A story that was written a hundred years ago

A story that was written a hundred years ago
A story that was written a hundred years ago
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It often seems that reading a story that appeared a hundred years ago is of little use, not interesting, because it is from a time gone by and the West, and it raises issues that no longer have a place in our lives. But it depends on how we read the past, and what we can learn from it.

See, for example, the story “Thuraya” by Issa Obeid, one of the pioneers of the short story, which was included in his collection “Thuraya” in 1922. This story has been written for a hundred years, and yet a careful reading of the work will give us a lot.

Let us consider the topic of the story first. It deals with the issue of a Muslim marriage to a Christian woman when Soraya is associated with Muhammad, and the problem that Soraya, in the event of divorce, “does not dare to merge again into her original element (meaning the Copts), and no one from this element proposes to marry her.” So the first thing we put our hand on is that the problems of this kind of love and marriage have been bothering people for a hundred years.

At the same time, the writer describes the women on the Alexandrian beach, saying that they: “They used to walk on the beach in their navy clothes, and it descended to much above the knee, leaving half of the thighs and legs bare!” This is a hundred years ago! And he writes, p. 58, that the girls were: “naked, sometimes not covered except by a bath towel, wearing their clothes or organizing their hair with silence and indifference under the gaze of young men.”

These facts do not arouse the writer’s astonishment as he describes them or his denunciation. Rather, they appear in the text as a familiar matter that does not deserve to be stopped. That was in 1922. This fact makes us stop to ask ourselves: What happened to the Egyptians? Or on the Egyptians, so that the situation is completely reversed, and for some women, the woman becomes just a nakedness that must be covered?! The early stories of a hundred years ago surprise us when they reveal to us where we were a hundred years ago, and where we have become.

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The story also raises linguistic issues that are no less important, as it reveals to us words that we still use to this day, such as the word “stand”, which means heavy, smug, and responds to the writer when Thuraya says: “Thank you that you saved me from this heavy endowment”! It is the word we still use to this day. And Issa Obeid writes on page 79 on the tongue of his protagonist: “Fashar.. this is impossible.” Thus, in that language we find the connection that binds us to our cultural, social and historical past. At the same time, we will find foreign words used by the author whose meaning we no longer know, such as his saying: “The lady assigned him to work for her” Lafamanu, “so the young man fulfilled her request and refused to take a fee for his work.”

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But what does the word “lavamano” mean? It must have been a common word then, but now you cannot know or understand its meaning, nor will you find an explanation for it anywhere. This in itself is a lesson in not using foreign words that may become completely incomprehensible with time!

Finally, there is a reference in the story to an ancient, deep-rooted understanding that sees politics as a kind of fraud, when the heroine of the story says: “The politica that you do for my aunt’s acquaintances worked for me,” meaning that she began to deceive and swindle.

Finally, it may be noted that the author’s introduction to his collection of short stories indicates bitterness about ignoring literature, men of letters, and the role of art and culture, and that was a hundred years ago.

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