Saturday, August 17, 2013

Cairo in flames

Cairo, August 16, 2013. Photo: AMR Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters/Landov
What was going on in Cairo?

Cautiously, he began to walk, then beckoned to a man coming toward him. 'What's going on in town?' he asked.

'The last day's come,' was the bewildered reply.

'What do you mean? Protest deomonstrations?'

'Fire and destruction,' the man yelled, moving on...

The din was unbearable, as though every atom on earth were yelling at once. Flames were spreading everywhere, dancing in windows, crackling on roofs, licking at walls, and flying up into the smoke that hung where the sky should have been. The burning smelled hellish, a concoction of wood, clothes, and different kinds of oil. Stifled cries could be heard coming out of the smoke. Young men and boys, in frenzied unconcern, were destroying everything, and walls kept collapsing with a rumble like thunder. Concealed anger, suppressed despair, unreleased tension, all the things people had been nursing inside them, had suddenly burst their bottle, exploding like some hurricane of demons...

Men on the street corners urged people on. 'Burn! Destroy! Long live the homeland!' they yelled...

The streets were full of smashed cars; the sky had turned a deep red color as the fires blazed away under their black cloud of smoke.
—Naguib Mahfouz, Al-Summan wal-Kharif (Autumn Quail), 1962.*

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* Translated by Roger Allen and John Rodenbeck, Anchor Press, 2000, pp. 292-295.

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