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THE INTERNATIONAL PRIZE FOR ARABIC FICTION 2010

December 16th, 2009 1 comment

THE INTERNATIONAL PRIZE FOR

ARABIC FICTION 2010

Shortlist Announced

www.arabicfiction.org

MUHAMMAD AL-MANSI QINDEEL, MANSOURA EZ ELDIN, RABEE JABIR, ABDO KHAL, RABA’I MADHOUN and JAMAL NAJI are today, Tuesday 15 December, named as the six finalists shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2010 (IPAF), the prestigious literary award celebrating the very best of contemporary Arabic fiction.

The shortlist of finalists was announced by Taleb Alrefai, Chair of Judges for the 2010 prize, at a press conference at the Beirut International Book Fair in Lebanon.

The six books, selected from a longlist of 16, are (in alphabetical order):

Author Title Publisher Nationality
Al-Mansi Qindeel, Muhammad A Cloudy Day on the West Side Dar Al-Shorouk Egyptian
Ez Eldin, Mansoura Beyond Paradise Dar Al-Ain Egyptian
Jabir, Rabee America Al-Markaz al-Thaqafi al-Arabi (Arab Cultural Centre) Lebanese
Khal, Abdo She Throws Sparks Al-Jamal Publications Saudi Arabian
Madhoun, Raba’i The Lady from Tel Aviv Arab Institute for Publishing and Studies Palestinian
Naji, Jamal When the Wolves Grow Old Ministry of Culture Publications Jordanian

Chair of Judges Taleb Alrefai commented on the shortlist of finalists: “A democratic, objective discussion was held, the most important target of which was to reach a list approved by the judging panel. The selected books represent the opinion of the panel, with due respect to and appreciation of all the longlisted novels.”

The panel of five judges were also revealed today. All specialists in the field of Arabic literature, they come from Kuwait, Egypt, Tunisia, France and Oman. They are: Taleb Alrefai (Chair of Judges), Kuwaiti novelist and short story writer; Shereen Abu El Naga, Egyptian lecturer of English and comparative literature at Cairo University; Raja’ Ben Salamah, Tunisian lecturer from the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Humanities at Manouba University, Tunisia; Frédéric LaGrange, French academic, translator and Head of the Arabic and Hebraic Department at the Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV); Saif al-Rahbi, Omani writer and poet.

The prestigious literary prize, now in its third year, aims to recognise and reward excellence in contemporary Arabic creative writing and to encourage wider readership of such Arabic literature internationally through translation. It is run with the support of the Emirates Foundation and the Booker Prize Foundation.

At today’s press conference Jonathan Taylor, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said: “IPAF is increasingly regarded as the leading prize in the Arab literary world. Its impact is indisputable, with its winners and shortlisted writers recognised as some of the most significant voices in contemporary Arabic literature – many of whom are now available to a wider world in translation thanks to the prize.”

Salwa Mikdadi, Head of the Arts and Culture Programme at the Emirates Foundation, added: “The Foundation is proud of its association with this increasingly influential prize. In three short years, the intellectual strength and operational independence of both the board of trustees and the judging panels have made it into the major fiction prize in the Arab World.

The 2010 prize received 115 eligible submissions from 17 Arab countries – Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Libya, Sudan, Tunisia and Algeria – and the longlist of 16 titles was announced this November.

Joumana Haddad, the Prize Administrator, commented: “We are proud that the IPAF is contributing in increasing the interest in contemporary Arabic literature, whether reading or translating wise. No other Arab literary prize has ever enjoyed this much attention and influence, which proves that the IPAF came to fill an urgent need in our cultural life”.

The shortlisted finalists for the prize will each receive $10,000, with the winner receiving an additional $50,000. They can look forward to reaching wider audiences and potentially securing publishing deals – both within the Arab World and internationally. The previous two winners for the prize – Bahaa Taher (Sunset Oasis) and Youssef Ziedan (Azazel) – have not only secured English publications of their novels in the UK, through Sceptre (Hodder & Stoughton) and Atlantic Books respectively, but also a number of international deals as a result of the prize.

The winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2010 will be announced at an awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday 2 March 2010, the first day of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

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A Cloudy Day on the West Side Muhammad Al-Mansi Qindeel

Dar Al-Shorouk, Cairo, 2009

In his novel A Cloudy Day on the West Side, Muhammad Al-Mansi Qindeel evokes the period of great archeological discovery and nationalist struggle in Egypt. The novel tells the story of a young girl taken from home by her mother when she is forced to flee her abusive husband. After changing her name and fastening a crucifix around her tiny arm, the mother leaves her daughter at a village in Asyut. The fate of the girl, who grows up to become a translator, intersects with that of a number of historical figures from the period, including Howard Carter, Lord Cromer and Abdulrahman al-Rifa’i. This thrilling tale is brought to life by the author’s detailed and vivid descriptions of real historical events and places.

Egyptian novelist Muhammad Al-Mansi Qindeel was born in 1946 in the Egyptian delta city of al-Mahalla al-Kubra, where his father was a worker. His first novel, Breaking of the Spirit, was inspired by events surrounding workers’ unrest in the city. A medical school graduate, he worked as a doctor in the countryside before dedicating himself to writing. He currently lives in Kuwait, where he works as an editor for monthly magazine Al-Arabi. He has won two awards for his writing, the State Incentive Award in 1988 and the Sawiris Foundation Award in 2006. He has published several novels, short story collections and children’s books and his novel Moon over Samarkand has been published in English by the American University in Cairo Press.

Beyond Paradise Mansoura Ez Eldin

Al-Ain Publishing, Egypt, 2009

In Beyond Paradise, Mansoura Ez Eldin engages with Egypt’s rural middle class through the character of Salma. The editor of a literary magazine, Salma is trying to dispose of her negative self-image by liberating herself from a past loaded with painful memories. The process encourages her to write a novel in which she tells her family history: a history of love, a history of the body, a history of movement across the social classes within her village, a history of madness, and a history of writing.  Through this process Salma’s identity is split into two. On the one hand she observes and narrates in the present, whilst on the other she delves frantically into the hidden depths of her memory.

Egyptian novelist and journalist Mansoura Ez Eldin was born in Delta Egypt in 1976. She studied journalism at the Faculty of Media, Cairo University and has since published short stories in various newspapers and magazines: she published her first collection of short stories, Shaken Light, in 2001. This was followed by two novels, Maryam’s Maze in 2004 and Beyond Paradise in 2009. Her work has been translated into a number of languages, including an English translation of Maryam’s Maze by the American University in Cairo (AUC) Press. This year, she was selected for the Beirut39, as one of the 39 best Arab authors below the age of 40. She was also a participant of the inaugural nadwa (writers’ workshop) held by the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in Abu Dhabi this November.

America – Rabee Jabir

Al-Markaz al-Thaqafi al-Arabi (Arab Cultural Centre), Morocco and Lebanon, 2009

America evokes the story of the Syrians who left their homeland in the early twentieth century to try their luck in the young America.  Spurred on by a sense of adventure and the desire to escape poverty, they made the epic journey. Leaving their homeland with only a few belongings, their journey takes in everything from their travels across mountains and plains, to their gradual integration into American society, later becoming citizens of America and fighting its wars. In particular, the novel focuses on the character of Marta, who travels alone to New York in search of her husband, with whom she has lost contact. America is a tribute to those who left Syria in search of a new life from those who remained behind.

Lebanese novelist and journalist born Rabee Jabir was born in Beirut in 1972. He has been editor of Afaq, the weekly cultural supplement of Al-Hayat newspaper, since 2001. His first novel, Master of Darkness, won the Critics Choice Prize in 1992. He has since written 16 novels, including: Black Tea; The Last House; Yousif Al-Inglizi; The Journey of the Granadan (published in German in 2005) and Berytus: A City Beneath the Earth (published in French by Gallimard in 2009).

She Throws Sparks ­– Abdo Khal

Al-Jamal Publications, Baghdad/Beirut, 2009

A painfully satirical novel, She Throws Sparks depicts the destructive impact that power and limitless wealth has on life and the environment. It captures the seductive powers of the palace and tells the agonising story of those who have become enslaved by it, drawn by its promise of glamour.  She Throws Sparks exposes the inner world of the palace and of those who have chosen to become its puppets, from whom it has stolen everything.

Abdo Khal is a Saudi novelist born in al-Majanah, southern Saudi Arabia, in 1962. He studied political science at King Abdel Al Aziz University in Jeddah before starting writing in 1980. He is the author of several works, including: A dialogue at the Gates of the Earth, There’s Nothing to be Happy About, and Cities Eating the Grass. Some of his works have been translated into English, French and German. In addition to his writing, he is a member of the board of directors of the Jeddah Literary Club and the editor-in-chief of the Ukaz newspaper, for which he writes a daily column.

The Lady from Tel Aviv – Raba’i Madhoun

Arab Institute for Publishing and Studies, Beirut, 2009

In The Lady from Tel Aviv, Raba’i Madhoun tackles the Arab/Palestinian-Israeli issue, focusing on a pivotal time of anxiety and suspicion, with tensions on the point of boiling over. The novel’s protagonists are Palestinian exile Walid Dahman, who is returning home to Gaza after many years in Europe, and Israeli Dana Ahuva, who happens to be sitting next to him on their flight into Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport. Their dialogue takes the reader into the far realms of memory, history and the self. The Lady from Tel Aviv is a novel that, in its complexity, intricacy and ambiguity, avoids the dogma of ready-made ideology.

Palestinian writer Raba’i Madhoun was born in al-Majdal, Ashkelon, Israel, in 1945. Along with his parents, he was uprooted from his homeland during the 1948 Nakba exodus and as a consequence his childhood was spent in the Khan Younis Palestinian refugee camp situated in the Gaza Strip. He studied at Alexandria University, Egypt, and since 1973 has worked as a journalist. His written works include the short story collection, The Idiot of Khan Younis, an academic study (The Palestinian Intifada) and his autobiography, The Taste of Separation. He currently works as an editor for Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper in London.

When the Wolves Grow Old – Jamal Naji

Ministry of Culture Publications, Amman, 2009

When the Wolves Grow Old reveals the secret lives of the social climbers who have travelled from Amman’s poor quarters to positions of wealth and power, providing an insight into the world of the city’s preachers, politicians and charitable institutions. The book is told by a succession of characters who narrate incidents and scenes that repeat, conflict and develop from one character to the next. However the protagonist, ‘Azmi al-Wajih, remains silent and shrouded in mystery throughout the novel:  is he the only one of these wolves that does not grow old? When the Wolves Grow Old is a story of human frailty and the complex interaction between sex, religion and politics.

Jamal Naji is a Jordanian writer of Palestinian descent, born in the ‘Aqbat Jaber refugee camp, Jericho (Ariha) in 1954. He began writing in 1975 and his published works include: The Road to Balharith, Time, The Remnants of the Last Storms, Life on the Edge of Death, The Night of the Feathers, What Happened Thursday and The Target.  He was president of the Jordanian Writers Association from 2001-2003 and he currently works as head of the Intelligentsia Centre for Research and Survey in Amman, Jordan.

Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves: Part 2

September 4th, 2009 Comments off

This is a continuation from Part 1 of Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves.

Morgiana, on her return, warmed some water to wash the body, and at the same time Ali Baba perfumed it with incense, and wrapped it in the burying clothes with the accustomed ceremonies. Not long after the proper officer brought the bier, and when the attendants of the mosque, whose business it was to wash the dead, offered to perform their duty, she told them it was done already. Shortly after this the imaun and the other ministers of the mosque arrived. Four neighbors carried the corpse to the burying-ground, following the imaun, who recited some prayers. Ali Baba came after with some neighbors, who often relieved the others in carrying the bier to the burying-ground. Morgiana, a slave to the deceased, followed in the procession, weeping, beating her breast, and tearing her hair. Kassim’s wife stayed at home mourning, uttering lamentable cries with the women of the neighborhood, who came, according to custom, during the funeral, and joining their lamentations with hers filled the quarter far and near with sounds of sorrow.

In this manner Kassim’s melancholy death was concealed and hushed up between Ali Baba, his widow, and Morgiana his slave, with so much contrivance that nobody in the city had the least knowledge or suspicion of the cause of it. Three or four days after the funeral, Ali Baba removed his few goods openly to his sister’s  house, in which it was agreed that he should in future live; but the money he had taken from the robbers he conveyed thither by night. As for Kassim’s warehouse, he intrusted it entirely to the management of his eldest son.

While these things were being done, the forty robbers again visited their retreat in the forest. Great, then, was their surprise to find Kassim’s body taken away, with some of their bags of gold. “We are certainly discovered,” said the captain. “The removal of the body and the loss of some of our money, plainly shows that the man whom we killed had an accomplice: and for our own lives’ sake we must try to find him. What say you, my lads?”

All the robbers unanimously approved of the captain’s proposal.

“Well,” said the captain, “one of you, the boldest and most skillful among you, must go into the village, disguised as a traveler and a stranger, to try if he can hear any talk of the man whom we have killed, and endeavor to find out who he was, and where he lived. This is a matter of the first importance, and for fear of any treachery I propose that whoever undertakes this business without success, even though the failure arises only from an error of judgment, shall suffer death.”

Without waiting for the sentiments of his companions, one of the robbers started up, and said, “I submit to this condition, and think it an honor to expose my life to serve the troop.”

After this robber had received great commendations from the captain and his comrades, he disguised himself so that nobody would take him for what he was; and taking his leave of the troop that night, he went into the  village just at daybreak. He walked up and down, till accidentally he came to Baba Mustapha’s stall, which was always open before any of the shops.

Baba Mustapha was seated with an awl in his hand, just going to work. The robber saluted him, bidding him good morrow; and perceiving that he was old, said, “Honest man, you begin to work very early; is it possible that one of your age can see so well? I question, even if it were somewhat lighter, whether you could see to stitch.”

“You do not know me,” replied Baba Mustapha; “for old as I am, I have extraordinary good eyes; and you will not doubt it when I tell you that I sewed the body of a dead man together in a place where I had not so much light as I have now.”

“A dead body!” exclaimed the robber, with affected amazement.

“Yes, yes,” answered Baba Mustapha. “I see you want me to speak out, but you shall know no more.”

The robber felt sure that he had discovered what he sought. He pulled out a piece of gold, and putting it into Baba Mustapha’s hand, said to him, “I do not want to learn your secret, though I can assure you you might safely trust me with it. The only thing I desire of you is to show me the house where you stitched up the dead body.”

“If I were disposed to do you that favor,” replied Baba Mustapha, “I assure you I cannot. I was taken to a certain place, whence I was led blindfold to the house, and afterward brought back in the same manner. You see, therefore, the impossibility of my doing what you desire.”

“Well,” replied the robber, “you may, however, remember a little of the way that you were led blindfold. Come, let me blind your eyes at the same place. We will walk together; perhaps you may recognize some part, and as every one should be paid for his trouble here is another piece of gold for you; gratify me in what I ask you.” So saying, he put another piece of gold into his hand.

The two pieces of gold were great temptations to Baba Mustapha. He looked at them a long time in his hand, without saying a word, but at last he pulled out his purse and put them in.

“I cannot promise,” said he to the robber, “that I can remember the way exactly; but since you desire, I will try what I can do.”

At these words Baba Mustapha rose up, to the great joy of the robber, and led him to the place where Morgiana had bound his eyes.

“It was here,” said Baba Mustapha, “I was blindfolded; and I turned this way.”

The robber tied his handkerchief over his eyes, and walked by him till he stopped directly at Kassim’s house, where Ali Baba then lived. The thief, before he pulled off the band, marked the door with a piece of chalk, which he had ready in his hand, and then asked him if he knew whose house that was; to which Baba Mustapha replied that as he did not live in that neighborhood, he could not tell.

The robber, finding that he could discover no more from Baba Mustapha, thanked him for the trouble he had taken, and left him to go back to his stall, while he returned to the forest, persuaded that he should be very well received.

A little after the robber and Baba Mustapha had parted, Morgiana went out of Ali Baba’s house upon some errand, and upon her return, seeing the mark the robber had made, stopped to observe it.

“What can be the meaning of this mark?” said she to herself. “Somebody intends my master no good. However, with whatever intention it was done, it is advisable to guard against the worst.”

Accordingly, she fetched a piece of chalk, and marked two or three doors on each side in the same manner, without saying a word to her master or mistress.

In the meantime the robber rejoined his troop in the forest, and recounted to them his success, expatiating upon his good fortune in meeting so soon with the only person who could inform him of what he wanted to know. All the robbers listened to him with the utmost satisfaction. Then the captain, after commending his diligence, addressing himself to them all, said, “Comrades, we have no time to lose. Let us set off well armed, without its appearing who we are; but that we may not excite any suspicion, let only one or two go into the village together, and join at our rendezvous, which shall be the great square. In the meantime, our comrade who brought us the good news and I will go and find out the house, that we may consult what had best be done.”

This speech and plan was approved of by all, and they were soon ready. They filed off in parties of two each, after some interval of time, and got into the village without being in the least suspected. The captain, and he who had visited the village in the morning as spy, came in the last. He led the captain into the street where he had marked Ali Baba’s residence; and when they came to the first of the houses which Morgiana had marked, he pointed it out. But the captain observed that the next door was chalked in the same manner, and in the same place; and showing it to his guide, asked him which house it was, that, or the first. The guide was so confounded, that he knew not what answer to make; but he was still more puzzled when he and the captain saw five or six houses similarly marked. He assured the captain, with an oath, that he had marked but one, and could not tell who had chalked the rest, so that he could not distinguish the house which the cobbler had stopped at.

The captain, finding that their design had proved abortive, went directly to their place of rendezvous, and told his troop that they had lost their labor, and must return to their cave. He himself set them the example, and they all returned as they had come.

When the troop was all got together, the captain told them the reason of their returning; and presently the conductor was declared by all worthy of death. He condemned himself, acknowledging that he ought to have taken better precaution, and prepared to receive the stroke from him who was appointed to cut off his head.

But as the safety of the troop required the discovery of the second intruder into the cave, another of the gang, who promised himself that he should succeed better, presented himself, and his offer being accepted he went and corrupted Baba Mustapha as the other had done; and being shown the house, marked it in a place more remote from sight, with red chalk.

Not long after, Morgiana, whose eyes nothing could  escape, went out, and seeing the red chalk, and arguing with herself as she had done before, marked the other neighbors’ houses in the same place and manner.

The robber, on his return to his company, valued himself much on the precaution he had taken, which he looked upon as an infallible way of distinguishing Ali Baba’s house from the others; and the captain and all of them thought it must succeed. They conveyed themselves into the village with the same precaution as before; but when the robber and his captain came to the street, they found the same difficulty; at which the captain was enraged, and the robber in as great confusion as his predecessor.

Thus the captain and his troop were forced to retire a second time, and much more dissatisfied; while the robber who had been the author of the mistake underwent the same punishment, which he willingly submitted to.

The captain, having lost two brave fellows of his troop, was afraid of diminishing it too much by pursuing this plan to get information of the residence of their plunderer. He found by their example that their heads were not so good as their hands on such occasions; and therefore resolved to take upon himself the important commission.

Accordingly, he went and addressed himself to Baba Mustapha, who did him the same service he had done to the other robbers. He did not set any particular mark on the house, but examined and observed it so carefully, by passing often by it, that it was impossible for him to mistake it.

The captain, well satisfied with his attempt, and  informed of what he wanted to know, returned to the forest: and when he came into the cave, where the troop waited for him, said, “Now, comrades, nothing can prevent our full revenge, as I am certain of the house; and on my way hither I have thought how to put it into execution, but if any one can form a better expedient, let him communicate it.”

He then told them his contrivance; and as they approved of it, ordered them to go into the villages about, and buy nineteen mules, with thirty-eight large leather jars, one full of oil, and the others empty.

In two or three days’ time the robbers had purchased the mules and jars, and as the mouths of the jars were rather too narrow for his purpose, the captain caused them to be widened, and after having put one of his men into each, with the weapons which he thought fit, leaving open the seam which had been undone to leave them room to breathe, he rubbed the jars on the outside with oil from the full vessel.

Things being thus prepared, when the nineteen mules were loaded with thirty-seven robbers in jars, and the jar of oil, the captain, as their driver, set out with them, and reached the village by the dusk of the evening, as he had intended. He led them through the streets, till he came to Ali Baba’s, at whose door he designed to have knocked; but was prevented by his sitting there after supper to take a little fresh air. He stopped his mules, addressed himself to him, and said, “I have brought some oil a great way, to sell at tomorrow’s market; and it is now so late that I do not know where to lodge. If I should not be troublesome to you, do me the favor to let me pass the night with  you, and I shall be very much obliged by your hospitality.”

Though Ali Baba had seen the captain of the robbers in the forest, and had heard him speak, it was impossible to know him in the disguise of an oil merchant. He told him he should be welcome, and immediately opened his gates for the mules to go into the yard. At the same time he called to a slave, and ordered him, when the mules were unloaded, to put them into the stable, and to feed them; and then went to Morgiana, to bid her get a good supper for his guest.

After they had finished supper, Ali Baba, charging Morgiana afresh to take care of his guest, said to her, “To-morrow morning I design to go to the bath before day; take care my bathing linen be ready, give them to Abdalla (which was the slave’s name), and make me some good broth against I return.” After this he went to bed.

In the meantime the captain of the robbers went into the yard, and took off the lid of each jar, and gave his people orders what to do. Beginning at the first jar, and so on to the last, he said to each man: “As soon as I throw some stones out of the chamber window where I lie, do not fail to come out, and I will immediately join you.”

After this he returned into the house, when Morgiana, taking up a light, conducted him to his chamber, where she left him; and he, to avoid any suspicion, put the light out soon after, and laid himself down in his clothes, that he might be the more ready to rise.

Morgiana, remembering Ali Baba’s orders, got his bathing linen ready, and ordered Abdalla to set on the pot for the broth; but while she was preparing it the lamp went out, and there was no more oil in the house,  nor any candles. What to do she did not know, for the broth must be made. Abdalla, seeing her very uneasy, said, “do not fret and tease yourself, but go into the yard, and take some oil out of one of the jars.”

Morgiana thanked Abdalla for his advice, took the oil pot, and went into the yard; when, as she came nigh the first jar, the robber within said softly, “Is it time?”

Though naturally much surprised at finding a man in the jar instead of the oil she wanted, she immediately felt the importance of keeping silence, as Ali Baba, his family, and herself were in great danger; and collecting herself, without showing the least emotion, she answered, “Not yet, but presently.” She went quietly in this manner to all the jars, giving the same answer, till she came to the jar of oil.

By this means Morgiana found that her master Ali Baba had admitted thirty-eight robbers into his house, and that this pretended oil merchant was their captain. She made what haste she could to fill her oil pot, and returned into the kitchen, where, as soon as she had lighted her lamp, she took a great kettle, went again to the oil jar, filled the kettle, set it on a large wood fire, and as soon as it boiled, went and poured enough into every jar to stifle and destroy the robber within.

When this action, worthy of the courage of Morgiana, was executed without any noise, as she had projected, she returned into the kitchen with the empty kettle; and having put out the great fire she had made to boil the oil, and leaving just enough to make the broth, put out the lamp also, and remained silent, resolving not to go to rest till, through a window of the kitchen, which  opened into the yard, she had seen what might follow.

She had not waited long before the captain of the robbers got up, opened the window, and, finding no light and hearing no noise or any one stirring in the house, gave the appointed signal, by throwing little stones, several of which hit the jars, as he doubted not by the sound they gave. He then listened, but not hearing or perceiving anything whereby he could judge that his companions stirred, he began to grow very uneasy, threw stones again a second and also a third time, and could not comprehend the reason that none of them should answer his signal. Much alarmed, he went softly down into the yard, and going to the first jar, while asking the robber, whom he thought alive, if he was in readiness, smelt the hot boiled oil, which sent forth a steam out of the jar. Hence he knew that his plot to murder Ali Baba and plunder his house was discovered. Examining all the jars, one after another, he found that all his gang were dead; and, enraged to despair at having failed in his design, he forced the lock of a door that led from the yard to the garden, and climbing over the walls made his escape.

When Morgiana saw him depart, she went to bed, satisfied and pleased to have succeeded so well in saving her master and family.

Ali Baba rose before day, and, followed by his slave, went to the baths, entirely ignorant of the important event which had happened at home.

When he returned from the baths he was very much surprised to see the oil jars, and to learn that the merchant was not gone with the mules. He asked Morgiana, who opened the door, the reason of it.

“My good master,” answered she, “God preserve you and all your family. You will be better informed of what you wish to know when you have seen what I have to show you, if you will follow me.”

As soon as Morgiana had shut the door, Ali Baba followed her, when she requested him to look into the first jar, and see if there was any oil. Ali Baba did so, and seeing a man, started back in alarm, and cried out.

“Do not be afraid,” said Morgiana; “the man you see there can neither do you nor anybody else any harm. He is dead.”

“Ah, Morgiana,” said Ali Baba, “what is it you show me? Explain yourself.”

“I will,” replied Morgiana. “Moderate your astonishment, and do not excite the curiosity of your neighbors; for it is of great importance to keep this affair secret. Look into all the other jars.”

Ali Baba examined all the other jars, one after another; and when he came to that which had the oil in it, found it prodigiously sunk, and stood for some time motionless, sometimes looking at the jars and sometimes at Morgiana, without saying a word, so great was his surprise.

At last, when he had recovered himself, he said, “And what is become of the merchant?”

“Merchant!” answered she; “he is as much one as I am. I will tell you who he is, and what is become of him; but you had better hear the story in your own chamber; for it is time for your health that you had your broth after your bathing.”

Morgiana then told him all she had done, from the first observing the mark upon the house, to the destruction of the robbers, and the flight of their captain.

On hearing of these brave deeds from the lips of Morgiana, Ali Baba said to her—”God, by your means, has delivered me from the snares of these robbers laid for my destruction. I owe, therefore, my life to you; and, for the first token of my acknowledgment, I give you your liberty from this moment, till I can complete your recompense as I intend.”

Ali Baba’s garden was very long, and shaded at the farther end by a great number of large trees. Near these he and the slave Abdalla dug a trench, long and wide enough to hold the bodies of the robbers; and as the earth was light, they were not long in doing it. When this was done, Ali Baba hid the jars and weapons; and as he had no occasion for the mules, he sent them at different times to be sold in the market by his slave.

Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves: Part 1

September 4th, 2009 1 comment

Once upon a time, there lived in a village of Persia two brothers, one called Kassim and the other Ali Baba. Their father divided a small inheritance equally between them. Kassim married a very wealthy wife, and became a rich merchant. Ali Baba married a girl as poor as himself, and lived by chopping wood, and transporting it on three donkeys into the village for selling.

One day, when Ali Baba was in the forest and had just cut wood enough to load his asses, he saw at a distance a great cloud of dust, which seemed to approach him. He observed it with attention, and distinguished soon after a body of horsemen, whom he suspected might be robbers. He determined to leave his donkeys to save himself. He climbed up a large tree, planted on a high rock, whose branches were thick enough to conceal him, and yet enabled him to see all that passed without being discovered.

The troop, who were to the number of forty, all well mounted and armed, came to the foot of the rock on which the tree stood, and there dismounted. Every man unbridled his horse, tied him to some shrub, and hung about his neck a bag of corn which they had brought behind them. Then each of them took off his saddle-bag, which seemed to Ali Baba from its weight to be full of gold and silver. One, whom he took to be their captain, came under the tree in which Ali Baba was concealed; and making his way through some shrubs, pronounced these words: “Open, Sesame!”. As soon as the captain of the robbers had thus spoken, a door opened in the rock; and after he had made all his troop enter before him, he followed them, when the door shut again of itself.

The robbers stayed some time within the rock, during which Ali Baba, fearful of being caught, remained in the tree.

At last the door opened again, and as the captain went in last, so he came out first, and stood to see them all pass by him; when Ali Baba heard him make the door close by pronouncing these words, “Shut, Sesame!” Every man at once went and bridled his horse, fastened his wallet, and mounted again. When the captain saw them all ready, he put himself at their head, and they returned the way they had come.

Ali Baba followed them with his eyes as far as he could see them; and afterward stayed a considerable time before he descended. Remembering the words the captain of the robbers used to cause the door to open and shut, he had the curiosity to try if his pronouncing them would have the same effect. Accordingly, he went among the shrubs, and perceiving the door concealed behind them, stood before it, and said, “Open, Sesame!” The door instantly flew wide open.

Ali Baba, who expected a dark, dismal cavern, was surprised to see a well-lighted and spacious chamber, which received the light from an opening at the top of the rock, and in which were all sorts of provisions, rich bales of silk, stuff, brocade, and valuable carpeting, piled upon one another, gold and silver ingots in great  heaps, and money in bags. The sight of all these riches made him suppose that this cave must have been occupied for ages by robbers, who had succeeded one another.

Ali Baba went boldly into the cave, and collected as much of the gold coin, which was in bags, as he thought his threedonkeyes could carry. When he had loaded them with the bags, he laid wood over them in such a manner that they could not be seen. When he had passed in and out as often as he wished, he stood before the door, and pronouncing the words, “Shut, Sesame!” the door closed of itself. He then made the best of his way to village.

When Ali Baba got home he drove his  donkeys into a little yard, shut the gates very carefully, threw off the wood that covered the panniers, carried the bags into his house, and ranged them in order before his wife. He then emptied the bags, which raised such a great heap of gold as dazzled his wife’s eyes, and then he told her the whole adventure from beginning to end, and, above all, recommended her to keep it secret.

The wife rejoiced greatly at their good fortune, and would count all the gold piece by piece.

“Wife,” replied Ali Baba, “you do not know what you undertake, when you pretend to count the money; you will never have done. I will dig a hole, and bury it. There is no time to be lost.”

“You are in the right, husband,” replied she, “but let us know, as nigh as possible, how much we have. I will borrow a small measure, and measure it, while you dig the hole.”

Away the wife ran to her brother-in-law Kassim, who lived just by, and addressing herself to his wife, desired  that she lend her a measure for a little while. Her sister-in-law asked her whether she would have a great or a small one. The other asked for a small one. She bade her stay a little, and she would readily fetch one.

The sister-in-law did so, but as she knew Ali Baba’s poverty, she was curious to know what sort of grain his wife wanted to measure, and artfully putting some suet at the bottom of the measure, brought it to her, with an excuse that she was sorry that she had made her stay so long, but that she could not find it sooner.

Ali Baba’s wife went home, set the measure upon the heap of gold, filled it, and emptied it often upon the sofa, till she had done, when she was very well satisfied to find the number of measures amounted to so many as they did, and went to tell her husband, who had almost finished digging the hole. When Ali Baba was burying the gold, his wife, to show her exactness and diligence to her sister-in-law, carried the measure back again, but without taking notice that a piece of gold had stuck to the bottom.

“Sister,” said she, giving it to her again, “you see that I have not kept your measure long. I am obliged to you for it, and return it with thanks.”

As soon as Ali Baba’s wife was gone, Kassim’s looked at the bottom of the measure, and was in inexpressible surprise to find a piece of gold sticking to it. Envy immediately possessed her breast.

“What!” said she, “has Ali Baba gold so plentiful as to measure it? Whence has he all this wealth?”

Kassim, her husband, was at his counting house. When he came home his wife said to him, “Kassim, I know you think yourself rich, but Ali Baba is infinitely  richer than you. He does not count his money, but measures it.”

Kassim desired her to explain the riddle, which she did, by telling him the stratagem she had used to make the discovery, and showed him the piece of money, which was so old that they could not tell in what prince’s reign it was coined.

Kassim, after he had married the rich widow, had never treated Ali Baba as a brother, but neglected him; and now, instead of being pleased, he conceived a base envy at his brother’s prosperity. He could not sleep all that night, and went to him in the morning before sunrise.

“Ali Baba,” said he, “I am surprised at you. You pretend to be miserably poor, and yet you measure gold. My wife found this at the bottom of the measure you borrowed yesterday.”

By this discourse, Ali Baba perceived that Kassim and his wife, through his own wife’s folly, knew what they had so much reason to conceal; but what was done could not be undone. Therefore, without showing the least surprise or trouble, he confessed all, and offered his brother part of his treasure to keep the secret.

“I expect as much,” replied Kassim haughtily; “but I must know exactly where this treasure is, and how I may visit it myself when I choose. Otherwise I will go and inform against you, and then you will not only get no more, but will lose all you have, and I shall have a share for my information.”

Ali Baba told him all he desired, even to the very words he was to use to gain admission into the cave.

Kassim rose the next morning long before the sun  and set out for the forest with ten mules bearing great chests, which he designed to fill, and followed the road which Ali Baba had pointed out to him. He was not long before he reached the rock, and found out the place, by the tree and other marks which his brother had given him. When he reached the entrance of the cavern, he pronounced the words, “Open, Sesame!” The door immediately opened, and, when he was in, closed upon him. In examining the cave, he was in great admiration to find much more riches than he had expected from Ali Baba’s relation. He quickly laid as many bags of gold as he could carry at the door of the cavern; but his thoughts were so full of the great riches he should possess that he could not think of the necessary word to make it open, but instead of “Sesame,” said, “Open, Barley!” and was much amazed to find that the door remained fast shut. He named several sorts of grain, but still the door would not open.

Kassim had never expected such an incident, and was so alarmed at the danger he was in, that the more he endeavored to remember the word “Sesame,” the more his memory was confounded, and he had as much forgotten it as if he had never heard it mentioned. He threw down the bags he had loaded himself with, and walked distractedly up and down the cave, without having the least regard to the riches that were around him.

About noon the robbers visited their cave. At some distance they saw Kassim’s mules straggling about the rock, with great chests on their backs. Alarmed at this, they galloped full speed to the cave. They drove away the mules, who strayed through the forest so far that they were soon out of sight, and went directly,  with their naked sabers in their hands, to the door, which, on their captain pronouncing the proper words, immediately opened.

Kassim, who heard the noise of the horses’ feet, at once guessed the arrival of the robbers, and resolved to make one effort for his life. He rushed to the door, and no sooner saw the door open, than he ran out and threw the leader down, but could not escape the other robbers, who with their scimitars soon deprived him of life.

The first care of the robbers after this was to examine the cave. They found all the bags which Kassim had brought to the door, to be ready to load his mules, and carried them again to their places, but they did not miss what Ali Baba had taken away before. Then holding a council, and deliberating upon this occurrence, they guessed that Kassim, when he was in, could not get out again, but could not imagine how he had learned the secret words by which alone he could enter. They could not deny the fact of his being there; and to terrify any person or accomplice who should attempt the same thing, they agreed to cut Kassim’s body into four quarters—to hang two on one side, and two on the other, within the door of the cave. They had no sooner taken this resolution than they put it in execution; and when they had nothing more to detain them, left the place of their hoards well closed. They mounted their horses, went to beat the roads again, and to attack the caravans they might meet.

In the meantime, Kassim’s wife was very uneasy when night came, and her husband was not returned. She ran to Ali Baba in great alarm, and said, “I believe, brother-in-law, that you know Kassim is gone to the  forest, and upon what account. It is now night, and he has not returned. I am afraid some misfortune has happened to him.”

Ali Baba told her that she need not frighten herself, for that certainly Kassim would not think it proper to come into the village till the night should be pretty far advanced.

Kassim’s wife, considering how much it concerned her husband to keep the business secret, was the more easily persuaded to believe her brother-in-law. She went home again, and waited patiently till midnight. Then her fear redoubled, and her grief was the more sensible because she was forced to keep it to herself. She repented of her foolish curiosity, and cursed her desire of prying into the affairs of her brother and sister-in-law. She spent all the night in weeping; and as soon as it was day went to them, telling them, by her tears, the cause of her coming.

Ali Baba did not wait for his sister-in-law to desire him to go to see what was become of Kassim, but departed immediately with his three asses, begging of her first to moderate her grief. He went to the forest, and when he came near the rock, having seen neither his brother nor his mules on his way, was seriously alarmed at finding some blood spilt near the door, which he took for an ill omen; but when he had pronounced the word, and the door had opened, he was struck with horror at the dismal sight of his brother’s body. He was not long in determining how he should pay the last dues to his brother; but without adverting to the little fraternal affection he had shown for him, went into the cave, to find something to enshroud his remains. Having loaded one of his donkeys with them, he covered them over with wood. The other two donkeys he loaded with bags of gold, covering them with wood also as before; and then, bidding the door shut, he came away; but was so cautious as to stop some time at the end of the forest, that he might not go into the village before night. When he came home he drove the two donkeys loaded with gold into his little yard, and left the care of unloading them to his wife, while he led the other to his sister-in-law’s house.

Ali Baba knocked at the door, which was opened by Morgiana, a clever, intelligent slave, who was fruitful in inventions to meet the most difficult circumstances. When he came into the court he unloaded the ass, and taking Morgiana aside, said to her, “You must observe an inviolable secrecy. Your master’s body is contained in these two panniers. We must bury him as if he had died a natural death. Go now and tell your mistress. I leave the matter to your wit and skillful devices.”

Ali Baba helped to place the body in Kassim’s house, again recommended to Morgiana to act her part well, and then returned with his ass.

Morgiana went out early the next morning to a druggist and asked for a sort of lozenge which was considered efficacious in the most dangerous disorders. The apothecary inquired who was ill. She replied, with a sigh, her good master Kassim himself; and that he could neither eat nor speak.

In the evening Morgiana went to the same druggist again, and with tears in her eyes, asked for an essence which they used to give to sick people only when in the last extremity.

“Alas!” said she, taking it from the apothecary, “I am afraid that this remedy will have no better effect than the lozenges; and that I shall lose my good master.”

On the other hand, as Ali Baba and his wife were often seen to go between Kassim’s and their own house all that day, and to seem melancholy, nobody was surprised in the evening to hear the lamentable shrieks and cries of Kassim’s wife and Morgiana, who gave out everywhere that her master was dead. The next morning at daybreak, Morgiana went to an old cobbler whom she knew to be always ready at his stall, and bidding him good morrow, put a piece of gold into his hand, saying, “Baba Mustapha, you must bring with you your sewing tackle, and come with me; but I must tell you, I shall blindfold you when you come to such a place.”

Baba Mustapha seemed to hesitate a little at these words. “Oh! oh!” replied he, “you would have me do something against my conscience, or against my honor?”

“God forbid,” said Morgiana, putting another piece of gold into his hand, “that I should ask anything that is contrary to your honor! Only come along with me, and fear nothing.”

Baba Mustapha went with Morgiana, who, after she had bound his eyes with a handkerchief at the place she had mentioned, conveyed him to her deceased master’s house, and never unloosed his eyes till he had entered the room where she had put the corpse together. “Baba Mustapha,” said she, “you must make haste and sew the parts of this body together; and when you have done, I will give you another piece of gold.”

After Baba Mustapha had finished his task, she blindfolded him again, gave him the third piece of gold as she had promised, and recommending secrecy to him, carried him back to the place where she first bound his eyes, pulled off the bandage, and let him go home, but watched him that he returned toward his stall, till he was quite out of sight, for fear he should have the curiosity to return and dodge her; she then went home.

The Story Of The Ghost Ship. Part IV/IV

August 1st, 2009 Comments off

It was still pretty early in the day when we reached the ship. We
immediately set to work, and in an hour placed four in the boat. Some
of the slaves were then obliged to row to land to bury them there.
They told us, when they returned, that the bodies had spared them the
trouble of burying, since, the moment they laid them on the earth,
they had fallen to dust. We diligently set to work to saw off the
bodies, and before evening all were brought to land. There were, at
last, no more on board than the one that was nailed to the mast.
Vainly sought we to draw the nail out of the wood, no strength was
able to start it even a hair’s-breadth. I knew not what next to do,
for we could not hew down the mast in order to bring him to land; but
in this dilemma Muley came to my assistance. He quickly ordered a
slave to row to land and bring a pot of earth. When he had arrived
with it, the magician pronounced over it some mysterious words, and
cast it on the dead man’s head. Immediately the latter opened his
eyes, drew a deep breath, and the wound of the nail in his forehead
began to bleed. We now drew it lightly forth, and the wounded man fell
into the arms of one of the slaves.

“Who bore me hither?” he exclaimed, after he seemed to have recovered
himself a little. Muley made signs to me, and I stepped up to him.

“Thank thee, unknown stranger; thou hast freed me from long torment.
For fifty years has my body been sailing through these waves, and my
spirit was condemned to return to it every night. But now my head has
come in contact with the earth, and, my crime expiated, I can go to my
fathers!”

I entreated him, thereupon, to tell how he had been brought to this
horrible state, and he began–

“Fifty years ago, I was an influential, distinguished man, and resided
in Algiers: a passion for gain urged me on to fit out a ship, and turn
pirate. I had already followed this business some time, when once, at
Zante, I took on board a Dervise, who wished to travel for nothing. I
and my companions were impious men, and paid no respect to the
holiness of the man; I, in particular, made sport of him. When,
however, on one occasion he upbraided me with holy zeal for my wicked
course of life, that same evening, after I had been drinking to excess
with my pilot in the cabin, anger overpowered me. Reflecting on what
the Dervise had said to me, which I would not have borne from a
Sultan, I rushed upon deck, and plunged my dagger into his breast.
Dying, he cursed me and my crew, and doomed us not to die and not to
live, until we should lay our heads upon the earth.

“The Dervise expired, and we cast him overboard, laughing at his
menaces; that same night, however, were his words fulfilled. One
portion of my crew rose against me; with terrible courage the struggle
continued, until my supporters fell, and I myself was nailed to the
mast. The mutineers, however, also sank under their wounds, and soon
my ship was but one vast grave. My eyes also closed, my breath
stopped–I thought I was dying. But it was only a torpor which held me
chained: the following night, at the same hour in which we had cast
the Dervise into the sea, I awoke, together with all my comrades;
life returned, but we could do and say nothing but what had been done
and said on that fatal night. Thus we sailed for fifty years, neither
living nor dying, for how could we reach the land? With mad joy we
ever dashed along, with full sails, before the storm, for we hoped at
last to be wrecked upon some cliff, and to compose our weary heads to
rest upon the bottom of the sea; but in this we never succeeded. Now I
shall die! Once again, unknown preserver, accept my thanks, and if
treasures can reward thee, then take my ship in token of my
gratitude.”

With these words the Captain let his head drop, and expired. Like his
companions, he immediately fell to dust. We collected this in a little
vessel, and buried it on the shore: and I took workmen from the city
to put the ship in good condition. After I had exchanged, with great
advantage, the wares I had on board for others, I hired a crew, richly
rewarded my friend Muley, and set sail for my fatherland. I took a
circuitous route, in the course of which I landed at several islands
and countries, to bring my goods to market. The Prophet blessed my
undertaking. After several years I ran into Balsora, twice as rich as
the dying Captain had made me. My fellow-citizens were amazed at my
wealth and good fortune, and would believe nothing else but that I had
found the diamond-valley of the far-famed traveller Sinbad. I left
them to their belief; henceforth must the young folks of Balsora, when
they have scarcely arrived at their eighteenth year, go forth into the
world, like me, to seek their fortunes. I, however, live in peace and
tranquillity, and every five years make a journey to Mecca, to thank
the Lord for his protection, in that holy place, and to entreat for
the Captain and his crew, that He will admit them into Paradise.

The Story Of The Ghost Ship. Part III/IV

July 30th, 2009 Comments off

“When I had slept an hour, I awoke, and heard the noise of walking to
and fro over my head. I thought at first that it was you, but there
were at least twenty running around; I also heard conversation and
cries. At length came heavy steps upon the stairs. After this I was no
longer conscious; but at times my recollection returned for a moment,
and then I saw the same man who is nailed to the mast, sit down at
that table, singing and drinking; and he who lies not far from him on
the floor, in a scarlet cloak, sat near him, and helped him to drink.”
Thus spoke my old servant to me.

You may believe me, my friends, that all was not right to my mind;
for there was no delusion–I too had plainly heard the dead. To sail
in such company was to me horrible; my Ibrahim, however, was again
absorbed in deep reflection. “I have it now!” he exclaimed at length;
there occurred to him, namely, a little verse, which his grandfather,
a man of experience and travel, had taught him, and which could give
assistance against every ghost and demon. He also maintained that we
could, the next night, prevent the unnatural sleep which had come upon
us, by repeating right fervently sentences out of the Koran.

The proposition of the old man pleased me well. In anxious expectation
we saw the night set in. Near the cabin was a little room, to which we
determined to retire. We bored several holes in the door, large enough
to give us a view of the whole cabin; then we shut it as firmly as we
could from within, and Ibrahim wrote the name of the Prophet in all
four corners of the room. Thus we awaited the terrors of the night.

It might again have been about the eleventh hour, when a strong
inclination for sleep began to overpower me. My companion, thereupon,
advised me to repeat some sentences from the Koran, which assisted me
to retain my consciousness. All at once it seemed to become lively
overhead; the ropes creaked, there were steps upon the deck, and
several voices were plainly distinguishable. We remained, a few
moments, in intense anxiety; then we heard something descending the
cabin stairs. When the old man became aware of this, he began to
repeat the words which his grandfather had taught him to use against
spirits and witchcraft:

“Come you, from the air descending,
Rise you from the deep sea-cave,
Spring you forth where flames are blending,
Glide you in the dismal grave:
Allah reigns, let all adore him!
Own him, spirits–bow before him!”

I must confess I did not put much faith in this verse, and my hair
stood on end when the door flew open. The same large, stately man
entered, whom I had seen nailed to the mast. The spike still passed
through the middle of his brain, but he had sheathed his sword. Behind
him entered another, attired with less magnificence, whom also I had
seen lying on the deck. The Captain, for he was unquestionably of this
rank, had a pale countenance, a large black beard, and wildly-rolling
eyes, with which he surveyed the whole apartment. I could see him
distinctly, for he moved over opposite to us; but he appeared not to
observe the door which concealed us. The two seated themselves at the
table, which stood in the centre of the cabin, and spoke loud and
fast, shouting together in an unknown tongue. They continually became
more noisy and earnest, until at length, with doubled fist, the
Captain brought the table a blow which shook the whole apartment. With
wild laughter the other sprang up, and beckoned to the Captain to
follow him. The latter rose, drew his sabre, and then both left the
apartment. We breathed more freely when they were away; but our
anxiety had still for a long time no end. Louder and louder became the
noise upon deck; we heard hasty running to and fro, shouting,
laughing, and howling. At length there came an actually hellish sound,
so that we thought the deck and all the sails would fall down upon us,
the clash of arms, and shrieks–of a sudden all was deep silence.
When, after many hours, we ventured to go forth, we found every thing
as before; not one lay differently–all were as stiff as wooden
figures.

Thus passed we several days on the vessel; it moved continually
towards the East, in which direction, according to my calculation, lay
the land; but if by day it made many miles, by night it appeared to go
back again, for we always found ourselves in the same spot when the
sun went down. We could explain this in no other way, than that the
dead men every night sailed back again with a full breeze. In order to
prevent this, we took in all the sail before it became night, and
employed the same means as at the door in the cabin; we wrote on
parchment the name of the Prophet, and also, in addition, the little
stanza of the grandfather, and bound them upon the furled sail.
Anxiously we awaited the result in our chamber. The ghosts appeared
this time not to rage so wickedly; and, mark, the next morning the
sails were still rolled up as we had left them. During the day we
extended only as much as was necessary to bear the ship gently along,
and so in five days we made considerable headway.

At last, on the morning of the sixth day, we espied land at a short
distance, and thanked Allah and his Prophet for our wonderful
deliverance. This day and the following night we sailed along the
coast, and on the seventh morning thought we discovered a city at no
great distance: with a good deal of trouble we cast an anchor into the
sea, which soon reached the bottom; then launching a boat which stood
upon the deck, we rowed with all our might towards the city. After
half an hour we ran into a river that emptied into the sea, and
stepped ashore. At the gate we inquired what the place was called, and
learned that it was an Indian city, not far from the region to which
at first I had intended to sail. We repaired to a Caravansery, and
refreshed ourselves after our adventurous sail. I there inquired for a
wise and intelligent man, at the same time giving the landlord to
understand that I would like to have one tolerably conversant with
magic. He conducted me to an unsightly house in a remote street,
knocked thereat, and one let me in with the injunction that I should
ask only for Muley.

In the house, came to me a little old man with grizzled beard and a
long nose, to demand my business. I told him I was in search of the
wise Muley; he answered me that he was the man. I then asked his
advice as to what I should do to the dead bodies, and how I must
handle them in order to remove them from the ship.

He answered me that the people of the ship were probably enchanted on
account of a crime somewhere upon the sea: he thought the spell would
be dissolved by bringing them to land, but this could be done only by
taking up the planks on which they lay. In the sight of God and
justice, he said that the ship, together with all the goods, belonged
to me, since I had, as it were, found it; and, if I would keep it very
secret, and make him a small present out of my abundance, he would
assist me with his slaves to remove the bodies. I promised to reward
him richly, and we set out on our expedition with five slaves, who
were supplied with saws and hatchets. On the way, the magician Muley
could not sufficiently praise our happy expedient of binding the
sails around with the sentences from the Koran. He said this was the
only means, by which we could have saved ourselves.

The Story Of The Ghost Ship. Part II/IV

July 28th, 2009 Comments off

From the fore-part of the ship hung down a long cable; for the purpose
of laying hold of this, we paddled with our hands and feet. At last
we were successful. Loudly I raised my voice, but all remained quiet
as ever, on board the vessel. Then we climbed up by the rope, I, as
the youngest, taking the lead. But horror! what a spectacle was there
presented to my eye, as I stepped upon the deck! The floor was red
with blood; upon it lay twenty or thirty corpses in Turkish costume;
by the middle-mast stood a man richly attired, with sabre in hand–but
his face was wan and distorted; through his forehead passed a large
spike which fastened him to the mast–he was dead! Terror chained my
feet; I dared hardly to breathe. At last my companion stood by my
side; he, too, was overpowered at sight of the deck which exhibited no
living thing, but only so many frightful corpses. After having, in the
anguish of our souls, supplicated the Prophet, we ventured to move
forward. At every step we looked around to see if something new,
something still more horrible, would not present itself. But all
remained as it was–far and wide, no living thing but ourselves, and
the ocean-world. Not once did we dare to speak aloud, through fear
that the dead Captain there nailed to the mast would bend his rigid
eyes upon us, or lest one of the corpses should turn his head. At last
we arrived at a staircase, which led into the hold. There
involuntarily we came to a halt, and looked at each other, for neither
of us exactly ventured to express his thoughts.

“Master,” said my faithful servant, “something awful has happened
here. Nevertheless, even if the ship down there below is full of
murderers, still would I rather submit myself to their mercy or
cruelty, than spend a longer time among these dead bodies.” I agreed
with him, and so we took heart, and descended, full of apprehension.
But the stillness of death prevailed here also, and there was no sound
save that of our steps upon the stairs. We stood before the door of
the cabin; I applied my ear, and listened–there was nothing to be
heard. I opened it. The room presented a confused appearance; clothes,
weapons, and other articles, lay disordered together. The crew, or at
least the Captain, must shortly before have been carousing, for the
remains of a banquet lay scattered around. We went on from room to
room, from chamber to chamber finding, in all, royal stores of silk,
pearls, and other costly articles. I was beside myself with joy at the
sight, for as there was no one on the ship, I thought I could
appropriate all to myself; but Ibrahim thereupon called to my notice
that we were still far from land, at which we could not arrive, alone
and without human help.

We refreshed ourselves with the meats and drink, which we found in
rich profusion, and at last ascended upon deck. But here again we
shivered at the awful sight of the bodies. We determined to free
ourselves therefrom, by throwing them overboard; but how were we
startled to find, that no one could move them from their places! So
firmly were they fastened to the floor, that to remove them one would
have had to take up the planks of the deck, for which tools were
wanting to us. The Captain, moreover, could not be loosened from the
mast, nor could we even wrest the sabre from his rigid hand. We passed
the day in sorrowful reflection on our condition; and, when night
began to draw near, I gave permission to the old Ibrahim to lie down
to sleep, while I would watch upon the deck, to look out for means of
deliverance. When, however, the moon shone forth, and by the stars I
calculated that it was about the eleventh hour, sleep so irresistibly
overpowered me that I fell back, involuntarily, behind a cask which
stood upon the deck. It was rather lethargy than sleep, for I plainly
heard the sea beat against the side of the vessel, and the sails creak
and whistle in the wind. All at once I thought I heard voices, and the
steps of men upon the deck. I wished to arise and see what it was, but
a strange power fettered my limbs, and I could not once open my eyes.
But still more distinct became the voices; it appeared to me as if a
merry crew were moving around upon the deck. In the midst of this I
thought I distinguished the powerful voice of a commander, followed by
the noise of ropes and sails. Gradually my senses left me; I fell into
a deep slumber, in which I still seemed to hear the din of weapons,
and awoke only when the sun was high in the heavens, and sent down his
burning rays upon my face. Full of wonder, I gazed about me; storm,
ship, the bodies, and all that I had heard in the night, recurred to
me as a dream; but when I looked around, I found all as it had been
the day before. Immoveable lay the bodies, immoveably was the Captain
fastened to the mast; I laughed at my dream, and proceeded in search
of my old companion.

The latter was seated in sorrowful meditation in the cabin. “O
master,” he exclaimed as I entered, “rather would I lie in the deepest
bottom of the sea, than pass another night in this enchanted ship.” I
asked him the reason of his grief, and thus he answered me:–

The Story Of The Ghost Ship. Part I/IV

July 28th, 2009 Comments off

My father owned a small store in Balsora; he was neither wealthy, nor poor, but one of those who do not like to risk anything, because they fear losing the little that they have. He brought me up plainly, but virtuously, and soon I advanced so far, that I was able to make valuable suggestions to him in his business affairs. When I reached my 18th year, in the middle of his first speculation of any importance, he died; probably because of anxiety at having entrusted a thousand gold pieces to the sea. I was obliged, soon after, to deem him happy in his fortunate death, for in a few weeks the intelligence reached us, that the ship, to which my father had committed his goods, had been wrecked at sea. This misfortune, however, could not depress my youthful spirits. I sold everything that my father had left and set out to try my luck in foreign countries, accompanied only by an old servant of the family, who, on account of ancient attachment, would not part from me and my destiny.

In the port of Balsora we embarked, with a favourable wind. The vessel, in which I had taken passage, was headed for India. We had now for fifteen days sailed in the usual track, when the Captain warned us of an approaching storm. He wore a pensative look, for it seemed he knew that, in this place, there was not sufficient depth of water to encounter a storm with safety. He ordered them to take in all sail, and we moved along quite slowly. The night set in clear and cold, and the Captain began to think that he had been mistaken in his forebodings. All at once there floated close by ours, a ship which none of us had observed before. A wild shout and cry ascended from the deck, at which, occurring at this anxious season, before a storm, I wondered not a little. But the Captain by my side was deadly pale: “My ship is lost,” cried he; “there sails Death!” Before I could demand an explanation of these strange words, the sailors rushed in, weeping and crying. “Have you seen it? All is now over with us!”, they shouted.

But the Captain had words of comforting read to them out of the Quran, and seated himself at the front. But in vain! The tempest began visibly to rise with a roaring noise, and, before an hour passed by, the ship struck and remained aground. The boats were lowered, and scarcely had the last sailors saved themselves, when the vessel went down before our eyes, and I was launched, a beggar, upon the sea. But our misfortune had still no end. Frightfully roared the tempest, the boat could no longer be governed. I fastened myself firmly to my old servant, and we mutually promised not to be separated from each other. At last the day broke, but, with the first glance of the morning-red, the wind struck and upset the boat in which we were seated. After that I saw my shipmates no more. The shock deprived me of consciousness, and when I returned to my senses, I found myself in the arms of my old faithful attendant, who had saved himself on the boat which had been upturned, and had come in search of me. The storm had abated; of our vessel there was nothing any more to be seen, but we plainly descried, at no great distance from us, another ship, towards which the waves were driving us. As we approached, I recognised the vessel as the same which had passed by us in the night, and which had thrown the Captain into such consternation. I felt a strange horror of this ship; the intimation of the Captain, which had been so fearfully corroborated, the desolate appearance of the ship, on which, although as we drew near we uttered loud cries, no one was visible, alarmed me.
Nevertheless this was our only expedient; accordingly, we praised the Prophet, who had so miraculously preserved us.