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  • Welcome to ALT Magazine & Press: Hazawi Prize Announces 2023 Shortlist: (Sana'a, Yemen) - The shortlist for the 2023 Hazawi Prize for Yemeni Literature has been revealed, announcing the ten writers who have been selected as finalists for this prestigious award.
  • Now in its second yearly round, the Hazawi Prize recognizes exceptional contributions to fiction in Yemeni literature. Organized by the Hazawi Cultural Foundation, this annual prize aims to promote Yemeni literature and support creative writers.
  • This year's shortlist features both emerging and renowned Yemeni authors. The ten works advancing to the final round of judging are:
  • - Abdullah Faisal shortlisted for his novel, Spirits and Secrets.
  • - Aisha Saleh shortlisted for her novel, Under the Ashes
  • - Farouk Merish shortlisted for his novel, A Dignified Stranger
  • - Ahmed Ashraf shortlisted for his novel, A Painful Belt
  • - Ghassan Khalid shortlisted for his novel, A Sky that Rains Fear
  • - Hosam Adel shortlisted for his novel, The Lord of the Black Dog
  • - Asmaa Abdulrazak shortlisted for her novel, Shrapnels
  • - Abdullah Abdu Muhammad shortlisted for his novel, The Road to Sana'a
  • - Najah Bahkeim shortlisted for her novel, The Final Decision
  • - Samir AbdulFattah shortlisted for her novel, What We Cannot See
  • The winner will be revealed at an award ceremony in Sana'a later where they will receive $1,500 USD. Second and third prizes of $1,000 USD each will also be awarded. All shortlisted works are celebrated for chronicling Yemen's rich culture and wartime experiences. This prestigious prize continues highlighting the nation's thriving literary community.

I Named Her, Fatima – a novel written by Mayasa Al-Nakhlani – trans. Hatem Al-Shamea

I Named Her Fatima
Mayasa Al-Nakhlani


Things are often not as they appear; what our eyes see is merely the outer shell concealing another world underneath. Many times, this inner world has no connection to the apparent reality, as if the shell that formed and solidified has been influenced by the elements of exposure and time. Some individuals attempt to break free from this shell, breathing in the fresh air as they see it as an opportunity to escape an unbearable reality. On the other hand, some view it as a chance to further isolate themselves from the real world, strengthening the shell that separates them and hiding their pains, fears, and tears behind it. Unaware that their fear of confrontation is the cause of their escalating suffering, they seek a scapegoat to shoulder their troubles, attempting to appease themselves, quiet their minds, and suppress their consciences. The solution is much simpler; if only they could be persuaded to confront the problem and delve into its roots.

Chapter One

Midnight arrived, its stillness merging with the disturbing sounds of crickets, as he continued to toss and turn in his bed, desperately trying to summon sleep. When his patience wore thin, he cast aside the covers with an exhale that rose from his chest, departing the bed. As was his habit when sleep eluded him—and it happened all too often—he turned to his Qur’an, leaving room for divine words to alleviate the weight on his chest, soothe his troubled mind, and rob him of peaceful rest. Flipping through the pages, he selected one and, in a low voice, his melancholic tones blended with the quiet of the long night, reciting verses from the Holy Quran. His body responded to the letters flowing from his trembling lips, and some time passed in this state until he halted the reading. He closed his eyes for moments, and when he reopened them, a cloud of sorrow mixed with tears swam in his watery eyes, clouding his vision. He wiped away his tears with the palms of his hands and reread the same verse that had stopped him repeatedly, as if unable to move past or stand still at it. His tongue repeated it, with his voice gradually rising, chasing away the silence that had enveloped the room just moments ago. Tension crept into his voice as his body trembled and convulsed, like a small bird taking its last breaths.
“Indeed, there were signs in Joseph and his brothers for those who inquire. When they said, ‘Joseph and his brother are more beloved to our father than we, while we are a clan. Indeed, our father is in clear error. Kill Joseph or cast him out to [another] land; the countenance of your father will [then] be only for you, and you will be after that a righteous people.'”

He fell silent at last, while his body continued to tremble like a dry autumn leaf. His tears rebelled, blending to inscribe a tale of sorrow that time had failed to erase from his memory. Placing the Qur’an on the nearby table, he buried his face in his hands, muttering intermittently, “Kill Joseph or cast him out to [another] land.”
His shoulders trembled, and a moan escaped his lips. He lifted his head, glancing around in terror, like someone searching for an escape from the whirlpool of pain whose sharp fangs had lodged between the intricacies of his weary soul. Finding no other outlet to release even a fraction of the volcanic turmoil brewing within him, he opened the lone window of his room, filling his chest with the cool night breeze eagerly, as if he had been deprived of air for hours. He looked towards the sky in supplication, placing his hand on his chest, the signs of pain evident on his tightened features. It took some time for tranquility to creep into him, allowing him to regain his ability to breathe regularly.

Leaning against the window frame, his eyes contemplated the city lying quietly under the faint moonlight. Behind the softly lit windows, others slept peacefully, while for the wounded spirit within him, it seemed fitting to rebel only in the evening, as if drawing strength and prowess from the stillness of the long night.
He closed the window and flung his body onto the couch, fixing his gaze upon the white ceiling as though drawing strength from its feeble luminance to confront the darkness festering within him: “Kill Joseph or cast him out to [another] land!” The words infiltrated his mind, scaling the ceiling, gradually casting shadows on him and the scant furniture in the room. In no time, the ceiling morphed into a black shroud adorned with crimson droplets. The droplets moved languidly in all directions, saturating the darkness with their vivid red hue. Exhausting all available space, they continued their journey toward the room’s floor. As they slid down his forehead, he wiped them away with the tip of his finger, encountering a warm dampness that stirred a familiar but elusive memory: “Oh God.”

Terror gripped him as he sought to escape, yet an unseen force restrained his movements, compelling him to remain prone, subjected to its relentless descent. Frantically, he tried to rid his face and body of the substance with his hands, only to receive more of it in return. Casting a horrified gaze around, he beheld his room transformed into a crimson pool threatening to engulf him.
“Help me!” he pleaded. He implored a specter he saw standing behind the window, yet the latter remained motionless, observing him with an unyielding gaze, as if anticipating being swallowed by the abyss. The blood was indeed on the verge of engulfing him entirely, its heat scorching his neck. He reached out desperately, “Help me, please!” The specter shifted from its place, opened the casement window, waded into the bloody pool with determined steps, and approached him. Instead of attempting to pull him out or offer assistance, the specter seized the collar of his shirt and submerged him entirely in the blood, while he pleaded desperately, “Please, help me!”
As he sensed the release of his neck from the deadly grip, he opened his eyes, gasping for air as if beseeching the breeze to tenderly embrace his lungs. His gaze met two vacant eyes, surrounded by time’s intricate tapestry of twisted wrinkles.

“Mother!” he exclaimed, clutching her hands like a small child.

“Nightmares… nightmares!! Is there no end to this torment?” she uttered, kneeling beside him and fetching a glass of water. He glanced towards the window, only to find the specter had vanished, as it always did when his mother entered the room. His chamber reverted to its former state, untouched by any demonic hands. His mother supported him, sitting beside him, cradling him against her chest. With her delicate hands, she gently caressed his head while reciting the Throne Verse.

“I haven’t killed anyone,” he repeated weakly, sobbing.

“By Your name, Oh God protect my son, By Your name, Oh God protect my son,” she whispered.
“I haven’t killed anyone.”
“Relax, my son, my beloved. Don’t torment yourself.”
“I’m tired, mother… I’m exhausted!”
“There is no power or strength except in God.”
She assisted him in returning to his bed, handed him a pill, and added, “I’ve told you repeatedly not to forget to take your medicine. But you don’t heed the advice.” Then, she pressed a kiss moistened with tears on his forehead, whispering in his ear, “Sleep now and don’t think about anything. What happened has happened!”

“Mother, tell me exactly what happened. I wish I could remember!”
“Nothing happened. Sleep now and don’t think about anything.”
She covered him well and left after turning off the light. At least she knew he would sleep now without any screams or nightmares.


Khaled rested his head on the pillow, struggling to recover his breath, which had nearly escaped him moments ago. He turned his gaze towards the window, only to encounter the profound darkness of the night. The recurring nightmare haunted him each time he neglected to take his sedative pills. Obsessions and ghostly shadows danced around him. The air echoed with screams and the scent of blood. A stone, no larger than a palm, oozed relentless blood, forming a growing pool that threatened to engulf him. His mother, nearby, crumbled into tears, her palms striking her cheeks. Fragmented images and elusive words were all he could recall. He attempted to reconstruct the events of that fateful day but met with failure. The deeper he delved into his memory, the more the events dissipated, slipping through his fingers.

Everything vanished, leaving him ensnared in the gaze of a specter, expressionless and enigmatic. Nothing was clear except that he traversed a path leading to an unknown destination.
How he yearns for those distant nights when he would rest his head on the pillow, sinking into a profound slumber, only to awaken to the sound of the alarm or the soothing voice of his mother. Unacquainted with the concepts of pills, insomnia, or nightmares, he reminisces. At times, he visualizes himself gripping a stone, poised to strike another’s head. Wearied from inflicting painful blows upon the one lying on the ground, he draws near, only to behold himself sprawled, blood streaming from his head. Confronted by a gaze of mockery, he flees in fear from those scornful eyes. How can he exist as both the killer and the killed simultaneously, gripped by fear and triumph in the very same moment? A specter, its facial features distinct and etched in detail, stands vigil from the window, observing him ceaselessly. Occasionally, its image reflects on the surface of the blood pool that endeavors to consume him. It remains a passive observer, quietly moving on after its watchful gaze.
Inescapably corroded beneath the weight of guilt for a crime he committed, unaware of its details, he lacks any explanation for how and why he perpetrated it, and why it vanished entirely from his memory. He is punished for it every moment of his day, with hands stained by the warmth of its redness.

Years of his life unfold, filled with long, monotonous days and nights drowned in tears and pleas to a benevolent deity that appears only to vanish into the darkness, dismissing all his cries for help. “If only it wouldn’t depart!” he murmurs softly. “If only it wouldn’t come,” his subconscious mind retorts. “If only all these medications, which do nothing but transform him into an inert sack of cement, devoid of life and motion, would disappear as well,” he wishes. Thus, he buries his bloody nightmare without a trace. It neither allows him to continue his life in peace nor confronts him, providing no relief from a life he does not desire.
“But he does not die!” As if one of them draws life and strength from the other, and there is no room for their separation except through Khaled’s own death. However, “Why does he alone bear the entire guilt while the rest lead normal lives?” A question that fails to find a convincing answer, or even an unconvincing one.
Numbness began creeping into his extremities, a delightful numbness promising a deep sleep, one profound enough to ward off any nightmare. Before his eyes passed a reel of fragmented and rapid events, preserved in a point unknown to his subconscious mind. Meanwhile, numbness accelerated its infiltration into his body, and his mind began preparing for a long sleep where events and characters would become clearer: mango trees, the vast garden, Saeed, his father Mohsen—no, his uncle Mohsen, rather, his father—no, his uncle! He shook his head violently, attempting to clarify whether the one restraining him, trying to dissuade him from completing his crime, was his uncle Mohsen or his father Mohsen. He shook his head vigorously, trying to grasp onto his consciousness and awareness, but awareness quickly dispersed behind emotions. Feelings of a mix of need and intense longing for Mohsen, regardless of who he was, his connection through kinship. Simultaneous need and aversion, longing and indifference, love and hatred, an equal mix of all these emotions crowded his heart. It was no longer clear whether he loved or hated him. Yet, he missed him—the only sensation he could distinguish now in this state of consciousness and unconsciousness. Nevertheless, he hated this longing and detested it.
“Ah…” escaped from his chest as tears streamed down his cheeks and settled on his pillow. While he wrestled with these emotions, he saw his body sprawled before his eyes, convulsing like a bird floundering when its neck is cut. He tried to straighten his posture, but numbness had taken hold of every cell in him. His mind began to float in a gently swaying sea. He closed his eyes, whispering, “Joseph and his brother are dearer to our father than us…” and quickly drifted into a deep sleep.


During that time, his mother curled up on her bed, occasionally straining her hearing in case his screams returned, but there was nothing but stillness and vague nocturnal murmurs. She turned off the light and laid her head on the pillow without closing her eyes, a condition she had been in since the incident. Years passed with their long nights and days, and his condition only worsened. She could hardly sleep, always waking to his screams and gentle pleas that no one else heard, as if he lived deep within himself, feeding on his energy, health, and peace of mind. She rushed to him to give him his pills, transforming him into a lifeless body that wouldn’t move until morning. Although he resisted and defied both her and himself by refusing to take them, as soon as his condition deteriorated, fear overcame him, and he surrendered to them reluctantly. He slept while she found sleep elusive. She couldn’t recall a single day when the sun rose while she was asleep, as if they took turns sleeping. She slept in the early hours of the night, and he slept later, while she remained restless until morning.
His condition wears her down, and there is no one by her side to assist in his care. Instead, he adamantly refuses to share the burden with anyone or take care of himself. Even when she suggested the idea of him getting married to find companionship and alleviate his loneliness, thinking that having a living presence beside him might keep the tormenting specter at bay, his response was consistently sharp, “If I’ve become a burden, I’ll leave the house and go away.” He declared, casting her angry and resentful looks, “Where would the madman go? My heart is his home!” Then, how could he abandon her when she clung to life solely for his sake!
She didn’t leave a doctor unconsulted, and there wasn’t a medication she didn’t try, but his condition only worsened.

“His problem is purely psychological, and the medications only serve to calm him and help him sleep. If you want a complete recovery, you need to address the issue at its core,” the treating doctor stated after numerous visits with no significant progress.
Your dialogue is well-constructed, but I’ve made some minor adjustments for clarity and flow:

– “But he does not remember anything at all about what happened!”
– “Perhaps he doesn’t want to remember, or at least a part of him doesn’t. Some events that terrify us deeply, events through which we realize we’ve committed some crime, we tend to bury them in a hidden corner of our minds, beyond our own reach.”
– “And the solution?”
– “The solution lies in the hands of the Almighty, and then it’s in his hands. Keep trying with him. You may find a door through which you can enter his stubborn mind, or at least create space for him to escape from the dark spot into the circle of light.”
She doesn’t know how to find that door or outlet, and her son stubbornly refuses to extend a helping hand to himself or even allow her to try. But why should he bear the blame alone? She, too, is to blame, perhaps the first to be blamed for everything that happened. If only she had paid attention from the beginning to his repeated complaints and grievances, if she had not underestimated the isolation in which he imprisoned himself for years, she would now be enjoying a peaceful home surrounded by her grandchildren.

Neither did she pay attention and give the matter the attention it deserved, nor did Mohsen listen to her in the few times she addressed him about Khaled. Both of them considered the matter mere childhood complaints, nothing more, deluding themselves that he would grow up and mature. They did not give the matter its true importance, failing to realize that what was brewing in his heart was more than just passing jealousy.
She took a deep breath, having nothing but to wait for relief from an unexpected source. “In God’s hands,” she whispered, closing her eyes after being exhausted by contemplation. However, she didn’t take long to open them again as she straightened up in her seat. She furrowed her eyebrows, focusing on an invisible point in the darkness, as if she were following a thread of hope that appeared from afar.

“Why not!”
She murmured, despite feeling that what she was contemplating was irrational. But there was no other door left for her, and she wouldn’t hesitate to knock on it, no matter how challenging it might be. She would knock on the door of the one whose specter visited her son every night. Instead of allowing him to remain present in the house as a haunting specter that destroys her son’s life, why not go to him and bring him here, spirit and body? Perhaps his presence could change many things!

After a long thought, she laid her head on the pillow and prayed to God for the morning to come quickly.

Eid – Nabilah Al-Sheikh – trans. Hatem Al-Shamea

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