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The Atlas is proud to be partnering with the Hay Festival's Beirut39 contest, celebrating Beirut's year as UNESCO World Book Capital, to find the hottest authors under 40 of Arabic origin. Nominations are open until August 24th, 2009.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Najah Awadallah: A Story

Najah Awadallah is an experienced storyteller, having worked in television design, documentary filmmaking and as a writer.


She woke up in the morning to the usual screaming and commotion of her five children. She wished she could remain in bed, even just for a few minutes, to let herself feel that it was actually a holiday for her. It was not to be, however, as her children’s screaming in the salon adjacent to her bedroom scattered this tiny desire. She feared that the echoes of their quarrel might reach her husband’s bed and deprive him of the satisfaction of sleeping in the morning.

She wondered why was it that every time the morning opened its box of tricks and took out light and the sun to illuminate the world, it did not remember to illuminate the hearts of those around her and spread peace and quiet through them. She put this query aside and began to think about what awaited her on this holiday that was not going to finish before it finished her. When she went back over what awaited her, she sighed so deeply from her heart that she frightened the birds taking refuge by her bedroom window. How she wished, in that instant, that she had wings like theirs that could take her to the sea to wash her feet and refresh her soul. To steal from time an hour that would be for herself only.

Ever since she had opened her eyes to the world, she could see the sea but had never enjoyed its water. She saw it as if it were a portrait she was forbidden to touch. Mere footsteps separated her from it, yet she would only go with her family to clean its salty sand and water off her children’s bodies. She would clean them with joy, smelling the odor of the sea ion them. More footsteps separated her from the sea, yet she could not embrace it. And even if she wanted to, she would have to put on all the clothes in her closet to hide anything possibly scandalous. So she cut short the whole matter and muted her desire whenever the sea enticed her with its vigor and blueness. It saddened her to the point of madness that her sea was not like the ones she saw on television screens. She had heard that her sea’s beach was one of the cleanest in the world. Maybe. But she was searching for the happiness that shows all over people’s faces.

The screams of the little ones shook her awake from her daydream. She had a long laugh, as her eyes welled up with tears.

Translated by Suneela Mubayi.

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