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Final Night

Final Night: Short Stories

Buthaina Al Nasiri
Translated by Denys Johnson-Davies
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 136
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt15m7kzf
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  • Book Info
    Final Night
    Book Description:

    Love and death and the passage between entry into the world and exit from it are the focus of this collection of short stories. Buthaina Al Nasiri is an Iraqi author who has lived in Cairo since 1979. Despite this physical and temporal distance from her homeland, much of her material derives from it and many of the stories in this collection reflect her deeply felt nostalgia for Iraq. In contrast to many contemporary female writers, she confesses to being less interested in the position of women in society than in that of people in general and the sufferings they experience between birth and the end of life. None the less, some of her best stories depict the many-colored relationships that exist between the sexes. Buthaina Al Nasiri’s work has been widely translated into European languages, but this is the first volume of her stories to appear in English, for which renowned translator Denys Johnson-Davies has selected work from a career of short-story writing spanning some thirty years.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-145-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction (pp. 1-4)

    Although she has lived in Egypt for the past twenty years and was a frequent traveler to Europe in her youth, Buthaina Al Nasiri is very much an Iraqi writer, an Iraqi with a heart that yearns for its homeland and is moved by its present troubles. It is in the short story that she has found her ideal mode of expression and during some thirty years of writing she has produced five volumes of this genre. As is to be expected, it is her earliest stories that are most local and whose background is specifically Iraqi, stories in which...

  4. Final Night (pp. 5-12)

    But this isn’t fair—you’ve taken me completely by surprise.”

    “Does the timing matter if the result’s the same?”

    “Yes. Perhaps we should give ourselves another chance.”

    “You know how impossible our life is together.”

    “But this isn’t fair. Why tomorrow? I never imagined it would be so soon.”

    They were sitting side by side on the couch in a small bedroom with a single large window overlooking the main street, where the shouting of boys playing football broke through the evening’s solemnity.

    He was thirty-six years of age, with a tall body, his thin, delicately featured face framed in...

  5. Circus Dog (pp. 13-18)

    It was an autumn morning and I was sitting in front of the big tent watching the way the leaves were falling onto the street and being cast along by gusts of wind to the end of the turning. It was then that I saw this beggar coming from somewhere with a puppy under his arm.

    He stood in front of the doorway and began to read the advertisement stuck on the outer wall. All of a sudden I found him coming inside and approaching me. Before I could tell him that we wouldn’t be opening for a week, he...

  6. The Mansion (pp. 19-24)

    The mansion was half a century old: two stories and a basement. The front door opened onto spacious living rooms surrounded by bedrooms along the sides that, in former times, had been the master’s study and the music room—where the lady of the house’s piano occupied a prominent position—and the grand dining room. The upper floor consisted of the master bedroom, the children’s bedrooms, and the family drawing room.

    The basement was entered by a small door tucked away to one side of the garden and was connected to the ground floor by a curved stairway. It contained...

  7. The Return of the Prisoner (pp. 25-32)

    Above all else, the house he returned to was not his house, the woman not his wife, and the children not his sons.

    The car took him to a two-story house painted white and surrounded by a spacious garden in a quarter on the city outskirts he had never been to before.

    Inside was a thin woman. The veins in her neck twitched nervously and her forehead wrinkled into a frown that the smile she greeted him with did not succeed in removing. She rushed toward him when he first placed his foot inside the house, then it was as...

  8. Daily Report (pp. 33-40)

    For a period of three months before my retirement I was assigned the job of keeping watch on a political agitator and writing daily reports about what he was up to. This was the type of work I had performed well throughout my working life, and there was nothing to indicate—nor did it occur to me—that this final assignment would be any different from those I had previously carried out.

    At 8 o’clock on the morning of Saturday, 18 November 1995, I received my instructions to keep watch on the house of Hameed Abdel Haqq, located at 4...

  9. I’ve Been Here Before (pp. 41-44)

    I know this lane. After the first bend there’s a date palm growing at such an angle you’d think it would fall down. A white house with windows painted in red makes its appearance.

    This is the house. I’ll step across the threshold and knock at the door. When no one answers I’ll go around the fence and in the back garden I’ll see the swing, which is also red.

    Have I seen all that a long time ago in some dream? But where’s the man who suddenly bursts out of the back door to tell me roughly, “Get away...

  10. All This Land (pp. 45-50)

    I constantly bring back to mind the morning of that day when my husband informed me of his wish to take a new wife in the hope that she would give him an heir for the extensive lands he owns. That day, before imparting the news to me, he invited me to get into his car, and he drove me out of the city. After a couple of hours’ drive through an arid desert, he stopped the car and helped me out.

    Pointing with his arms eastward and westward, my husband said, “All this land is yours.”

    We were standing...

  11. A Time for Waiting (pp. 51-62)

    For two years, despite enjoying excellent health, the woman often had premonitions that death was awaiting her, was perhaps imminent. It was then that she was tempted to burn the letters, lest they be seen by other eyes, and would again think about herself, were God to prolong her life—in what isolation she would live after losing the one and only companion of her silent nights and lonely days.

    Whenever day broke and she opened her eyes in surprise at a new day, her apprehensions disappeared and she busied herself with the details of her daily life until the...

  12. The Story of Samah (pp. 63-66)

    On waking that morning, Samah found her older sister had prepared tea and was carrying her baby brother; she had also given a punch with her other hand at her sleeping brothers. Dipping the bread into the tea, Samah filled her mouth, and drops of hot tea fell onto her small arms. When she finished, she wiped her mouth and nose with her sleeve and paused at the door of the room, scratching her tousled hair.

    She bounded down the stairs of the building when she spotted her father coming from far off carrying bulging bags. She rushed up to...

  13. The Boat (pp. 67-76)

    He looked around him warily: not a sound in the darkness of the night except for the restlessness of the river lit up by the moon and the shadow of Ali the fisherman bent over his net in a boat that the water was bearing away.

    He nodded to the woman behind him, indicating she should follow him. She wrapped herabaaround her body, so that her feet were exposed in their embroidered sandals, which loosened themselves as she walked.

    He went down the natural steps of rock that protruded from the earthy bank, moving into the dampness of...

  14. Man and Woman (pp. 77-86)

    After midnight in the city, at the same time, a woman and a man were making their way through the fog-bound streets. Each one was in a separate part of the city, each unknown to the other.

    Under a pale streetlight she stood blowing on her hands, which were blue with the cold. Her face was creased with pain as she removed one of her feet from its shoe. Bending her knee, she leaned against the lamppost, rubbing her toes swollen with the cold. Herabawas about to fall and she adjusted it around her body as she sensed...

  15. Why Don’t We Go More to the Sea? (pp. 87-94)

    It was at the end of winter, though the sun was shining when the small white car came to a stop at the sea shore.

    “Be careful not to get your clothes wet,” said my mother as she cut the engine.

    We rushed off in the direction of the sea, quivering with excitement for it: Sherif, Rafik, Yasser, and I. I turned up the ends of my trousers, and the others did so too. Taking off our shoes, we ran toward the water, hobbling over the small pebbles scattered about the white sand.

    A coldness stung the soles of my...

  16. Omar’s Hen (pp. 95-100)

    The feathers were yellowish reddish, mixed with black at the throat and chest. Her looks, with her frail body, gave no indication of her being in any way unusual. But Omar, whenever the boycott and food prices were mentioned, would say to everyone proudly, “I’ve got a hen that lays an egg every day.”

    Omar lives with his grandmother in a large, sturdy house surrounded by a garden that has been uncared for since the end of the war and which has become filled with weeds and undergrowth. During the long period when Omar was waiting to be called up...

  17. Homecoming (pp. 101-108)

    I remember now how happy I felt as I left the reception center for new immigrants to Israel bearing a new name, the key to a house, and a small suitcase.

    My wife Yael was behind me, her cheeks flushed. I turned to her and saw the yearning in her, concealing the fatigue of those years. Grasping the plan of the city, I came to a stop, put down the suitcase and opened out the plan. Yael came up close. That’s Ben Yehuda Street. From here there’s a turning off. No mistake—and I folded up the plan.

    “Home at...

  18. The Man Who Made Changes (pp. 109-112)

    Zayer Mur’id was walking back and forth in front of the door of his hut. Unusually for him, he was wearing a clean gown. The men were clapping him on the shoulder and rolling him cigarettes, which he took with a trembling hand. Inside, the courtyard teemed with women who had hurried along on hearing the news.

    They were sitting on the ground laughing and slapping their thighs every time another scream rang out, looking sideways at his first wife, who sat gloomily on her own, plaiting the tresses of a young girl. The girl herself moaned from time to...

  19. Death of the Sea God (pp. 113-126)

    The seaside town was sleeping, its slumbers protected by a sky overcast with clouds heralding the disaster that was about to occur. The wind coming from the sea was cold and threw before it mountains of clamorous waves that struck the shoreline and spattered the rocks with water.

    The man, his shoulder weighed down with what he carried, came from the direction of the sea. Had it not been for his slow approach and the rustling of his clothes, he would have become a part of the darkness that raged behind him.

    On reaching the marble stairway, he looked around...

  20. Back Matter (pp. 127-127)