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Article Published In Vol.6 (Nov-Dec-2018)

A Translation into English of Khalil I. Al-Fuzai’s1 “In the Café” 2

Pages : 1383-1385, DOI:

Author : Gassim H. Dohal

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One of the principles of the Islamic faith is belief in destiny; “that Allah has power over all things and that Allah surrounds all things in (His) knowledge” (Al-Hilali 768). A human being does not have knowledge of his/her predestination, and thus acts in accordance with a choice and/or a desire from within him. Yet some people in the Saudi Arabian society blame destiny for their idleness as if fate were their problem. They should not attribute their laziness to destiny because Islam requires people to work, and their fate is unknown to them before it takes place. This story portrays how luck or fate can play an important role in the life of some people. The protagonist goes to the café to spend time and drink some coffee. There he gets acquainted with his rich uncle, who had left the village. While introducing the story setting, the author uses such words as “routine,” “mechanical,” “dull,” “gloom,” “boring,” etc.—words that reflect the protagonist’s state of mind, and how he envisions his life; it is a difficult and miserable life. Though he apparently goes to the café for a change of pace from the dull atmosphere at home, boredom follows him everywhere. Yousef is “alone to face the hardships of life….”; even in the café, he is alienated. So he wishes to marry, because a wife, as a partner, would support him, at least emotionally; but he questions “how can *I+ afford marriage expenses?” in a society where marriage requires wealth. He is no different from other main characters in this collection who are struggling to earn a living. Like Hassan, the protagonist of “Before the Station,” Yousef in this story assumes his late father’s responsibilities; he should “make a living for his mother and his two little brothers….3” The Saudi Arabian society expects the elder son to take care of the family if something bad happens to the father and, at the same time; it rarely provides any support for such families. Hence, Yousef should “become a sailor” who will face the “tyrannical cruelty” of the sea that delivered the deathblow to his father. He has no idea that his life will end up with such a struggle. It is Um-Kalthoom, a famous Arabian singer, whose songs give him momentum to struggle for survival. To him, she creates “an immortal melody” about pain and suffering—“a pleasant song chanted by sad people” like him. And as long as she manages to mold pain into “a pleasant song” between her lips, he has a chance to create a good life for his family out of the hardships he is facing through his daily struggle. Indeed, “a new dawn in *Yousef’s+ life” emerges after a lengthy night, and his fall changes into spring. While he is sitting in the café, a coincidence takes place: an old, rich man appears, looking for his nephew who, in the end, turns out to be Yousef himself. As is the case in “A Point of Change,” the author depicts in this story difficulties of living, and how chance or fate, as people there call it, may change one’s life.4

Keywords: Khalil al-Fuzai, Saudi, short story, “The Cafe”.



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