Saturday, December 10, 2011

Quote & Excerpt: Sahar Tawfiq

"She went to Tahrir Square, ascended the steps to the pedestrian bridge which encircled the vast roundabout, walked around it several times. She felt tired, and thought about sitting on the steps. She descended and walked to the corniche. The old man was sitting there, reading a book.

"She wished she could sit beside him and read with him. She longed for him to read to her in a calm and sympathetic voice, while she listened to him and gazed at the water, not saying a word.

"After a time he got to his feet. She walked behind him. He took the bus, and so did she. He got off at one of the bus stops on the route, and she got out behind him.  He crossed the square and turned off into a narrow street, then entered an area to which she had never been, one full of alleys, cul-de-sacs, and crowded, narrow streets. He went on, walking down one street, only to turn into another. Finally he came to an old house, its façade a faded yellow. Going down a few steps, he reached a doorway and went in. The interior was full of darkness.

"She gazed for a while at the dark entryway before turning to go back. She discovered she had forgotten the way she had come. She wandered through the small streets and alleys until she came out into the square.

"She took a deep breath, filling her lungs, and gazed at the vast sky and the light encompassing the square at midday.  She resumed walking, briskly now, smiling at everything and everybody.  She looked at her watch; it was almost time for her appointment with Said. She found that it wasn't even particularly important to her. She stopped in a crowded spot, shading her eyes from the sun. At that moment, as her watch ticked on at its regular pace, she tried to recall the features of the old man. She tried very hard but she could not."

--Copyright © 1991, 2011, Sahar Tawfiq (1951-), from "In Search of a Maze," in Stories by Egyptian Women: My Grandmother's Cactus, Introduced and translated by Marilyn Booth, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991, pp. 163-164. The story, titled "Al-Bahth 'an mataha," originally appeared in the author's short-story collection An tanhadira al-shams (Cairo: GEBO, 1985, pp. 59-65). All rights reserved.

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