Nights of Musk

Stories from Old Nubia

Haggag Hassan Oddoul
Translated byAnthony Calderbank

This collection of short stories, both poignant and skillfully crafted, bring to life the tragic demise of traditional Nubian life and culture. If the

English edition
1 March 2009
136 pp.
12.5X20cm
ISBN 9789774162169
For sale worldwide

$14.95

This collection of short stories, both poignant and skillfully crafted, bring to life the tragic demise of traditional Nubian life and culture. If the earlier dams that were built across the Nile during the first half of the twentieth century caused increasing numbers of the men-folk to migrate north to Cairo and Alexandria to work as servants, waiters, and doormen, the completion of the High Dam in 1964 sounded the death knell. While the temples of Abu Simbel were meticulously relocated at great expense, the drowning of the ancient heartland of the Nubian people along the banks of the Nile went largely unnoticed. Haggag Oddoul’s work, as well as documenting the personal tragedy of individuals caught up in massive social transformation, also casts a nostalgic light on the heritage and way of life of the Nubians: their rhythmic dancing, their beautiful women, the lively humor of their elders, and the enormous centrality of their traditions and the spirits with which they shared the environment. Two stories in this collection, ‘’Zeinab Uburty’’ and ‘’Nights of Musk,’’ offer a bucolic and dream-like insight into the world that has disappeared for ever under the water behind the dam. Meanwhile, two other stories, ‘’Adila, Grandmother’’ and ‘’The River People,’’ document the departure of the men, while the women are left behind to go fallow, and the second and third generations born in the cities of the north have only their grandmother’s tales and her pigeon Arabic to remind them of their heritage.

Haggag Hassan Oddoul

Haggag Hassan Oddoul was born in Alexandria in 1944 to parents who had left their native village in the Nubian region of southern Egypt. He was a construction worker on the Aswan High Dam, then served in the Egyptian armed forces during the War of Attrition and the October 1973 War. He began writing at the age of forty, and has written short stories, novels, and plays. Nights of Musk was awarded the State Prize for Short Stories in 1990. Anthony Calderbank, who lived in Egypt for many years, has had a long interest in Arabic language and literature. His most recent translation is Rhadopis of Nubia by Naguib Mahfouz (AUC Press, 2003).
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