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Fall 2011


Curated by Barrak Alzaid with Alex Ortiz

Contemporary Literature In Translation Series

Shahadat is a quarterly online series designed to provide a platform for experimentation and promotion of short-form writing on the web. Shahadat features stories, vignettes, reflections, and chronicles written by young or underexposed writers from the Middle East and North Africa on ArteEast Online in translation and the original language of Arabic, Farsi, or Turkish.

ArteEast is a leading international arts organization presenting work by contemporary artists from the Middle East, North Africa, and their Diaspora. Founded in 2003 as a New York based not-for-profit organization, ArteEast supports and promotes artists by raising awareness of their most significant and groundbreaking work and by bringing this work to the widest possible audience. We do this through public events, art exhibitions, film screenings, international touring programs, a dynamic virtual gallery, and a resource-rich website. Partnering with some of the most prestigious cultural institutions around the world — such as The Museum of Modern Art, Tate Modern, and the Sharjah Art Foundation — ArteEast’s film, visual arts, and literary programs reach thousands of new audiences each year. 3

The organization is committed to bringing the highest quality and form of artistic content on multiple platforms. Our innovative use of technology and partnerships to present programs that are highly mobile, rather than bound to a particular physical space, make us one of the most nimble, cutting-edge art organizations today. ArteEast is also consistently providing relevant context so that audiences can fully appreciate the work that is being presented.

Ma’n Abu Taleb September, 2011. New York.


About the Author

From the Curators Where I was Standing and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner each rely on a powerful narrative figure to convey the complex trajectory of inherited violence. In The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Ma’n Abu Taleb guides the reader through through a runner’s rigorous training regimen that literally transforms his body over the course of just a few months. The dedication and deep determination for precision belie the runner’s tactical use of the track for more pernicious means. The first person narration maintains a tight, tense lens on the protagonist that offers the reader insight into the machinations and complex articulation of physical violence, and its impact on the social milieu.


In a similar, albeit more quotidian fashion, the protagonist of Where I was Standing is triggered by a casual encounter with a bully from his youth. The narrator’s recollections, tinged with the shame and anxiety of childhood, flood his present interactions, and overtake his rational thought. In this story, the tension between violence and memory infiltrate the narrator’s world view, forcing a quiet, almost disaffected confrontation redolent with anticipation and meaning.

Ma’n Abu Taleb grew up in Jordan and now lives in London where he works in communications and studies philosophy and contemporary critical theory. He has published stories and articles in Al Quds Al Arabi, Al Ra’i, Jadaliyya and Qadita. Ma’n is currently working on his first collection of short stories.

Pairing these stories together highlights the differing trajectories that violence can take when mapped through the quotidian exercise of a daily run for errands, or training for a run.


Translated by Alex Ortiz

ً‫حيث كنت واقفا‬ ‫والتفت إىل البائع ألحاسب عندما‬ ‫كنت قد تناولت الحليب‬ ُّ ‫ ومل‬،‫ دفع مثن باكيت سجائر وخرج‬.‫رأيته يدخل البقالة‬ .‫يتذكرين‬ ‫ خرجت من منزيل ألشرتي كرتونة‬.‫ يوم األربعاء‬،‫الساعة الثالثة‬ ‫سحت من عميل الشهر املايض مل أخرج من‬ ّ ُ‫ منذ أن ر‬.‫حليب‬ ‫ قطع الدور أمامى ودفع مثن سجائره يف غاية‬.ً‫البيت إال قليال‬ ‫ بل جعل البائع ينفجر ضاحكاً بنكتة رسيعة وانسحب‬،‫اللطف‬ ‫ فتح الباب ولكنه‬.‫ ذهب إىل سيارته‬.‫ خرجت خلفه‬.‫بسالسة‬ .‫ عاد يف اتجاه البقالة‬.ً‫ يبدو أنه نيس شيئا‬.‫تراجع يف آخر لحظة‬ ‫ حتى‬.‫ حتى لو رآين فلن يعرفني‬.‫ إنه ال يراين‬.‫هذه هي فرصتي‬ .‫لو عرفني فلن يتذكر ذاك اليوم‬ ‫ تفكريي كان‬.‫ بدأت أميش نحوه‬.‫نحن اآلن يف الحجم نفسه‬ ‫ كام يحدث يوم�ياِ بني ماليني‬،‫ سأصدم كتفي بكتفه‬:‫كاآليت‬ 7

Where I Was Standing I had already picked up the milk and gone back to pay the shopkeeper when I saw him enter the convenience store. He paid for a pack of cigarettes, then left. He didn’t recognize me. 3 o’clock. Wednesday. I went out to buy a carton of milk. I’ve hardly gone out since I lost my job last month. He cut in front of me in line and courteously paid for his cigarettes. With a quick joke he made the shopkeeper burst into laughter and left. I left behind him. He walked to his car, opened the door, but turned around at the last moment. Looks like he forgot something. He walked back towards the convenience store. Here’s my chance. He doesn’t see me. Even if he did he wouldn’t recognize me. Even if he recognized me he wouldn’t remember that day. We’re the same size now. I began to walk toward him. This is what I was thinking: I’ll bump into his shoulder with mine. Just like what happens every day between millions 6


.ً‫ الشارع خا ٍِل متاما‬.‫ ولكن أقوى‬،‫الناس يف الشوارع املزدحمة‬ ‫ «انتبه يا أخ» أو «ما تتطلع وين‬،‫سيلتفت إيل ويقول أمرا ً ما‬ .‫ أمتار‬۱۰ ‫ عىل بعد‬،‫ ها هو‬.ً‫ عندها سأنهال عليه رضبا‬.»‫رايح‬ ،‫ أمتار‬۳ ،‫ أمتار‬٥ .‫ يرد عىل الهاتف‬.‫نحن نسري يف اتجاه معاكس‬ .‫ مرت‬.‫مرتان‬

of people in the crowded streets, but harder. The street is completely deserted. He’ll turn to me and probably say “watch out man!” or “look where you’re going!” That’s when I will rain blows on him. There he is. About ten meters away. We’re walking towards each other. He picks up his cell phone. Five meters. Three meters. Two meters. One.

‫ اعتذر بأدب ورسعة رجل‬.‫ مل ينظر يف عيني‬.‫فوجئ بعض الشئ‬ .‫ ال وقت لديه ليدقق يف التفاصيل‬،‫أعامل يف طريقه إىل اجتامع‬ .‫ تابع سريه‬.‫نظرت إليه برشاسة‬

He was a bit surprised. He didn’t look me in the eye. He apologized generously in the manner of a businessman rushing off to a meeting. No time for trifles. I gazed at him with ferocity. He kept walking.

‫ كانت الفرصة األوىل وكنت أنا ألعب وحيدا ً يف الساحة‬.ً‫ عاما‬۱٦ ‫ كنت أرضب حجارة ببعض ألرى كيف يتغري شكلها بعد‬.‫الخلفية‬ .‫التفت ألراه هو ومجموعة من أوالد وبنات صفه‬ .‫كل اصطدام‬ ُّ ‫ بل‬،ً‫ مل يقل شيئا‬.‫ضخمون وعريضون ووجوههم مليئة بالبثور‬ ‫ فجأة وجدت نفيس عىل‬.‫ عدت إىل لعبتي‬.ً‫سار نحوي مبتسام‬ ‫ وما إن بدأت ركبي باالنفراد حتى‬،‫ هممت بالنهوض‬.‫األرض‬ .‫ دفعة أخرى‬.‫جاءتني دفعة أخرى وعدت هاوياً إىل األرض‬ .‫ ُحكم عىل بالبقاء عىل األرض‬.‫ دفعة أخرى‬،‫حاولت أن أقف‬ ‫ جاهزا ً ل ُيفشل‬،ً‫ وجدته عم ِالقاً ضاحكا‬.‫نظرت إليه دون أن أنهض‬ ‫ مل يكن من‬.‫ من ورائه جاءت جوقة الضحك‬.‫محاولتي القادمة‬ ،ً ‫ حاولت مجددا‬.ً‫األوالد املحبوبني يف صفه ولذا وقف منتشيا‬ ‫ بدأت عيناي تغرورقان‬.‫ولكنه أعادين إىل األرض مرة أخرى‬ .‫ ال فائدة‬،‫ حاولت مرة أخرى‬.ً‫بالدموع ووجهي يحم ُّر غضبا‬

16 years. It was the first recess and I was playing by myself in the other far playground. I’d throw one stone at another to see how they’d change shape after the impact. I turned around to find him with a group of boys and girls from his class. Big and broad, their faces full of acne. He didn’t say anything, just walked towards me smiling. I went back to my game. Suddenly, I found myself on the ground. I tried to get up. As soon as my knees started to straighten, another shove would come and I’d fall back, flat on the ground. Another shove. I tried to stand. Then another. I was destined to stay on the ground. Without rising, I gazed back at him, a smirking giant, poised to foil my next attempt. A chorus of laughter came from behind him. He hadn’t been one of the popular kids in his class, so he stood there, drunk with approval. I tried again. But he sent me back to the ground . My eyes began to tear up. My face reddened in anger. I tried yet again. No use.

‫ يبدو من مظهره أنه‬.‫ ظهر يف الحي‬.‫ ها هو‬،‫ اليوم‬،‫واآلن‬ ‫ عىل األغلب أنه تزوج فتاة‬.ً‫ ما زال بدينا‬.‫موظف يف رشكة‬ ،‫ بغض النظر‬.‫ وعمل يف وظيفة وجدها له أبوه‬،‫اختارتها له أمه‬ .‫ وأعتقد أن لدي وقتاً لتصفية حسابات‬،‫نحن هنا اآلن‬

And now. Today. Here he is. He shows up in the neighborhood. His appearance indicates that he’s an employee at some company. He’s still fat. Most likely married to some girl his mother chose, working in some job his father found. Anyway, we’re here now, and I believe I can spare some time for payback.

‫ كلمة‬.‫ وقفت متكئاً عىل سيارته‬.‫دخل إىل البقالة مرة أخرى‬ ‫ نظرت‬.‫واحدة تصدر منه تطلق مني وحشاً ينقض عليه‬

He entered the convenience store once more. I stood leaning against his car. A single word from him would 8

‫ طفلة‬،‫ كانت هناك صورة معلقة عىل املرآة‬.‫داخل سيارته‬ ‫ متسك يداها بأطرافه‬،‫صغرية مزهوة بفستان زهري وأزرق‬ ‫ نصف دائرة‬.‫ومتتد ذراعاها نارشة الفستان يف نصف دائرة‬ .‫ حذاء أبيض صغري ببكلة‬.‫أخرى هي ابتسامتها العريضة‬ ‫ السيارة نظيفة من الداخل‬.‫وطوق بنفس اللون والبكلة‬ ‫ يبدو أنه رجل‬.‫ أوراق وملفات‬.‫والخارج ولكن تعمها الفوىض‬ ‫ يبدو‬.‫ يبدو أنه يقيض وقتاً كثريا ً يف السيارة‬.‫ أو تأمني‬،‫مبيعات‬ ‫ ما‬،‫ خرج من البقالة‬.‫أن السيارة بحاجة لزيارة إىل امليكانييك‬ ‫ بل وال يذكر أين أنا‬،‫ ما زال ال يذكرين‬.‫زال يتكلم يف الهاتف‬ ‫ ها هو يسري نحو‬،‫ حان الوقت‬.‫من ارتطم به قبل لحظات‬ .‫ نحوي‬،‫السيارة‬ ‫ نظر باتجاهي ولكن‬.‫«يعطيك العافية» مع ابتسامة خافتة‬ .‫ وصعد يف السيارة‬،‫ فتح الباب‬،‫ أعاد وجهه للهاتف‬.‫ليس إيل‬ .‫ وقفت وابتعدت عن السيارة‬.‫متتمت إجابة حتى أنا مل أفهمها‬ ُ ‫ كان ينظر إىل‬.‫مرت لحظات وأنا واقف عىل الرصيف أراقبه‬ ‫ مرت سيارة وأصبح‬.‫االتجاه اآلخر لريى السيارات القادمة‬ ‫ أدار املقود بيد واحدة وتأكد من الجهة‬.ً‫الطريق مفتوحا‬ ‫ وضع هاتفه بني أذنه‬.ً‫ حيث كنت واقفا‬،‫األخرى من الطريق‬ .ً‫ وجدت يدي ترتفع أيضا‬.‫ ورفع يده بالتحية‬،‫وكتفه‬


bring forth a monster from within me ready to pounce . I looked inside his car. A picture hung from the mirror. A small girl, splendid in a blue and pink dress. She holds the edge of her dress at her side and, stretching her arms out, spreads her dress in a half circle. Her wide smile is another half circle. Small white shoes with a buckle. And a necklace the same color as the buckle. The car is clean from inside and out but it’s untidy. Papers and folders. Looks like he’s a salesman. Insurance. Looks like he spends a lot of time in the car. Looks like the car needs a trip to the mechanic. He exits the convenience store, still talking on the cell phone. He still doesn’t recognize me. Not only that – he doesn’t remember that I’m the one who bumped into him moments ago. Now’s the time. He’s walking towards the car. Toward me. “Hello” with a faint smile. He glances in my direction, but not at me. He returns his face to the phone. He opens the door, and gets into the car. I stammer out an answer even I don’t understand. I move away from the car. Moments go by while I stand there on the sidewalk watching him. He is looking the other way to watch for oncoming traffic. A car passes and the street becomes clear. He turns the steering wheel with one hand, then looks again at the other side of the road, where I was standing. He places his phone between his ear and his shoulder and raises his hand in greeting. I feel my hand rise too.


Translated by Barrak Alzaid

‫وحدة عداء املسافات الطويلة‬ .‫ دقائق‬٥ .‫ امليل األول انتهى‬.‫يبدو أنه سيحقق وقتاً جيدا ً اليوم‬ ‫ يفكر أنه فعالً محظوظ‬.‫ تنطلق أفكاره‬.‫يعدو ويعدو ويعدو‬ ‫ ونفسيته‬،‫ يفكر أن صحته تتحسن‬.‫ليتم اختياره للمشاركة بالسباق‬ ‫ ينظر‬.‫ يفكر أن هذا كله لن يعني شيئاً بعد بضعة أشهر‬.‫تتحسن‬ ‫ الغيار الثاين صار‬.‫ حان وقت الغيار الثاين‬.‫مرة أخرى إىل الساعة‬ ‫ يف البداية كان‬.‫ أصبح أكرث قدرة عىل السيطرة عىل جسده‬.‫أسهل‬ ‫ أن جسده يخذله‬.‫ أنه يف معركة دامئة معه‬.‫يشعر أن جسده عدوه‬ ‫ أما اآلن فجسده قطع خط الحصار وأصبح‬.‫يف أي فرصة تسنح له‬ ‫ ألن‬،‫ يتعاونان ويساعدان بعضهام‬،‫ كأنهام رفيقان يف تنظيم‬.‫حليفه‬ ‫ العداء وجسده تابعا‬،‫ وهكذا‬.‫مصريهام واحد وفائدتهام واحدة‬ ‫ العداء وجسده لهام‬،‫ يف هذه الحالة بالذات‬،ً‫ (ولكن مهال‬.‫العدو‬ ‫ ولكني أحاول أن‬،‫ أعلم‬،‫ أعلم‬.)ً‫مصالح تقع يف أمكنة مختلفة متاما‬ .ً‫ متهل قليال‬.‫أروي قصة‬ 13

Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner It seems like he’ll set a good time today. The first mile’s over. Five minutes. He runs and runs and runs. His thoughts take off. He thinks about how lucky he was to be chosen to race. He thinks about how his health’s improving, his state-of-mind too. He thinks how in a few months none of this will matter. He looks at his watch again. Time for the second gear. The second gear has become easier. He feels more in control of his body. At first, he felt like it was his enemy. That he was constantly at war with it. That it would let him down at the first opportunity. But now his body has crossed the line and become his ally. As if they were comrades. Working together. Supporting each other, because their fate is one and their goals the same. And so, the runner and his body kept on running (but wait a minute, in this specific case, the runner and his body have completely different goals). I know, I know, but I’m trying to tell a story. Relax. 12


‫ يصغي أللحان أنفاسه فوق وقع‬.‫ هو وحيد‬.‫ العداء يركض‬،‫إذن‬ ‫ حياته قبل هذه‬.‫ قطرات العرق ترسم بقعة عىل صدره‬.‫أقدامه‬ ‫ أن‬.‫ أما اآلن فاملجد والشهرة أمامه‬.‫الفرصة مل تكن متنحه الكثري‬ .‫ أن ينفس عن غضبه أمامه‬.‫يعمل شيئاً أمامه‬

So, the runner runs. Alone. The rhythm of his breathing set over the cadence of his footsteps. Drops of sweat paint a spot on his chest. Before this chance his life wasn’t worth much. But now glory lies before him. Achieving something lies before him. Letting out his rage lies before him.

‫رسح باله وهو يف امليل الثاين وأخذ يتخيل ملصقاً يحمل صورته‬ ‫ ولكن إن كان‬،‫ هو ال يرغب يف هذا‬.‫عىل حائط غرفة مراهق‬ ‫ أي صورة سيستخدمون يا‬.‫النجاح حليفه فهو حاصل ال محالة‬ ‫ ولكنهم حتامً سيجدون‬.‫ترى؟ هو ال يذكر آخر مرة تصور فيها‬ ‫ ترى هل تكون صورة من أيام الوجه‬.‫ إنهم دوماً يفعلون‬.‫صورة‬ ‫املرهق امللئ بالبثور أم وجهه اآلن؟ تقفز أمامه سيارة من شارع‬ ،‫ هو اآلن يف الغيار الثاين‬.‫ يتفادها وتنقطع سلسلة أفكاره‬،‫فرعي‬ ‫ مير من أمام‬.‫ يزيد من رسعته ويثبتها‬.‫وقت أحد الغيارات العليا‬ ‫ هذا مل يحدث من‬.‫ ترمقه بنظرة وبقايا ابتسامة‬.‫فتاة جميلة‬ .‫ تزداد رسعته دون أن يشعر‬.‫ يبتسم‬.‫قبل‬

His mind wanders in the second mile and he starts to picture a poster of himself, hung on some teenager’s wall. He doesn’t wish this. But if he is successful it will definitely happen. What picture will they use? He doesn’t remember the last time he was photographed. But they’re bound to find a picture. They always do. Will it be a picture from the time his adolescent face was covered with pimples or the way it is now? A car jumps in front of him from a side street. He swerves to avoid it and loses his train of thought. He’s in second gear. Time to switch to a higher gear. He speeds up, keeps the pace steady. He passes a beautiful girl. She glances at him with the trace of a smile. This never happened before. He smiles. He runs faster without realizing.

‫ سيكون‬.‫ مليئاً بالحركات األخرية‬.ً‫يوم السباق سيكون حافال‬ ‫وزنه أثقل قليالً مام هو اآلن ولذا سيعاين وقته بعض‬ ‫ سيتحول إىل‬.‫ سيلبس رقامً وشعارات رشكات تدعمه‬.‫اليشء‬ ‫ تقول من أين يأيت‬.‫لوحة إعالنات متنقلة متكلمة وغاضبة‬ ‫الغضب؟ وهل يجب أن يأيت من مكان ما؟ أال يولد اإلنسان‬ ً‫ سيكون يوما‬.‫ نعم‬.‫غاضباً؟ عذرا ً أنا أنحرف عن املوضوع‬ ‫ العداء عليه‬.‫حافالً وسيكون هناك العديد من املتسابقني‬ ‫أن يكون ضمن الثالثة األوائل ليتأهل للسباق القومي وتتم‬ ‫ ينظر‬.‫دعوته إىل منصة التتويج حيث يصافحه وزير الشباب‬ ‫ يجب عليه أن ينهي‬.‫ دقائق‬٨ ‫إىل ساعته ويجدها تقول‬ ‫ يجب‬.‫ يجب عليه أن يتأهل‬.‫ دقيقة يوم السباق‬٣١.٥ ‫تحت‬ ‫ العديد يعولون عليه‬.‫ يجب عليه أن يفوز‬.‫عليه أن ينجح‬ ‫ ولكن أين هم هؤالء؟ مير من أمام مجموعة رجال‬.‫لذلك‬ ‫ أحدهم يحمل بربيش األرجيلة‬.‫يجلسون عىل باب مقهى‬ ‫ يخيم الصمت عليهم وتتابعه‬.‫يف يد وسيجارة يف يد أخرى‬

Race day will be busy. Full of final movements. His weight will be a bit more than it is now, so his time will suffer a little. He’ll wear a number and the slogans of the corporate sponsors. He’ll transform into a moving, talking, angry billboard. You ask where does anger come from? And does it have to come from somewhere? Isn’t man born angry? Apologies. I digress. Yes. The day will be eventful and there will be many runners. The runner has to be amongst the top three to qualify for the national race and be invited to the podium and shake hands with the Minister of Youth. He looks at his watch and finds that it reads eight minutes. He needs to finish under 31.5 on race day. He must qualify. He must succeed. He must win. Many are counting on him for that. But where are those? He moves in front of a group of men who are sitting in front of a coffee shop. One of them holds the hose of a shisha in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Silence envelopes the group and they follow him with their gaze. Their presence 14

.‫ وجودهم يشعره بالسخف يف مالبس الركض‬.‫نظراتهم‬ ،‫الشورت قصري جدا ً وواسع بحيث يظهر مالبسه الداخلية‬ .‫والبلوزة تظهر ما عنده من شعر عىل ظهره‬ ٤ .ً‫ عاما‬٢٤ ‫ أشهر من‬٤ .‫ أشهر‬٤ ‫ حوايل‬،ً ‫السباق ما زال بعيدا‬ ‫ أصبحت نهاية األشهر األربعة ليست بذاك‬.ً ‫ شهرا‬٢٨٨ ‫أشهر من‬ ‫ ترى هل سيظهر له أعضاء اإلدارة‬.‫ دقائق ونصف‬١٠ .‫البعد‬ ‫أثناء متارين التربيد عند انتهائه كام حصل األسبوع السابق؟ أراد‬ .‫ عدم ضعفه يوم السباق‬.‫اإلداريون أن يتأكدوا من عزمه وجديته‬ ‫ من هم ليجرؤوا‬.‫جاوبهم بأن السباق أهم بكثري له مام هو لهم‬ ‫عىل التشكيك بقوة إرادته؟ عىل األغلب أن األوغاد قد استبقوا‬ .‫هذا من معرفتهم أنه كان بال عمل طوال السنتني السابقتني‬ ‫ ال يعلمون‬،‫ واألوغاد اآلتون من بعدهم‬،‫ولكن هؤالء األوغاد‬ ‫ وكرثة األوغاد هي كل‬.‫ هم فقط يحكمون‬.‫القصة وراء القصة‬ .‫املصداقية التي يحتاجون إليها‬ ‫ كل متسابق يحصل عىل دعم‬.‫يقرتب من نهاية امليل الثالث‬ ‫ بفضل تحركات رئيس‬.‫ ويتحول للوحة إعالن متحركة‬،‫للسباق‬ ‫مجلس اإلدارة املذكور أعاله وحنكته تم الحصول عىل دعم‬ ‫ شعار الرشكة كبري وذو خط‬.‫للع ّداء مببلغ كبري من كاتر بيالر‬ ‫ يقلل من‬.‫ وهو مثايل لتخبئة الحزام الناسف تحته‬،‫أسود عريض‬ ‫ سيعتيل‬.‫ هدف العملية هو وزير الشباب‬.‫رسعته ليوزع مجهوده‬ ‫ عىل األغلب سيكون يف املركز‬.‫العداء املنصة ويقرتب منه الوزير‬ ‫ سينحني ليتمكن الوزير من‬.‫الثالث ولذا سيكون أول من يتوج‬ ‫ سيضمه‬.‫ وعندها سيقفز عليه العداء‬،‫وضع امليدالية حول عنقه‬ ً‫ يجب عليه أن يضمه كأنه يحبه حبا‬.‫بأقىص ما ميلك من قوة‬ ‫ أكرث ما يأمل‬.‫ فحزامه الناسف صغري وانفجاره متواضع‬.ً‫جام‬ ‫ إصابة بليغة‬،‫ وإن ابتسم لهم الحظ‬،‫له الفريق هو قتل الوزير‬ ‫ وهكذا (وجواباً عىل سؤالك السابق) فكل‬.‫للرياضيني عىل املنصة‬ ‫ كل بناء عضالت‬.‫رشاقة العداء التي يكتسبها هي هزمية لذاتها‬ 17

makes him feel silly in his running shorts. They’re too high and wide and they reveal his underwear, and the singlet shows the hair on his back. Race day is still a long way off. About four months. Four months out of 24 years. Four months out of 288 months. The end of the four months isn’t that far away now. Ten and a half minutes. Will the management team appear during the cool down period, like what happened the week before? They wanted to make sure of his dedication and seriousness. That his resolve won’t weaken on race day. His response was that the race is far more important to him than it is to them. Who are they to dare question his strength of will? It’s likely that these bastards deduced this from knowing that he had been out of work for the past two years. But those bastards, and the bastards that come after them don’t know the story behind the story. They just pronounce their judgment. And the sheer number of bastards is all the credibility they need.

He’s getting close to the end of the third mile. Everyone who competes gets sponsored, turns into a moving billboard. The head of the aforementioned management team, thanks to his tactics and machinations, has secured a hefty sponsorship deal from Caterpillar. The company’s logo is large, with thick black letters. It is ideal for hiding the explosive belt underneath. He slows down to conserve his energy. The target is the Minister of Youth. The runner will step onto the podium and the minister will approach. Most likely he’ll come in third place and will receive his medal first. He’ll lean down so the minister can hang the medal around his neck. That’s when the runner will pounce on him. He will wrap his arms around him with all the strength that he has. He’ll have to hug the minister tight, like he loves him dearly. Because his belt is small and the explosion modest. The most the team can hope for is to take out the minister and, if fortune smiles on them, seriously injure the other athletes on the podium. And so (and to answer your previous question), all the fitness 16

‫ بل سيفتته‬،‫ولياقة ومرونة لن يطيل عمره أو يحسن صحته‬ .‫لقطع صغرية‬ ‫ ينظر إىل شجرة زيتون‬.‫الطقس جميل اليوم ومناسب للركض‬ ‫ ومل تغري‬،‫ مل تنزح الشجرة‬.‫عمرها مئات السنني ويشعر بالغرية‬ ‫ فكل ما حولها‬،‫ ولكنها بقيت وحيدة‬.‫ ومل تتمزق جذورها‬،‫لونها‬ ‫ مل ت ُركت الشجرة؟ رمبا‬.‫ يحافظ عىل رسعته متواضعة‬.‫اقتلع‬ ‫كشاهد عىل جرمية؟ أو إلرسال رسالة معينة؟ أم هي كانت فقط‬ ‫ أم أسوأ حظاً؟ ميسح املزيد من العرق‬،‫أكرث حظاً من أخواتها‬ ‫ هل‬.ً‫ يفكر مبتسام‬.‫ رباط الرأس امتأل بالعرق وفاض‬.‫عن جبينه‬ ‫سينزعج الوزير من عرق العداء عىل بدلته؟‬ ‫ يحس‬.‫ يركب الغيار الرابع وينطلق‬.‫بقي أمامه امليل األخري‬ ‫ أي تحسني يف الوقت له معنى‬.‫بالريح يف شعره ويشعر بالنشوة‬ ‫ الخطوات أصبحت أثقل والثواين‬.‫ ولكنه تَعب‬.‫ميكن تعزيزه اآلن‬ ‫ يتذكر أن ما سيفرقه عن‬.‫ يثابر‬.‫تطول والنفس غري مشبع اآلن‬ ‫ وهذا لن يجد فيه منافسة‬.‫غريه يوم السباق هو احتامل األمل‬ ‫ يتذكر قول أحدهم‬.‫ يزيد من رسعته رغامً عن جسده‬.‫جادة‬ »‫ “كس أختك أنت وأصالتك‬.»‫“الخيل األصيلة بتشد باآلخر‬ ‫ وكيف ال يكون الخيل أصيالً؟‬،‫ ما عالقته هو بالخيل‬.‫أخذ يفكر‬ ‫ فلم‬،ً‫هل يكون أصيالً بانتامئه للصحراء؟ إذا كان هذا صحيحا‬ ‫ الخيول‬،‫تغلب عليه خيل الجبال واملروج الخرضاء؟ بغض النظر‬ .‫ وقته جيد‬.ً‫ ما زال يعدو رسيعا‬.‫حيوانات غبية‬


‫ترى كيف يكون آخر يوم؟ كيف تكون آخر ليلة؟ آخر وجبة؟‬ ‫أسيأخذ وقتاً أكرث وهو ينظف أسنانه ألنه يعلم أنها املرة األخرية؟‬ ‫هل سيصغي لصوت أخيه الصغري بانتباه أكرث؟ ماذا عن آخر‬ ‫ هل سيستيقظ‬.‫ وآخر رشفة قهوة؟ ميسح العرق عن وجهه‬،‫لقمة‬ ‫باكرا ً لريى آخر فجر؟ هل سيجلس يف املرحاض ويتأمل تفاصيل‬ ‫يف حامم بيته – الذي عاش فيه منذ ولد – مل يرها من قبل؟ وصل‬

that the runner acquires is self-defeating. All the muscle building, the strength, the litheness won’t make him live longer or improve his health – but will blow him to pieces. The weather’s beautiful today and perfect for a run. He looks at an olive tree hundreds of years old and feels jealous. The tree hasn’t been displaced. It hasn’t changed its color. It hasn’t been uprooted. But the tree stands alone. Everything around it has been torn out. He keeps a steady pace. Why was the tree left alone? Perhaps to bear witness to some crime? Or to send a message? Or maybe it just had better luck than its neighbors? Or worse? He wipes more sweat from his forehead. The headband is soaked with sweat. He smiles to himself. Will the minister get annoyed by the runner’s sweat on his suit? In front of him lies the last mile. He shifts into fourth gear and takes off. He feels the wind in his hair. He feels ecstatic. Any gains made on his time can be pushed even further now. But he’s tired. The steps are heavier, the seconds longer, and his breath shorter. He pushes on. He remembers that what will distinguish him from the others the day of the race is his ability to endure pain. This is where he won’t find serious competition. He increases his speed in spite of his body. He remembers somebody saying “the purebred horse gives its best in the last leg.” ‘Fuck you and your purebred,’ he thinks. What does he have to do with a horse? And how can a horse not be purebred? Is it by belonging to the desert? If that’s true, then why did the horse of the mountains and the green meadows defeat it? In any case, horses are stupid animals. His pace quickens. His time is good. One wonders, how will his last day be? How will the last night be? The last meal? Will he take more time while brushing his teeth because he knows it’ll be the last time? Will he pay more attention to his little brother’s voice? What about his last bite? The last sip of coffee? He wipes the sweat from his face. Will he wake up early to watch the 18

‫ وتحول من الركض إىل‬،‫ أوقف الساعة‬.‫إىل نهاية مسافة السباق‬ ‫ شد ساقه وانحنى‬.‫ بعد دقيقتني بدأ متارين التربيد‬.‫امليش الرسيع‬ ‫ وقته‬.‫ ثانية ثم ش ّد ساقه األخرى‬١٥ ‫ ع ّد‬،‫ليلمس طرف حذائه‬ ‫ هو أقوى وأرسع مام كان قبل‬.ً ‫ جيد جدا‬.‫ دقيقة‬٢٩.٤٣ ‫اليوم‬ ً‫ يود أن يحقق وقتا‬.‫شهرين ويحس بسيطرة تامة عىل جسده‬ ‫ هذا أقل مام يحتاجه‬.‫تحت الثامين وعرشين دقيقة يوماً ما‬ ‫ نوع من‬.‫ هو يرغب بهذا لنفسه‬.‫ ولكن ال يهم‬.‫لتنفيذ العملية‬ ‫ فهو سوف‬،‫ ولذا‬.‫ والسباق عىل بُعد أشهر‬.‫التحدي الشخيص‬ .‫يحاول‬

last sunrise? Will he sit on the toilet and study the details of the bathroom - in the house he’s lived in ever since he was born – that he never noticed before? He reaches the end of his run, stops the watch, and slows down to a quick walk. After two minutes he starts to cool-down. He stretches his leg and reaches down to touch the tip of his shoe. He counts fifteen seconds, stretches the other one. His time today was 29:43. Very good. He’s stronger and faster than he was two months ago, and he feels more in control of his body. He’d like to clock in at under twentyeight minutes one day. That’s less than he needs to pull off the mission. But that doesn’t matter. He wants it for himself. Some kind of a personal challenge. The race is still months away. And so, he will try.



About The Curators Barak Alzaid is a writer, curator and artist and is the current Artistic Director of ArteEast. Recent curatorial and performance work include Seera Kartooniya [Bushwick Open Studios, 2010] and antinormanybody [Kleio Projects, 2011] an exhibition of experimental video and portraiture. He will be presenting a group installation piece, Diwaniya, in the Gwangju Design Biennial 2011. His article, Fatwas and Fags: Violence and the Discursive Production of Abject Bodies is publishsed in The Columbia Journal of Gender and Law. He is a graduate of the Performance Studies Masters Program at New York University.


Alex Ortiz is a freelance journalist and translator based out of Cairo, Egypt. His academic and professional work includes modern Arabic literature, journalism, and literary and commercial translation. He received his BA from Brown University in 2009, graduating with a double major in Comparative Literature and Middle East Studies.

Shahadat Logo design by Rima Farouki Design and Layout by Kinda Akash



Shahadat | Fall 2012  

Shahadat's Contemporary Literature in Translation Series features two short stories by London-based Jordanian author Ma'n Abu Taleb. Where...

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