Summer 2012 • Vol. XXXIV No. 3 Nonfiction |

In Extremis: Literature and Revolution in Contemporary Cairo (An Oriental Essay in Seven Parts)

Theorem Here is a suitably exotic Sufi folk tale from the Nile Delta: The imam of the Friday prayers bumps into a little old dervish at the entrance to the mosque. The dervish, evidently with no intention of joining the others in prayer, is tapping the ground with a stick, again and again intoning, "God can create the world in the shell of a hazelnut." Enraged as much by idle talk as impious behavior, the imam beats up the dervish; then he rushes into the mosque baths to perform his ablutions in time. But no sooner does he step into the water than he finds himself in the middle of a great lake in some faraway land; touching his wet body, the imam realizes he has been transformed into a woman. The woman is rescued by a fisherman who happens upon her in the water and takes her in; and when his wife dies, the fisherman marries the strange woman from the lake. First she gives birth to a boy, then another boy, then a girl. One day she goes out to do the washing in the same lake, a

Already have an account? Log in

Join KR for even more to read.

Register for a free account to read five free pieces a month from our current issue and digital archive.
Register for Free and Read This Piece



Or become a subscriber today and get complete, immediate access to our digital archives at every subscription level.
Youssef Rakha is the cultural editor at the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Weekly and the author of seven books in Arabic. His novel Book of the Sultan’s Seal (Dar El Sherouk, 2011) is forthcoming in English with Interlink. He has written for, among many publications, Parnassus: Poetry in Review and McSweeney’s. Some of his work can be seen on yrakha.wordpress.com.

Read More

Subscribe

Your free registration with Kenyon review incudes access to exclusive content, early access to program registration, and more.

Donate

With your support, we’ll continue 
to cultivate talent and publish extraordinary literature from diverse voices around the world.