In a small town in the Nile Delta lives Houda the deaf and mute butcher’s apprentice. Revealing the town’s private stories through public sign language, Houda articulates the unspoken and the forbidden, to unsettle the apparent quietude of rural society. But his own unrestrained desire threatens to scandalize the town and rock its codes of public behavior. When it is reported that he has violated the sanctity of his employer’s own house, the whole town, with the butcher and Shaykh Saadoun, the pretending Sufi, in the lead, rises to avenge itself and publicly humiliate and ridicule Houda. The elaborate ruse planned by the butcher and the shaykh, playing on Houda’ s hopes, dreams, and fantasies, is foolproof—but while Houda may be a dreamer, he is certainly no fool. This original, satiric novel, introducing the reader to every public and private corner in the life of a small town, is both a daring critique of contemporary Egyptian reality and a thoroughly good read, a remarkable novel of sustained carnivalesque suspense and wicked black humor that marks the arrival of a true literary talent.
Yusuf Abu Rayya (1955–2009) was born in Hihya in the Nile Delta. He wrote seven novels, five short story collections, and nine books for children, and was on the governing board of the Egyptian branch of PEN International. Wedding Night was awarded the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 2005.
R. Neil Hewison is the author of The Fayoum: History and Guide (AUC Press, revised edition 2008) and the translator of After the Nobel Prize 1989–1994: The Non-Fiction Writing of Naguib Mahfouz Volume IV, as well as fiction by Yusuf Idris, Yusuf Abu Rayya, and Gamal al-Ghitani. He lives in Egypt.
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