'Breaking Knees: Modern Arabic Short Stories from Syria', by Zakaria Tamer, translated from the Arabic by Ibrahim Muhawi.
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Tamer, Zakaria / Translated: Ibrahim Muhawi
Garnet Publishing Ltd, UK, 2008 English Edition
14 x 21 cm
Translated Arabic Fiction - Short Stories - Syria
The general theme of Breaking Knees, as of much of Tamer's work, is repression: of the individual by the institutions of state and religion and of individuals by each other, particularly women by men. Thus the question of authority - political, social, sexual and religious - forms the thematic core of the book, with (female) sexuality receiving the lion's share of concern.
Political authority is manifest in the emphasis in many stories on the machinations of the police state - arbitrary arrest and detention, interrogations, corruption. Social authority expresses itself in the patriarchal cultural order and dominance of religious and cultural institutions and conventions that constrain individual freedom. Many stories stress religious hypocrisy and the unfilled sexual expectations of women.
In bringing together religion, politics and sexuality (sometimes all three in the same story), the author is telling us indirectly that these forms of oppression are all connected. From the perspective of the countless Arab individuals who have adopted modern values based on democratic institutions and human rights, the state of affairs characterized by political and cultural stagnation, a destructive worship of tradition and a glorification of a mythical past, appears truly dire.
'Ibrahim Muhawi provides an excellent introduction and an impeccably sensitive translation. [Tamer] is an important and highly significant writer and this translation of Breaking Knees is a fine example of his work.' The London Magazine