Tales from Dayrut by Mohamed Mustagab

Mohamed Mustagab grew up in Dayrut in the upper Nile region of Egypt ,he was involved in the construction industry before becoming a Journalist ,He Has a number of collections of short stories published in English he died in 2006 aged 68 ,he was also general director of the academy of arabic language in later life .This collection of short stories focus on the town of his birth it ,which is a poverty stricken area but with a rich character as portrayed in these stories and the novella ,we meet numerous characters from the village ,there is a murder in Bughayi bridge where divers and the police discover numerous body parts as the crowd of onlookers grows the bride gives way,after there has been a lot of honor style killings ,some stories are funny like the JBR’s telling of a clan and Jabir the camels they keep ,eating camel meat and drying the sinews ,the book last part is a novella called The secret history of Nu’man A bd al -Hafiz which tells of nu’man becoming a man having his circumcision which doesn’t go quite to plan  and marriage wonderful evocative story of a small town man the description of his life ,even down to the dowries that were passed on by the families on his marriage .

1. forty pounds to be paid in its entirety immediately following the winter hold on irrigation ,meaning the case when umm Nu’mans supply of clamped salted fish had run out .

2. six kilos of buuya wheat or eight of Australian wheat .

3.five ratls of clarified buffalo butter or seven of cow’s .

4.A goat or sheep for slaughter .

the list of dowries items .

The is a real beauty in Mustagab’s writing a man looking back on the characters and environs of his childhood in the town of Dayrut ,the stories are some times edging into the surreal and at times have a real dark satire element ,the area he is talking about is a place rich in spirit and beliefs . This gives a great view of an area of Egypt I didn’t know anything about .As ever Humphrey Davies does a wonderful job on translation but what else would you expect from the prize-winning translator ,the book is published by the american university press of Cairo .This is my third read for the arabic summer reading challenge from arablit blog .I ve some more arabic books as well to read over the next month or two as well.

August 2010


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