Samira Azzam’s ‘On the Road’

I’m sure he saw me: the car’s eyes cut through the dark night, and I stood in its way until I thought it would hit me. And he—he’s strong and handsome, that’s what the girls at the factory said about him. My house is far away, in an ancient part of the city. No matter how high we stretch, we can’t reach the manager’s finger, the finger that, with a mere flick, has pushed me away from the car and left me to the storm. He pushes me away from the door and shuts it in my face—gently or hard, I don’t know.  The car drives away, leaving me alone in the storm. And in the middle of this world of towering figures, I see myself with him, with the man who gave me a ring and said, “You shall be my wife.” We are midgets, creeping close to the ground. I put the ring on and look around me, realizing that the other women who work here have already slipped away to their nearby homes. Once, I saved up some money and promised myself the gold ring with the red stone. It isn’t the big truck with its annoying creaks and rattles. Images dance in front of my eyes. The man who pulled me close and said, “You shall be my wife”? To mark the release, we’ll be celebrating Samira Azzam and her work all this week on ArabLit, starting with this brief introduction to Azzam and her work. Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailPrintLinkedInRedditTumblrWhatsAppPinterestTelegramPocketSkypeLike this:Like Loading… Perhaps it’s him? He’s poor, like me, and he couldn’t afford anything more than the engagement ring, a blue silk dress, and a bottle of perfume, which I haven’t yet opened. I passed so many things: the still-shuttered houses, and people walking to work half-asleep, their eyes full of dreams that hadn’t yet faded. It’s a rich person’s car, nimble and sleek, and he’s driving it. I begin to feel afraid. I didn’t know, then, that my father would die, and that I would give the money to my mother and grieve terribly for my father, not allowing myself to think about the ring. And what does the man I love, and who loves me, do? A flood of tears boils down my cheeks and a wave of hate surrounds me. And the truck carrying him and the bottles isn’t here yet! I’ll live like a lady—I’ll never wash bottles again, nor will I wake up before the roosters, and there will be no more trips between factory and city to make my feet bleed. I reach into my pocket and remove a small leather bag, from which I pluck the ring; I had hidden it away, afraid the soap and water would make it lose its shine. Why is he late? It is also coming to other platforms and bookshops, as well as launch events in the new year. ON THE ROAD By Samira Azzam Translated by Ranya Abdelrahman There goes the bell. Even the empty beer bottles are—to me—as tall as giants. And I’ll look strong beside him, so I won’t feel small, the way I do now when one of those elegant, perfumed women walks by. Azzam was also an acclaimed translator, bringing English-language classics into Arabic as she published the stories that have since appeared in five collections. And I walked. There, they’re poured straight into mouths whose thirst will never be quenched. * Samira Azzam   was born in Acre, Palestine in 1927. No. She had a right to wish for that: why shouldn’t she and I—and all of us—be like those spoiled women who sit gossiping and drinking coffee on their balconies, raising their coffee cups to their lips with plump, ivory-skinned, shiny-ring-adorned hands, and laughing at us whenever we walked past in our ancient clothes? A simple yellow band that I wear around my finger. Perhaps she wished she could find someone who would ease a few of her burdens. In her brief life, she translated works by Pearl Buck, Sinclair Lewis, Somerset Maugham, Bernard Shaw, John Steinbeck, Edith Wharton, and others. My feet are killing me, but I still need to wait a while in front of the factory, in case he comes by and gives me a lift in the factory truck. Why doesn’t he stop? Perhaps they are sitting down now, to a warm meal, or lying back in bed. Rain drizzles onto the woolen scarf that I’ve wrapped around my head. It’s where I was born, and where I’ve lived ever since, and I’m not leaving till I’m married.  Yes, I’m getting married! After completing her basic education, she found work as a schoolteacher at 16, and was later appointed headmistress of a girls’ school. A lot of them were jealous, but some girls wished me well: “You’ll be done with all this drudgery,” they said the day we got engaged.  One sly girl told me I was such a clever hunter to have snared one of the workers, and barely two months after I started at the factory. Yes, he’ll pick me up, along with the crates full of bottles. I’ve been waiting for so long! But I have one now: an engagement ring. And as he drives past, I shout as hard as I can, so he stops. The glowing eyes appear from afar, and then slowly, slowly come closer. My man is poor, but he’s strong and kind. I look around with restless eyes, searching for a rag. They soon come back to me, empty, waiting to be washed. The night is muffled by fog. After working for more than 16 years in the information technology industry, she changed careers to pursue her passion for books, promoting reading and translation. Did I miss him leaving in the whirlpool of moving people and machines? Who is that? I walked such a long way to get here—it feels as if the owner built his factory at the ends of the earth. They are all gigantic: houses, people, trees, cars. All my life, I had dreamed of wearing a ring—any ring. He gave it to me when he said, “You shall be my wife.” And I was happy—I will be his wife, and I will wear the ring. I heard it, but I didn’t hate her. I’ll definitely wait. Ranya Abdelrahman is a translator of Arabic literature into English. I don’t know! The three of us will sit around the fire and talk about things that look nothing like beer bottles or factory smoke, and dream about things that our lives have never known. She was still in her teens when her stories began to appear in the journal   Falastin   under the pen name Fatat al-Sahel, or Girl of the Coast. Perhaps he is the manager, whom we know only by name. Samira Azzam’s ‘On the Road’ December 7, 2022December 2, 2022 by mlynxqualey This week, we are launching our first community-supported translation: Ranya Abdelrahman’s translation of thirty-one selected stories by the great cult-classic Palestinian writer Samira Azzam. I finally arrived at the same time as the other women who worked at the factory, but I had left home more than an hour before them. I have a ring, and a man I love is going to take me home with him. Thanks to our supporters on Patreon and elsewhere for making this happen. Did he leave the factory earlier than usual? Everything seems enormous, unattainable in my weakness, arrogant and haughty, out of reach for people who crawl on their bellies like me. Has he passed by without seeing me?  The sound of a car disturbs the night’s silence. I have a long, long road ahead of me to the ends of the earth, where our ancient house waits, with my silver-haired mother and a pot of soup on the fire. Shifting restlessly in his place, he leans forward a bit, looking me up and down as he asks, “And who the hell is this?” He says nothing more, just waves with his huge cigar for me to move away. It reminded me of the train I saw as a child, which I always thought was on a journey that went on and on forever, all the way to the ends of the earth. When Azzam and her family were forced to flee Palestine in 1948, they went first to Lebanon; in the years that followed, Azzam would work as a journalist around the region. Finding one, I begin to dry my fingers, which are wrinkled from the long soak. I dreamed of wearing it on the ring finger of my right hand. He can take me home and then make his rounds to deliver the beer. She has published translations in ArabLit Quarterly and The Common. But he didn’t. But he doesn’t stop. One with a shiny red stone, like the ring I used to see in the jewelers’ window. I longed for him to give me a second ring, along with this yellow band, one with a bit of red on it. The blue dress he gave me is beautiful, and he’s going to buy me another. I can’t bear the thought of walking back to the city on this cold rainy night. I’m tired, and it’s enough that I walked the whole way this morning. The road is deserted. I saw women, too, selling eggs and milk, and clouds of smoke forming above the houses’ chimneys. I run to him and he opens the door, but just as I am about to lift my foot, I flinch, sensing the stare of two ugly eyes that bore into me from behind black-rimmed glasses. You can find the book on Amazon (US, UK, Germany, Canada, Japan, UAE, etc.) and Gumroad. I dry them finger by finger, noting where the gold ring is missing from my hand. I quickly pull my hand from the tub of water where the empty bottles are piled up, ready to be washed and refilled with beer, then loaded up and taken to the city’s bars and nightclubs. Plus, I’m hungry, and full of longing for my mother and for him. On Gumroad, the book it as a 20% launch-week discount, set to end December 9.

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