lion knew that all of that completed the fox’s planning, so he thanked him. He looked at the pig and said to him, “this is the punishment for arrogance, pig. You’ve given power to one of the reptiles we pride ourselves on, and you can’t live among us anymore, because you eat the food we eat. Its enough for you to eat garbage and small morsels.”


تمّ – To complete

تدبير – Scheming, planning

عاقبة – Punishment

زواحف – Reptiles

قمامات – Trash, garbage

فضلات – Morsels, small pieces

The Multicolored Lizard 12

October 30, 2007


The pig cried and left the king’s presence. The fox said, “King, sir, the pig won’t forget what the lizard did to him, so how will you protect him from and the pig’s evil and treachery?” The lion said, “the lizard can change his color, with that he can hide himself from the pig.


بكى – To cry

انصرف – To leave

حمي – To protect

شرّ – Evil

غدر – Treachery

تغيّر – To change

اختفى – Hide from, conceal oneself from

Shams Saghira Intro

October 27, 2007

This story, entitled “Shams Saghira,” “Little Sun” was written by the Syrian author Zakariya Tamir in 1963. It follows the hero, Abu Fahd, as he makes his way home near midnight, slightly tipsy after a few glasses of Arak. He has a surreal encounter with a jinn under a stone bridge, and ultimately meets his downfall while trying to reap the benefits of what the jinn promised him. This story was included in Sabry Hafez and Catherine Cobham’s A Reader of Modern Arabic Short Stories (1988, Saqi), and includes their textual notes at the end. Translated by Josh Berer.

Shams Saghira 1

October 27, 2007


Abu Fahd was returning home, walking in slow, slightly dizzy steps down the narrow, twisting corridors, lit by yellow lamps spaced in wide intervals. He soon got fed up with the all-encompassing silence which engulfed him, so he began to sing in a light, sing-song voice.

“Miskiin, wa haali Adam.”

The night was rapidly approaching its mid-point. Abu Fahd‘s happiness was on the rise, having drunk three glasses of Arak, and the second had sent him into intoxication.

“Miskiin, wa haali Adam.”

He fancied his crude voice filled to the brim with first-rate sweetness, and he said to himself in a loud voice, “I am a singer!” He began…

Vocabulary and Translation Notes



متعرجة Twisting

متناثرة Scattered

مترنما Sing-song, melodious

غبطة Joy, glee, happiness

مفعم Overflowing, filled to the brim

فائقة First-rate, top-quality

مطرب Singer, crooner, performer

Translation Notes

  • المهيمن – Literally “supervising, protecting, the master” One of the 99 names of Allah.
  • – خيل اليه This is Passive Voice in Arabic
  • Many of the adjectives in this paragraph beginning “muta-” are not actually found in Hans Wehr, but have meanings that can be extrapolated by their roots, which are present.
  • مسكين وحالي عدم I chose not to translate the name of the song he sings. If I were to translate it, it would be along the lines of “Poor Thing, Ain’t Got No Love” or something similar.

Shams Saghira 2

October 27, 2007


to imagine people, open-mouthed and and waving their hands,
cheering and applauding him. He laughed a while, then tipped his fez to the rear a bit, and continued happily singing.

“Miskiin, wa haali ‘Adam.”

He was wearing grey trousers, tied around his waist by and old yellow belt. When he arrived under an old stone archwayto the point where the shadow outweighed the light, he was surprised to see a small black sheep, standing close to the wall.

He opened his mouth in surprise, and said to himself, “I’m not drunk. Look well, old boy. What do you see? It’s a sheep! But where’s its owner?”

He looked around but found no one; the alley was completely deserted. He then encircled the sheep and said to himself, “Am I drunk?”

He laughed a faint chuckle and then said, “God is generous! He knew…


Trousers, (both س and ش are possible) – شروال/سروال

Waving their Hands يلوحون بيديهم

To adjust, move back أمال

Stone arch, aqueduct – قنطرة

To cling to – لصق

Deserted مقفرا

Faint, light – خافتة

Surprise –بوغت

Shams Saghira 3

October 27, 2007


Abu and Um Fahd hadn’t eaten meat in a week!”

He approached the sheep and tried to force it to walk by pushing it forward, but it refused to move. So Abu Fahd grabbed it by its two small horns and pulled on them, but the sheep became rigid and clung to the wall. So Abu Fahd looked at it angrily and said, “I’m gonna carry you, and then I’ll get your mother and father, too.”

So Abu Fahd carried the sheep, raising it up and putting it on his back, holding its front hooves in his hands, then he went on his way, and continued singing. However, his happiness and intoxication had been diminished.

After a while he stopped singing, for it seemed the the weight and size of the sheep had increased. He then unexpectedly heard a voice saying, “Let me go!”

He furrowed his brow and said to himself, “Goddamn booze.” After a moment he heard the very same voice again, saying, “Let me go, I’m not a sheep!”

Abu Fahd shivered and pushed back his fear and hung onto the sheep, but stopped walking. The voice said,…

Vocabulary and Translation Notes

إجبار- To force

رمق- To look at

غيظ – Exasperation, ire, rage

قائمتين- (Two) paws, feet of an animal

نشوة- Intoxication

قطب جبينه- To furrow ones brow

ارتعد- Shiver, shudder. From ‘thunder’.

تشبث- To hold on to, cling to

Translation Notes

على حين غرة-unexpectedly, out of nowhere

قائمتيه- The dual-marker nun is dropped because of the addition of a conjoined personal pronoun, making this word an idafa.

لعن الله السكر-Literally “God Curse Drunkenness”, I chose to translate that as “Goddamn Booze.”


Shams Saghira 4

October 27, 2007


“I’m the son of the king of demons. Let me go and I’ll give you whatever you want.”

Abu Fahd didn’t answer, rather he continued walking quickly, and the voice said again, “I will give you seven jugs filled with gold.”

He then imagined he heard the echo of a piece of gold falling to the ground nearby. He set the sheep down, turned around, and was about to shout, “Let me have it!” when he found himself alone in the long, narrow alley. He didn’t find the sheep, and was left talking to himself alone in the alley for a few fearful moments. The he continued hurriedly along home.

When he arrived at his house, he woke his wife, Um Fahd, up from her sleep and told her what had happened. She said, “Go to sleep, you’re drunk.”

“I only drank three cups!”


متعجلة – Rapid, speedy, hurried

رنين- Echo

ارتطم – Bump, crash, collide

افلت – Release, let down, escape

هتف – To shout

عثر على – To find, lit. to stumble upon

هنيهات – Moments

مهرول – Hurriedly

Shams Saghira 5

October 27, 2007


“You get sick after one!”
Abu Fahd felt he had been insulted, so he replied, “I wouldn’t get sick if I drank and entire barrel of Arak.”

Um Fahd didn’t argue, but began to remember stories she had been told as a child about demons and the tricks they play. Abu Fahd got undressed, turned off the light, and sprawled out on the bed next to his wife, and pulled the covers up to his chin.

Suddenly, Um Fahd said, “You shouldn’t have let him go before he gave you the gold, earlier.”

Abu Fahd didn’t answer, so Um Fahd continued enthusiastically, ‘Go back tomorrow. Catch him, but this time don’t let him go.”

Abu Fahd yawned tiredly and sadly, then said wearily, “How will I find him?”

“You’ll definitely find him under the stone arch. Bring him to the house and don’t let him go until after he…

Shams Saghira 6

October 27, 2007


gives us the gold.”
“I won’t find him.”
“Demons live underground during the day. When night falls, they rise to the surface and play tricks till dawn. If they like a particular spot, they’ll continue to return to it. You’ll find the sheep under the stone archway.”

Abu Fahd moved his had to her chest and slipped it between her breasts, and left it there without moving. He said, “We’ll be rich.”
“We’ll buy a house.”
“A house with a garden.”
“We’ll buy a radio.”
“A big radio.”

Shams Saghira 7

October 27, 2007


“And a washing machine.”
“A washing machine.”
“We won’t have to eat cracked wheat.”
“We’ll eat white bread!”
Um Fahd laughed like a little girl while Abu Fahd continued, saying,
“I’ll buy you a red gown.”
Um Fahd whispered in a haughty tone, “Just one gown?”
“I’ll buy you a hundred gowns.”
He was quiet a moment, then asked, “When are you due?”
“Three months.”
“It’ll be a boy.”
“He won’t suffer like us.”
“He won’t go hungry.”
“He’ll wear nice clean clothes.”
“He’ll go to school.”
“The landlord won’t bother him for rent.”
“He’ll be a doctor when he grows up.”
“I’d rather he was a lawyer.”
“We’ll ask him, would you rather be a lawyer or a doctor?”
She clung to him tenderly, and continued, wryly, “You won’t get a second wife?”

He gently nibbled her ear and said, “Why would I get a second wife, you’re the best woman on Earth.”
They stayed silent, their joy overflowing, but then Abu Fahd, after…

Shams Saghira 8

October 27, 2007


a little while got out from under the covers suddenly. Um Fahd asked,

“What’s up?”

“I’m going now.”


“I’m going to bring the sheep back.”

“Wait until tomorrow night, sleep now.”


He hurriedly left the bed, turned on the light hanging from the ceiling and began to get dressed. “I might not find it.”

“You’ll find it.”

As she was helping him tie his yellow belt around his waist, Um Fahd said, “Be careful not to let him go.”

Abu Fahd felt he may be facing a perilous mission, and may need his dagger. His dagger had a curved blade with a dark shine to it.


Shams Saghira 9

October 26, 2007


He left the house, and dashed along quickly until he arrived under the stone archway. He was flooded with feelings of failure, should he not come cross the sheep. The alley was deserted, and the lights of the scattered windows of the houses on either side of him had gone out.

Abu Fahd stopped and waited, back propped against the wall. After a little while he became aware of an approaching noise, and it wasn’t long until a staggering drunk appeared, bumping against the walls of the alley, all the while shouting in a drawn-out voice, “whatchama…Whoshewhatsit….”

Then he got close to Abu Fahd he stopped walking, he opened his eyes and stared at Abu Fahd in surprise and apprehension, then said in a stumbling, joyful voice, “What are you doing here?”

“Piss off.”

The drunk furrowed his brow in thought, then his face glowed with joy and he said,


Shams Saghira 10

October 26, 2007


“Oh man! I love women too! Are you waiting for the
husband to go to sleep so she can open the door for you?”

Abu Fahd started to get annoyed, and felt his annoyance rise inside him as the drunk continued, “Is she hot?”


“The woman you’re waiting for!”

“I’ll be you’re wing-man!”

“Piss off.”

Abu Fahd‘s anger intensified as he feared the sheep wouldn’t appear thanks to the drunk’s presence. He said furiously, “Go on your way, before I break your head.”

The drunk burped, then said in a surprised tone, “What did you say to me? Who the hell are you?”

Shams Saghira 11

October 26, 2007


There was silence a moment, then he added, saying, “C’mon. Break my head. Lets go.”

Abu Fahd replied, “Go on, leave me be, I don’t want to break your head.”

But the drunk said belligerently, “No, no, c’mon and break my head.”

He took a step back a bit, and said in a playful voice, “I’ll turn you into a sieve.”

The drunk took his hand out of his coat pocket and with it a long straight razor blade. Abu Fahd rushed his hand to his belt, unsheathing his dagger while the drunk was quickly and alertly closing in on him.

Abu Fahd raised his dagger high, then swung it down, but the drunk moved to the left in a quick and sudden movement. The dagger missed him and he pushed the razor into the chest of Abu…

Shams Saghira 12

October 26, 2007


Fahd, shouting, “Take that!”

He pulled the razor out of the flesh, twisting it a bit. Abu Fahd clung to the mud wall, and raised his dagger again, but the drunk stabbed him a second time in the chest, then stabbed him a third time in the shoulder, and Abu Fahd‘s arm immediately went limp and hung to the side. His fingers let go of the dagger and it dropped to the ground.

The drunk was shouting and jumping around yelling, “Take that! Take that!”

He stabbed him in the hip and Abu Fahd moaned, he felt weak suddenly in his knees, and he tried to stay standing up firmly, but the razor was still after him, piercing his flesh and ripping it to shreds without mercy. He stabbed him in the stomach, and his guts spilled out. Abu Fahd pressed his hands against his insides, they were warm and wet and gave a final shudder. They spilled out and poured to the ground, and he collapsed on his back. The drunk was standing and leaning over him nearby. The drunk coughed several times, and then vomited. He then raced away.

Abu Fahd heard the sheep saying to him, “Seven jugs of
gold…” And then the gold tumbled down, shining like little suns.

Then the voice started, bit by bit, to drift away.

Shams Saghira Textual Notes

October 26, 2007


This text came out of a book of modern Arabic short stories designed for speakers of English, and had some textual notes at the end.