Lock-in Literature: Ali el-Makk’s ‘Forty-One Minarets’

“These are the instructions of the hospital administrator. “Dr. The administrator is coming any moment now.” The echo died down in his ears gradually, until it was driven away by memories of his mother. Yes, came the silent answer from Uncle Siddig’s eyes. What about the one who called the mosque after himself and built a sky-scraping minaret? Aren’t the Copts different from the Muslims? It wasn’t the usual time for patients’ rounds. “We’re doing everything we can.” What was that supposed to mean? Traffic was unusually high for that time of the day, with cars blasting their horns, sometimes for no apparent reason. This girl is truly kind, although she is a khawajia.”
His mother always dreamt of his wedding day, seeing him in his bridal dress with the harira ribbon on his wrist, a golden crescent on his forehead, sweet-smelling dharira pasted onto his hair, and girls singing to the rhythm of daluka drumbeats. “Ten of these have no minarets.” He still remembered their names after all those years. “What did he do now?”
“He just placed the stethoscope on her chest and examined her like someone examining a sheep, and then he talked to the Sister in a strange language. Perhaps she was waiting for his return. Could anyone survive a combination of renal and cardiac failure? He would storm with rage, but would quickly calm down. He loved her face and her color. Although she loved her son very much, she wouldn’t hesitate to punish him severely if he ignored his homework or insisted on going to the cinema, or if he let his hair grow too thick. …,” said Sister Alice. But that was not destined to happen, because he simply did not share that dream. She wouldn’t hesitate to punish him when he misbehaved, and he would scream and stay away for hours, but she would eventually take him back into her arms and tell him some lovely stories. Was it the government also? Like a trained chorus, the women wailed loudly. Her Sudanese body was swollen, and her back was full of bedsores. Perhaps she was pretty, but he couldn’t tell for sure from that distance. Can’t you see how people are dying in the so-called common wards? A philanthropist who built it to gain a ticket to paradise? Was it an act of defiance? He saw the ben trees surrounding the fence and dancing in the air. It had been his understanding that death, true to its deceptive nature, would attack only in the dark of night, but that proved wrong as his mother died around midday. Pushing the coins in his pocket, he would urge her to make it quick because he’d lose his job if the hospital administrator spotted her. She was definitely tall. “Get out! Lock-in Literature: Ali el-Makk’s ‘Forty-One Minarets’

This lock-in Monday, as part of our ongoing series of stay-at-home literature, a short story by award-winning   Sudanese writer Ali el-Makk:
By Ali el-Makk
Translated by Adil Babikir
Masjid Al-Nilin, Omdurman. “Did the doctor say anything?” he asked one of his female relatives. He has translated several works, including Mansi: A Rare Man in His Own Way by Tayeb Salih and two novels by Abdelaziz Baraka Sakin. Apparently, the doctor had been summoned by Sister Alice. The hospital’s gate on the Railway Street side was closed as usual. Look at her now, motionless, her eyes closed, hardly breathing. The guard’s firm orders seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. Nariman Youssef
#
To support the   ongoing work of ArabLit and   ArabLit Quarterly,   consider buying an issue for yourself or a friend, or helping us out by donating through Patreonor PayPal, or, if you have one, by   asking your institution to take out a   subscription to the magazine. He would’ve been at a totally different level. Although she was a devout woman, she never spoke about the merits of praying. Wasn’t this the best and cleanest hospital? “Mother, the Grand Mosque, why is it called so?”
“Because it is at the heart of the marketplace, and because it was constructed by the government, and because it is spacious. He turned his eyes towards his mother. Anyway, no one noticed his departure. #
Other translations in our stay-at-home series:
‘Eyes Shut’ by Rami Tawil, tr. It was clear he wanted to avoid any conversation. She might beg him to let her in, so she could see a seriously ill patient. Wasn’t it the best-equipped facility, staffed with British nurses? “Even if a resident died, there was hardly any noise,” Uncle Siddig, who’d worked in the hospital since that time, used to say. And because it’s at the heart of the marketplace and is visited by great masses of people. If he was allowing people to enter the hospital outside visiting times in consideration of a small amount of money, then he could just as well let them stay for the same reason. he asked, answering himself: You should be thankful that a great effort is being made to save her life. It was winter, a season he feared to death — perhaps because of the cold, dark nights   —   or perhaps because his father had died suddenly during the same season. Although she never went to school herself, she wanted her son to get the best education, so he’d become a doctor fixing fractures and curing illnesses. He kept the telephone close to his head while he slept, expecting a call at night from the hospital and a wailing voice screaming in his ears: “She died! Abdel Ghaffar Mosque. “Go out. And although she loved mosques, she never went to one. Photo credit: Nick Hobgood
The hospital reeked of two distinct odors: the smell of sewage and the smell of death. People said he built his wealth from dubious deals. Most of the women who performed hajj were very old, and it was possible that his mother refrained from attending Friday’s congregational prayers because she didn’t want to be classified among that group. Why was he thinking of her? The earth could barely accommodate more jobless. A luxurious car, a house, a family, money — without much effort. And because it was the government that built it.”
“But what does the government have to do with prayers?” This was a question his mother may not have an answer for. The guard might fan his head around for a while before, eventually, letting her in. Were he a doctor, he would have known and would not have had to ask. When their eyes met, he read nothing in the doctor’s eyes that encouraged him to ask any question. The guard went out of the room, his threatening voice echoing through the other rooms. Could he let his hair to grow freely? Again, he steered his eyes off to the street. Was he today his own master? We don’t want anyone here.” The guard came in, preceded by his commanding tone. The hospital was at the center of a bustling ocean. Nashwa Gowanlock
Bushra Fadil’s ‘Phosphorus at the Bottom of a Well.’   tr. Could anyone reach this level of weakness? Hajja Kaltoum, Hajja Zainab, and other Hajjas. Was it curiosity, or grief, or fear of death that drove them in? Here he was, standing beside her bed. But why? You are now on your own, and tragedy has landed on you!He rushed out of the room. Was it because they believed a few piasters would make the guard look the other way? It must be pretty serious, and the minutes the doctor spent checking his mother sounded like hours. Adil Babikir is a translator and an Arabic content manager at Mubadala Investment Company in Abu Dhabi. She loved to talk about mosques. It was called the English Hospital because its residents were mostly British. “But why should I marry and have children? Who was Gadah al-Dum? He simply passed away, with no parents, wife, or family around. Ali el-Makk   (1937-1992) is an acclaimed Sudanese short-story writer and literary critic. But when it was his mother, no words of consolation did him any good. Was it an attempt to drive his mind away from impending tragedy? “What if my mother died today?”
“Everyone is destined to die one day,” he tried to console himself. But could an English nurse prevent death, or at least delay it? In the morning, he felt a gnawing pain. He published several short-story collections, including   The Petite Bourgeois, In the Village, The Moon Sitting in his Courtyard, and   Ascending to the City Bottom. Dragging his heavy steps, he went into the room. The sewage smell was now even stronger. Hussain has done everything within his power, but…”
But what? The corridor suddenly thronged with people. She loved madih and used to recite the lyrics praising the Prophet while in the kitchen or performing other household duties. The Gadah al-Dum Mosque: was it in Mawradeh or Hashmaab neighborhood? A cold wind was blowing in through the northern door. She was wrapped in a white sheet. In case she was caught, she should say that she’d jumped the fence or sneaked herself through the bars, or …. She was breathing heavily. Standing helplessly beside her bed, he wished he could lend her a heart, a kidney, an eye, or part of his soul — any organ that would help her survive. I will lose my job if he finds you here.” It sounded logical and convincing. Some of the neighborhood women attended Friday prayers at the mosque. The fact that they’d performed hajj may have bestowed upon those women an attribute of men: attending the Friday prayers at the mosque. “And who built the Coptic Church? Alas! The guard’s vacant seat. His mother had loved him so much, but in her own way. The objects appeared blurred. Did anyone come to his rescue? Well, it was not a pain in the true sense of the word, but rather a subtle anxiety. This was the typical statement he would make to console others. There was no one there at that time, except a young girl who pressed her face to the bars of the steel gate. Sheikh Yousif Mosque. “Is this what you call a coma, Sister Alice?” he anxiously asked. Where is your medicine, doctors? The doctor suddenly came in, greeted him with a nod, and quickly went out of the room. He had a fit of coughing and, for some reason that was beyond him, he felt he was about to throw up. he asked silently. Her eyes were closed, and she had not uttered a word for seven days now. “There are 51 mosques in Omdurman,” she would tell him. Anyone cry or wail for his loss? During the colonial era, the hospital was perfectly clean, neat, and quiet. Why should the government build all the mosques and all the churches?” She gave no answer to these questions, and he couldn’t understand why. He ran away; was he trying to escape the wailing or the curiosity of the people who were struggling to get into the room? A woman was standing at the gate, pressing her face against the bars, and the watchman’s seat was still vacant. Surely, you should be thankful that your mother is receiving superb care here. She’s gone!” But why should she die? “We need a miracle, Mr. As a young child, he’d been talkative and hyperactive. The street was teeming with pedestrians, cars, and noise. No one moved an inch. He heard the doctor’s footsteps quickly leaving the room. “No.”
“Nothing at all?”
“What on earth could the doctor say? The girl pressing her face against the bars of the closed steel gate. “How is she today, Sister Alice?”
Sister Alice had a lifeless face. “Why do they call it the Grand Mosque?”
As if she were expecting that question, his mother instantly responded: “Because it’s the biggest mosque; its minaret is the tallest. Neither black nor white, she had instead a Sudanese color. Mustafa Adam
‘A Street in the Pandemic’ & Other Poems by Jawdat Fakhreddine, tr. Is it one of my responsibilities to protect mankind from extinction?” he said to himself. You may not be familiar with the latter, but he could recognize it as it hovered over his mother’s head. Was he a saint? Didn’t you see how that man from South Sudan bled to death? Our fate is in God’s hands.”
This doctor in particular was not one who cared to comfort the worries of families or give them any information about the conditions of their patients. Her appeal might not be persuasive enough, so she might offer some money. With wet eyes, he glanced around the hospital’s courtyard. Huda Fakhreddine
Belal Fadl’s 2007 satire “Into the Tunnel,” tr. Certainly, people’s gossip was endless. Haven’t you seen ecstatic people dancing to the rhythm of madih after Friday congregational prayers during the holy month of Ramadan?”
She never saw any of this herself, but only heard about it. The Grand Mosque. Are you saying, Uncle Siddig, that the hospital became filthy and noisy when it passed to local management? The ben trees were dancing with the breeze.