Three Egyptian Short Stories
J.B. Snelson is a librarian, bibliographer, and antiquarian bookstore
owner in Wolfville.
Although the stories presented here (in both Arabic and English
translation) are rooted in Egyptian life, they have a universal appeal.
To some extent, this is a matter of theme, but it is also because Idris,
a capable writer, has chosen to present his stories in forms that make
them approachable for those not versed in Middle-Eastern story-telling
“Farahat’s Republic,” the first and least successful of the
three, is about a police official who, thinking he had someone outside
the routine of work to talk to, manages to drop his official persona for
a moment and tell of his Utopian dream. Unfortunately the whole scene
resembles many in Kafka, and this contrasts with the Utopian dream in an
The other two, “The Wallet” and “Abu Sayyid,” can be considered
classics. Both are beautifully told stories of everyday life and
personal growth. “The Wallet” explores the parent-child
relationship. It is about a lad who considers stealing from his father,
when his father fails to give him money for the movies. The youth
believes his dad is rich and is just being difficult. As the lad
realizes the truth (that his dad is broke, probably unemployed, and
putting every cent he has into his son’s education), he takes a great
step towards adulthood.
“Abu Sayyid” deals with that terror of men’s lives—impotence.
It is about a middle-aged man’s realization that he is no longer
virile, and how this poisons his relations with just about everyone.
Here Idris speaks not only of human sexuality and its meaning, but of
the importance of human relationships.
These stories are minor masterpieces deserving a wide audience. In a
world growing smaller every day, we are in great need of works like
these and York Press is to be commended.