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In the “Reading” section, Dnevnik publishes an excerpt from “Zamalek”, with author Dejan Tiago-Stankovich, provided by “Kolibri” Publishing House
“Zamalek”, or a novel about fate by the irrepressible Dejan Tiago-Stankovich, has been published. Since its appearance, “Zamalek” has been declared a masterpiece by critics and readers. To the delight of connoisseurs, Bulgaria is one of the first countries to show interest in this rarely original work.
“Zamalek” translated by Asya Tihinova-Jovanovich, cover by Kapka Kaneva and Elena Dimitrova is named after a sophisticated neighborhood in Cairo. There, in the heart of the Egyptian capital, there has been a shop for valuable antiques for decades. It is run by antiquarian Costa, a famous Egyptologist, and art critic Arna, the storyteller. Along with the relatives, friends and customers of the store, along with the colorful local residents, the heroes of the novel are the ubiquitous sand, the incredible heat, the strange-colored waters of the Nile and the general belief that nothing happens as it is said, but as it is written. Yet life in this Arab metropolis runs smoothly until fate intervenes.
Dejan Tiago-Stanković (1965-2022), a gifted writer and translator, was born in Belgrade. In 1996, he moved to Lisbon. His work is the first translations of Jose Saramago into Serbian and of Ivo Andrić into Portuguese. For “Estoril” (2015), highly praised by historians, critics, readers and media, he received the “Branko Chopic” award of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, the British Award for the Best Historical Novel (2018) and a nomination for the International Dublin Literary Award award. Tiago-Stanković skilfully interweaves disparate destinies, aspirations and ambitions, stories of exile, loyalty, risk, fear and survival. In his books, the serious and the comic coexist peacefully, the great world history and the small human worlds.
This publishing project was financed with the support of the Creative Europe program of the European Commission.
As a reader of “Dnevnik”, you can buy the book with a special discount of at least 10% at Ozone.bg. The code for it is 10Dnevnik. Order the book here.
With code 10Dnevnik you get at least 10% discount
Excerpt from “Zamalek” by Dejan Tiago-Stankovic
THE BLUE BALL
Since Herodotus deals with the Egyptian celestial space, it will not be amiss for us to open this topic, extremely important for the overall understanding of the story we are going to tell. It so happened that shortly before we moved to Egypt, the colorful magazines of the world published a color photo of the Earth as seen from Space, a photo pleasing to the eye and as if commissioned for the cover of a geography textbook. They named our planet with the poetic name Blue Ball.
Located 45,000 kilometers away and photographed by the Apollo 17 capsule on its way to the moon, the globe resembles an almost complete circle, which, illuminated by the sun’s rays, shines against the background of the dark universe. Seen from there, our planet shines in a bluish glow; blue from the sea, white from the clouds, and framed, as it were, in a transparent aura by the thin vitreous ring of the atmosphere, it resembles the glass balls of my childhood.
In the photo taken from a low angle when the spacecraft was high above the South Pole, Antarctica could also be seen in the foreground, if it had not been hidden under the opaque white cloud cap at the time of the photo. A little higher, between the two oceans – the Atlantic on the left, the Indian on the right – the coast line of Africa clearly stands out, which leads north to Arabia and the Mediterranean.
Along the whole earth’s sky – both over the sea and over the land – like whirlwinds, pompoms and tufts are scattered the numerous white spots of the clouds, resembling patterns captured in glass balls. They are everywhere, except over the northern part of the African continent, where, over a very large, red-colored space, there is not a single cloud in this or any other photo, because there are no clouds over the Sahara and the rain, the real torrential rain that irrigates the earth last fell here before the first pyramids, probably at the end of the last ice age.
And this means that the sky above the Sahara has always been clear, at least for the last ten thousand years, eternally unchanged – by day the sun is overhead, by night the stars, and underfoot, the driest of all deserts on earth, in which water is more -less than on the lunar surface.
In Arabic, kismet means fate, destiny, destiny, doom, in one word, all that is predetermined and inevitable, which is written for a person and with which he must come to terms beforehand.
The belief that fate is in God’s hands is essential to Islam. Even while the child is in the mother’s womb, the angel of God records, under the dictation of Allah, its gender, the length of its life and the happiness that will accompany its days. Nothing can be added to or taken away from what is recorded, which remains in the custody of the cherubim until God’s will is done – so I am told it is written in the Koran, but I have not read it.
Kismet is a symbol of a fatalistic attitude to life, to work, to time and history, to one’s own and others’ responsibility.
What are we in this world? What are our chances against fate? If you had asked me this when I was young, I would have smiled, but today I think this: it would not be true if I said that we do not influence our destiny, and yet life rarely turns out the way we imagine it ; most often what happens is what was written for us, and our will is not decisive. This is what I say today, at the age of 75.
THE NIGHT WAS HOT
I was 34 years old when, on a hot summer night in 1972, fate took me to Egypt. At the time, the Institute of Tropical Diseases recommended that people get the necessary vaccinations before traveling to Egypt, because this is Africa after all. Before we left, our friends gave us books on Ancient Egypt, history and art, and a booklet with instructions on how to live a good life.
Everyone we asked warned us to beware of infections, to wash our hands, not to drink unboiled water, not for anything in the world to bathe in the Nile, because it is a disgusting, dirty river, to beware of heat and sunstroke, because it kills, to jump over puddles in the streets, because stagnant water is a breeding ground for infections, not to enter tombs and underground canals, because prehistoric microorganisms, deadly bacteria and fungi lurk there, and only a person is enough, at this Westerner, to inhale a little of the unaired air of ancient times, to suffer.
At the same time, they kept repeating that everything was different than in other places. But as much as I’d been warned, that night I was surprised by the heat that blew us out of the darkness as we stepped off the plane. I was coming down the stairs with my three little girls, gusts of dry, hotter than blood wind trying to blow my scarf off my shoulders and ruffle my hair.
Alex had come before me, on reconnaissance, and after making sure that everything was in order, the four of us – our three daughters and myself – set off. He met us at the track, I didn’t expect to see him there at all. Beside him stood a mustachioed man dressed in a uniform. As I greeted Alex, we hadn’t seen each other for several months, the man with a serious expression on his face and a gun on his belt looked away, as if he was ashamed to witness such passionate hugs and kisses. Alex introduced him: you’re a police inspector.
The wind swirled across the open space and spread piles of dust on the ground. The inspector led us to the terminal, helped us through passport control without waiting, walked in front of us as we crossed the airport building, and, theatrically emphasizing how well he was doing, dispersed the noisy and excited crowd as everyone pushed and shoved his way through elbows before ushering us to the American limousine waiting outside the arrivals terminal.
He engaged porters to help us with the luggage and finally, after checking that everything was in order, he closed the trunk and tipped each of them. At parting, Alex slipped a banknote into his hand, he checked with his eyes what he got, smiled under his mustache and pleased with the amount, gave honor. Alex noticed my curiosity. Don’t be surprised, this is not corruption, but a tip – the man did me a favor and deserved his reward. Here’s how it’s done, you’ll learn: Cairo’s number one lecture – a good tip opens many doors