Set in the late nineteenth century on a mythical island off the coast of Yemen, Radwa Ashour's Siraaj: An Arab Tale tells the poignant story of a mother and son as they are drawn inextricably into a revolt against their island's despotic sultan.
Amina, a baker in the sultan's palace, anxiously awaits her son's return from a long voyage at sea, fearful that the sea has claimed Said just as it did his father and grandfather. Said, left behind in Alexandria by his ship as the British navy begins an attack on the city, slowly begins to make his way home, witnessing British colonial oppression along the way.
Said's return brings Amina only a short-lived peace. The lessons he learned from the Egyptians' struggle against the British have radicalized him. When Said learns the island's slave population is planning a revolt against the sultan's tyrannical rule, both he and Amina are soon drawn in.
Beautifully rendered from Arabic into English by Barbara Romaine, Radwa Ashour's novella speaks of the unity that develops among varied peoples as they struggle against a common oppressor and illuminates the rich cultures of both the Arab and African inhabitants of the island. Sub-Saharan African culture is a subject addressed by few Arabic novelists, and Radwa Ashour's novella does much to fill that void.
Radwa Ashour, a native of Cairo, is Professor of English at Ain Shams University. She has written several well-known novels and short stories, as well as critical works on Arabic literature. Barbara Romaine has taught Arabic for fifteen years and is the translator of another Egyptian novel, Aunt Safiyya and the Monastery.
Acknowledgments Introduction Translator's Note on Transliteration and Pronunciation Siraaj: An Arab Tale Chapter One: Amina and the Sea Chapter Two: The Cares of the Sultan Chapter Three: An Account of What Happened to Said Chapter Four: Ammar's Reminiscences Chapter Five: The Ringdove Chapter Six: The Return of the Wanderer Chapter Seven: Forbidden Coffee Chapter Eight: The Locked Vault Chapter Nine: The Festival Chapter Ten: Said's Dream Chapter Eleven: The Well-Kept Secret Chapter Twelve: The Lamp Glossary Notes