Zakaria Tamer
Zakaria Tamer
The Sleeping Woman


Her head bowed, Su’ad wept before her father and mother and three young brothers, imploring them to slaughter her quickly in order to wipe away the shame which had tarnished her.  The father spoke sternly and asked her to explain in detail what had happened to her.  Su’ad said, her voice breaking” “What happened to me is unbelievable, but even though it is unbelievable, it did still happen.”

 The father ordered her in an even sterner voice to tell them what had happened without any evasion, so Su’ad told them everything.

 The night before, she had been asleep in her room, having locked her door with the key and bolt, as was her habit.  As she slept, she saw herself walking in a park in which there was no other living  creature.  Suddenly a young man attacked her; she didn’t know who he was or where he had been hiding; he threw her down on the ground, crouched on top of her and tore her clothes off, taking all that he wanted from her, and paying no attention to her pleading or her cries for help or her tears that soaked both their faces. 

Then she had a second dream.  She was walking along a crowded street when suddenly the same young man sprang upon her and raped her in front of all those people, not one of whom stopped to watch what was happening.  Then she had a third dream.  She was visiting her grandfather’s grave; as she was reading Surat Al-Fatiha and blessing his  soul, she was surprised by the same young man attacking her and raping her three times, laughing as he said that the cause of his vitality was the beauty of the surroundings.

 The father said to Su’ad: “And who is this young man?” She said: “I don’t know him; I have never seen him before in my life.  How am I supposed to know him when I have only seen him in a dream?  But if I was to see him again, I would know him immediately, for I can never forget his face.”
 The father said to Su’ad: “And what happened to you when you woke up?”
 Su’ad said: “I found myself lying on my bed, my clothes torn, my body smeared with blood and covered with bruises and marks left by fingernails and teeth.”

 The mother said: “This girl is my own daughter and I know her very well.  She sleeps so deeply that not even cannon blasts could wake her up.  This whole matter has nothing at all to do with sleep and dreams.  It can only be that one of t he wild young men from this alley sneaked into her room and violated her as she slept.?
 The father said: “And who is this mad man you would dare enter at night a house in which there are four men?”

 Su’ad’s brothers started shouting angrily, threatening that if they knew who the young man was they would kill him and cut him into pieces, the largest of which would be smaller than a raisin.
 Su’ad said to her mother: “If you are right, I would know who the young man was, for I know each and every one of the young men of the alley.”
 Then the father asked Su’ad: “And did you resist as an honourable woman would?”

 Su’ad said: “I resisted and screamed as loud as I could, but he laughed and told me that we were in a dream, and that the world of those who are asleep cannot be known by those who are awake.”
 The father thought for a long time, then spoke in a trembling voice, warning his daughter not to tell a soul what had happened to her.  But what happened to Su’ad will also happen to many other women in the alley; the men will be baffled and, incapable of taking revenge against those who violated their honour, they will try to prevent their women from sleeping.  But their attempts will fail, and the women will be obliged to sleep, and will be subjected to rape, and will wake up with their clothes torn.

Translated from the Arabic by Maya Abu-Deeb