Seeking Time, in Space (Scene four)

Guava, Mango and Mulberry Trees

Break! There’s nothing better than having a free period! And the best scenario is when the very last class of the day is cancelled, allowing all of us to leave school early. For me, this usually meant a free hour to explore new places. I loved going into the western section of Ain Shams with my neighbourhood friends—I lived in the eastern part of Ain Shams, which is closer to the city centre and which I’d grown bored of by then. The western section, however, bore a much stronger resemblance to the countryside: Many of its houses were built of clay, and there were more fields and vegetation there. On other days, I would head north towards Izbat An-Nakhl or Al-Marg.

One day when we got out of school early I went off with my friend Mohammad, whose father was a poet (at the time I did not know what being a poet meant, or where exactly the poets all worked). We went to a small villa near the school which had a little garden with a few trees. Guava fruits hung like shining yellow lamps amidst the dark green leaves, and their enchanting smell entered our nostrils. We put down our schoolbags just outside the fence of the villa, knowing that the owner of the house was an old woman who didn’t come out very much. We climbed onto the iron gate, then onto the fence, and from there to the tree. We devoured all the guavas our stomachs could hold and also picked a few to eat on the road, and perhaps also to serve as proof of our courageous raid to our schoolmates.

Moments before we were about to climb down, we saw the old woman who owned the villa open the door. We held our breath. She came out of the house calmly, without once lifting her head to the tree, then opened the gate, picked up our two bags, walked back inside the house and closed the door behind her. My stomach was suddenly thrown into disorder, and the taste of guava suddenly grew bitter. We no longer had a heroic story to tell our friends, but rather one of failure and impending doom.

Mohammad and I climbed down the same way we’d come up. We stood nervously outside the gate a while, not knowing what to do. It seemed as if fate had struck us down: We were caught red-handed stealing fruit, and could not go home without our bags. Finally, the woman opened the gate and told us to come inside. We hesitated, but there was nothing for it. The good woman gently reproached us, then said that she was familiar with our school, and even knew my father Eltayeb and Mohammad’s father Mukhaymar. In our anxiety, we really thought that she would tell them what we had been up to. We promised to never steal again, and in turn she promised to say nothing to either the school principal or our parents. She gave us our two bags, but before we could make our escape out the gate she told us to stop, and then went inside the villa. She returned with a few guava seeds for each of us, and gave us a warm smile that I’ll never forget.


It was as if an angelic—or perhaps satanic—force in the trees drove us to the guavas. I was quite overwhelmed whenever I looked at trees like those, for they always tempted me to stretch out my hand and pluck a fruit, then smell it, and finally eat and enjoy it, and only after all of this might I perhaps consider whether I should have first asked the owner’s permission.

There was a large mango garden not too far from our home, just across the railroad tracks that divide the district of Izbat An-Nakhl from Ain Shams. The secret fruit of this garden lured us children in from all over; we swarmed towards it like wasps, and once there we’d throw small bricks at the unripe mangoes. To justify these sorties, we claimed that we were learning our lessons in that garden. And so it was that we embarked upon that new study method called “memorizing while walking.” It was a silly method and I didn’t think much of it, yet we found that some of the older schoolchildren did in fact study this way; and though they seemed to resemble oxen tied to waterwheels, still we followed their lead, repeating the words of the schoolbooks out loud in order to memorize them. It was a strange method, and I only adopted it to get close to the mangoes—and certainly not for the sake of my studies. The owner of the garden later became aware of this trickery that greatly reduced the yield by ruining so many of his mangoes. The strange thing is that we used to eat those tart fruits with great satisfaction, without giving any thought to the damage we inflicted on their poor owner, whose garden we were wrecking with our mischievous, childish stupidity. We even used to laud ourselves for our courage and heroism in that garden!


The mulberry trees that grew near the Farouq village were safe from neither our hands nor our stomachs. Those trees have all vanished now, without leaving the slightest trace behind—tall towers were built in their place, and quickly filled up with large masses of residents. Yet back then, we used to attack those trees in ravaging swarms. We climbed up them with the dexterity of apes, then, much like the silkworm that devours the mulberry leaves, we devoured the mulberries themselves. We stayed up there a long time, hidden among the branches, and did not come down until indigestion overcame us. If our presence was discovered, we would make a hasty escape. Yet we always came back to carry out our delightful raids in that great forest of mulberry trees.


Several years later we conducted a similar raid on some of the farms in the district of Izbat An-Nakhl. It was the first time I had ever seen tomato bushes, and until then I had thought that tomatoes grew on trees like mangoes or oranges. May God have mercy on the gardening teacher who used to herd us into the school courtyard to clean it up and gather leaves, and who never once taught us something useful about gardening, such as the difference between cultivating potatoes and strawberries.

That day, as I went with my brother Khaled and our friend Mahir to Izbat An-Nakhl, it seemed as if we were unknowingly following in the footsteps of those ancient European explorers who sought out gold. Our eyes were dazzled by the alluring glow of the tomatoes (and I suddenly understood why the vegetable sellers always called out that their tomatoes were “jewels” and “sweeter than pomegranates”). We went down into the field at the quiet time around noon on a hot summer day, and began devouring the plentiful tomatoes in delight. No more than a few moments had gone by when we heard yelling: “Catch them! Stop them! Cut them off!” Several farmers were heading in our direction. I was a fast runner, and I took off and did not stop until I was near the eastern border of Ain Shams, my safe haven. I sat panting in the shade, by the wall of a clinic. In my mind, I could see the farmers with Khaled and Mahir: They had surely been caught, and were now undergoing their torture and interrogation, and soon the farmers would come to our home and there’d be a huge scandal. Or perhaps the farmers had beaten them severely or even killed them—and what was there to stop them, for were we any better than common thieves? These thoughts accosted me as I waited for Mahir and Khaled, unable to pry my eyes from the direction of the crime. I could not go home, and I stayed there a long time, squatting like a tired old man or a fugitive without shelter. I suddenly realized that I was still holding a stolen tomato in my hands—it was warm and its distinctive smell climbed to my nose, causing hints of former pleasures to mix with my premonitions of doom. Yet I could not eat it, and it was as if the tomato in my hand had suddenly gone bad. I remembered how my family had taught me to behave well and avoid disgrace, how my school teachers had shown us wrong from right, and I thought about the warnings of the religious men and their distinction between halal and haram5. Yet I could not toss away the tomato either, for I had also learned that throwing away God’s bounty is also haram. I finally set it down beside the wall and asked the Lord for forgiveness for my evil deeds. I stood up with tears in my eyes, still thinking about the disappearance of Mahir and my brother. The pain in my stomach was intense, as was my desire to return home, and the way back seemed much longer than usual.

When I got home, I walked in expecting a question about my absent brother, and then a detailed interrogation that would force me to confess. Yet my brother met me with a smiling face as if nothing had happened. He must have come home some other way, perhaps taking the bus that ran that route.

He told me that those farmers were kind and even generous to them. They didn’t do anything to the two of them after they caught them, but rather asked where they were from and said that if they wanted some tomatoes they only had to ask the owner, and he would certainly give them all they wanted. The farmers then proclaimed, “Our Lord’s bounty is great!”, and finally gave them even more tomatoes to take with them.

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Seeking Time, in Space (Scene Three)

A Train Ride

The best hours of elementary school were whenever we had a free period or two at the end of the school day, often because a teacher was absent for one reason or another. The school attendant Amm Ibrahim would come to tell us in his strong voice: “The teacher isn’t here today… You’re free!” We always screamed “Let’s go! Let’s go!” and then jumped like apes from on top of the benches and thronged through the classroom door as if anyone who were just a moment late would be imprisoned in the school, or as if Amm Ibrahim could go back on his word at any moment.
This last hour was one of my rare chances to explore new and distant places, like Columbus. Sometimes one of my schoolmates would come with me to Al-Qalaj or Al-Marg or Izbat An-Nakhl, or sometimes I would start off in the direction of Ain Shams to the west.3 These places were all thresholds onto the Nile delta, and for me they represented nothing less than a wondrous, unknown world. I was fascinated by the strange animals I saw there (especially the young ones), and I used to gaze at the unfamiliar trees and eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as I wanted. And of course, there were all those delicious things that my friends’ mothers would offer me, such as fatir mishaltit and qishda 4 and homemade bread; and finally there was both the soft and sun-baked varieties of bread, as well as all those other delicious foods, some of which we often bought from the grocer while others we received only very rarely.

One day I decided to carry out a somewhat risky plan on my own: There was a freight train that passed near our house on a slope as it made its way towards Suez. The train slowed down considerably on the slope, so I knew it would be possible to jump onto it and then get off a few minutes later near our house, or at worst a short distance away from it—and in those few minutes, I could discover a whole new world. I had to wait a long time before I could put this plan into action, for I needed enough free time to carry out the illicit expedition without any of my teachers or my family (or their acquaintances) finding out about it.

Then, one day, everything fell into place: The train passed by on schedule and slowed down just like it always did; I ran alongside it and easily jumped into the last car. I sat there whistling in joy and triumph, with my feet dangling out the train that was slowly dragging itself along and clattering marvelously. It let off a loud whistle while I happily counted the ties between the rails beneath me. The train crossed a surprisingly large distance (considering how slow it was going), and let out another whistle and began to pick up speed as I sat there humming to myself. I suddenly realized that the railroad ties were going by much more quickly now, and soon we were moving so fast that I could no longer make out the individual ties. The train let out another (much longer) whistle as it moved forward, and now its clattering took on a sharper pitch. I tottered in the last car, holding tightly onto my bag. I looked out to the left and found that I had passed the last of the houses that I recognized and was now a good distance from home. The train was passing the bedouin huts on the hills, and I knew the desert would begin beyond them. The thought of the train taking me all the way to Suez terrified me, so I resolved to take immediate action. I threw my bag out the train, and a moment later it was a mere point in the distance. There was nothing left to do but hurl myself at the pebbles and the sand…
I stood up in pain; I was covered in dust and had scraped both my knees and one of my elbows. Yet I smiled in satisfaction at the tail of the train that was getting smaller every moment, and walked back to my bag to find that my fountain pen had broken and stained both the bag itself and the notebooks inside it. I returned home later than usual that day. My mother saw the scrapes on my elbow and knees, but before she could utter a word I said: “We had sports class today!” She believed me, and told me to go clean myself up and get ready for lunch.

I entered the house delighted that this adventure had ended up well, an adventure in which I had seen (on my walk back home) many wonders: the bedouin houses built of clay and palm fronds, as well as a great number of goats, sheep, camels, donkeys and dogs. There were also all those new scents and smells that I would never forget, and the many strange and unfamiliar faces that I gazed at as I walked—so different from the well-known faces that I always saw on my usual stroll home from school.

The thought crossed my mind that I would have perhaps seen even greater wonders if I had gone all the way to Suez and then returned on foot—at the time, I did not realise how far Suez really was from Ain Shams. Yet this adventure was a great one to tell my schoolmates about, and perhaps I would someday repeat the experience to a place a bit farther away.

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Seeking Time, in Space (Scene two)

The Bust of Imam Mohammad Abdu 1

On my first day at the Imam Muhammad Abdu Coeducational Elementary School, I saw the bust of Imam Mohammad Abdu at the entrance to the school courtyard, on the wide and winding steps that led to the headmaster’s office. The Imam was wearing a turban, and his face was friendly and smiling—it was hard for me to believe that such a warm face belonged to someone involved in my education. In those days, I thought that he was the school’s owner. I used to examine the face of every person who entered the school in the hope of seeing him, yet he never came to us, and his face continued to inspect me on my arrival to school every day for the next six years, without my knowing the slightest thing about him.

I spent the sweetest days of my life at that school. Even the small troubles of that time would later become a wellspring of beautiful memories. At that school I became the owner of a small sack for my books, and then later of a proper schoolbag; I also had a few pencils, and later a fountain pen, as well as several textbooks and notebooks, each of which had a sticker with my name on it. I always wore the school uniform with the official necktie and badge, and later I became a reader for the school’s morning bulletin and a drummer for the school’s “morning march”—we pupils always headed to the classrooms in an orderly, soldier-like march, in step with the beating of the drums. I later also became the class alfa — or “leader” — , a term which denotes the pupil at the head of the class. Whoever is chosen by the teacher to be the “leader” acts as the teacher’s substitute and is in charge of the other pupils whenever she is absent or late or has to leave the class. Yet my fondest memories are not of the hard work for which we often garnered excessive praise, nor of my many small possessions, but rather of my fortuitously learning how to tell stories in the school’s large courtyard. Our teacher had a son who was about four years old, a stubborn, troublesome and ill-tempered child who would never settle down. She always had to bring him to school with her, and she would have me look after him and stroll through the courtyard with him so that she could focus on her teaching—I would do this whenever I had a free period or if one of the teachers was absent, and also whenever I had sports class or gardening class. (In gardening class, all we ever did was gather leaves from the courtyard. We never so much as learned the difference between meloukhia2 and clover, or between a rose and an onion.) This unruly child always wore me out as I walked around with him. He would pelt the classroom windows and the other children with pebbles and stones, and had a habit of climbing onto anything he could find. The time passed very slowly at first, and I had no idea how I—being myself such a young child at the time—could possibly be rid of this annoying burden.

I resorted to a bit of trickery one day, and it proved effective: I began making up stories to tell him. For example, I told him about how a lizard once scurried up this palm tree in front of him. A goat saw this and wanted to climb up the palm as well—and it did so. Yet the goat was too scared to climb back down, whereupon a pigeon flew to it and said that it would lend the goat its wings on the condition that the goat give it some of its fur in order to make a warm nest for its chicks, and so on and so forth. In time, the child began to grow fond of me and give in to the sway of the stories, and whenever he saw me he would let go of his mother’s hand and ask me to finish the previous day’s tale. I would vary it a bit, and turn the lizard into a gecko and the goat into a sheep and the pigeon into a dove. I thus learned how to produce convincing stories by being both artful and imaginative.
If it chanced that I was called upon to take care of the boy during Arabic class, then this was always much more preferable to me than staying in class in order to explain the lesson to the other pupils or to help them with their exercises. This was in spite of the fact that I initially felt great pride at being asked by the teacher—that teacher whom all the pupils were afraid of—to help my classmates. Yet this noble task quickly lost its nobility, and the pride I felt disappeared with it: In dismay, I watched the other pupils running around and playing, eating and shouting at each other and having fun while I was stuck at the front of the class trying hopelessly to teach them the lesson.
All the same, this onerous chore of teaching was still better than shelling peas or picking meloukhia for the teachers to cook at home.


1 Imam Muhammad Abdu was a pioneering innovator of the intellectual revival movement in Egypt and the Arab East in the 19th century enlightenment. He was also one of the Islamic enlightened intellectuals who rejected conventionalism, believed in openness to other cultures and the innovation of thoughts and social, political and religious reform.” [] [translator’s note]

2 This is the Arabic word for the corchorus plant (also known as Jew’s Mallow), as well as for a traditional Egyptian stew made from its dark green leaves. [translator’s note]

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Seeking Time, in Space (Scene one)

Seeking Time, in Space (Scenes from my Life)

Tarek Eltayeb
05 – 01 – 2008
in Masharef, Haifa

Translation Kareem James Abu-Zeid

Perhaps this is the attempt of a man filled with longing, a man far from his home yet filled with hope, an exile given over to waiting, an artist in flight, a pursuer of passion and a seeker of youth—an attempt at returning to ancient ruins, at recovering those forgotten scenes that have, with the passing of time, become rarer and more precious than the present.

Perhaps this is an attempt at uncovering something hidden and dormant, at laying bare a time that has almost vanished. Perhaps these ancient scenes and places will allow us to mend the fabric of that which has been forgotten; perhaps, by summoning the features of space, we can succeed in bringing forth those of time as well. Perhaps.

“A Little Bird Told Me!”

In my childhood, birds were a source of great irritation to me… I had gotten myself into trouble at school one day, and when I returned home my mother was waiting for me at the door with all the details of my mischief. I was taken completely by surprise, and asked her: “How did you know? Who told you?” She answered: “A little bird told me!” She finished by telling me that she would not divulge the punishment for my behaviour, and then postponed this punishment for an indefinite period of time. I did not realise at the time that the mere thought of the unknown punishment would reign over me for so long and would, in itself, suffice to deter any future attempts at mischief—or to force me (at the very least) to try to hide my actions from the birds.

I now hated the birds that I had once loved so much. I used to dream of soaring through the sky like them and seeing the world from up on high; of flying to school as quick as lightning whenever I woke up late; and of perching on one of the school benches among my mates in order to study.

We used to live on the second floor, and the only tree on our long street was a single camphor tree in front of our house. After this incident with my mother, I began to stare angrily at the spying birds in the tree as they chirped to each other about the neighbourhood’s happenings and flew off to tell parents about the mischief of their children. I also began to glance up into the trees at school during every quarrel with my mates—I always did my best to check my anger, fearing that the enemy birds would divulge my actions to my family.

At home I used to shut the window that faced the top of the camphor tree to prevent the birds from spying on me. I even nervously chased off each bird that settled on the rail of our balcony: “Go away, you dog!”, I yelled, even though I was very fond of dogs.

Masharef, Haifa MASHAREF is a literary magazine published in Haifa, founded by the late novelist Emile Habiby. Until 1996 the magazine was edited by Habiby together with Siham Daoud who is the chief editor since that time. The magazine focuses on the publication of poetry, essays and theoretical texts on literature and culture. The culture of language is carried on by stimulating new forms of use. Masharef plays an important role as a journal for an exchange of ideas. The editorial work emphasizes the transformative and imaginative potential of language, with each text showing how different ways of thinking are explored in poetry and literature. This way artistic knowledge is revealed in the use of language, showing how the materialization of an idea interacts with its medium.

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The Angel’s Game – Carlos Ruiz Záfon

Carlos Ruiz Zafon - the angel's game

Sinopse | PT


In an abandoned mansion at the heart of Barcelona, a young man – David Martin – makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he has taken refuge in the world of books, and spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city’s underworld. But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house are letters hinting at the mysterious death of the previous owner.

Like a slow poison, the history of the place seeps into his bones as he struggles with an impossible love. Then David receives a letter from a reclusive French editor, Andreas Corelli, who makes him the offer of a lifetime. He is to write a book with the power to change hearts and minds.

In return, he will receive a fortune, perhaps more. But as David begins the work, he realises that there is a connection between this haunting book and the shadows that surround his home. Set in the turbulent 1920s, The Angel’s Game takes us back to the gothic universe of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books, the Sempere and Son bookshop, and the winding streets of Barcelona’s old quarter, in a masterful tale about the magic of books and the darkest corners of the human soul.



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Jovens Criadores 2008 – LISBON



Isabel Pereira
Simão Costa
João Pedro Vieira
Raquel Carteiro
Lucy Pereira
Diogo Martins
André Neto
José Loureiro
Jorge Reis


André Oliveira & João Ataíde
José Rodrigues Pereira


Pedro Amado
Rudolfo Quintas


Inês Jacques


André Gouveia & Gonçalo Pimenta
Sílvia Duarte
Filipa Ricardo & Renato Silva


Alcachofra – Movimento Lento
Catarina Carreiras
Daniela Faria


Gonçalo Coelho Silva
Tiago de Sousa Lopes
Mário Ambrósio
Mafalda Santos
Alexandre Delmar
Raquel Vieira da Silva


Bruno Roda
Maria Remédio
Sara dos Santos Vieira
Ricardo Pereira Cabral
Suzete Azevedo Ferreira
Maria Pinto de Oliveira


Luís Lourenço
Tiago Patrício
Ana Queiroz
Frederico Carreira da Costa
Maria Inês Castanheira
Nuno Teixeira
Hélio Teixeira


Typhaine Le Monnier
Cintya Ayumi de Almeida Hobo
Alcachofra – Movimento Lento


Filipa Malho Rodrigues
Catarina Benzinho
Javier Ortega
Susana Bettencourt
Mathieu da Costa
We fight for diamonds
S. Nogueira, A. Trigo, A. Duarte
Ana Torres, Ana Gonçalves
Marco Godinho


A CORDA – Vocal project
Bruno Estima


Paulo Vinhas Baudouin
Carlos Conceição
Maria Loff de Almeida
Pedro Maia Pereira
Sérgio Cruz
Maria Costa Cruz/Rui Ribeiro
Frederico Carreira da Costa

Gaveta de papéis [Paper drawer] – José Luís Peixoto

gaveta de papeis

Esta obra de poesia do autor contemporâneo português José Luís Peixoto, que tem como título Gaveta de papéis, é senão a mais recente do autor – Agosto, 2008 – premiada, com decisão unânime do juri, com o prémio de poesia Daniel Faria 2008.

Ao abrirmos esta gaveta o autor mostra-nos fotografias de cidades; documentos; chaves; recortes de jornal; postais; bilhetes usados; lista de tarefas e desenhos feitos pelos seus filhos. São 88 páginas de boa leitura!

“Quando me cansei de mentir a mim próprio
comecei a escrever um livro de poesia.”

pág. 45

This poetry work from the Portuguese contemporary author José Luís Peixoto, entitled Gaveta de papeis (Drawer of papers), is his most recent one, and has been awarded the Daniel Faria 2008 poetry award, with a unanimous decision by the jury.

By opening this drawer the author show us photographs of cities, documents, keys, clips from newspapers, postcards, used tickets, task lists and drawings made by his children. There are 88 pages of good reading!

Site Oficial do escritor [Writer’s official site]

Translated by: Francisco Malheiro

comente este livro [coment this book]