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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.

In the Reverie of Dreams

In the Reverie of Dreams

Ayoub’s Journey Between a Dreamy Introspection and Daydream


By Abdallah M. El-Zoubi*

In the heart of the Jordanian capital, nestled adjacent to the Arab Bank, lies a renowned literary and political café. Here, amidst the flickering glow of ornate golden lanterns, Ayoub sat ensconced in solitude. His face, pallid beneath the dim light, bespoke a man steeped in profound sorrow—a soul adrift within the labyrinth of his thoughts. Cloaked in a black suit and white shirt, his countenance mirrored the enigmatic conversations swirling around him. While nearby literati exchanged fervent dialogue, their musings intertwined with nostalgia for bygone days and the harsh truths of the present. The air was redolent with the aroma of the coffee, punctuated by the occasional dry cough or burst of laughter—testimony to the lively discourse that unfolded within the café’s walls, shrouded in a veil of uncertainty and melancholy.

His gaze drifted distantly towards the window and beyond as if observing a scene that materialized before his eyes only to dissolve. He embarked on pondering the essence of things, delving into profound inquiries about life’s meaning and purpose. However, unformed thoughts clashed violently within his mind, some adrift in the realm of confusion, doubt, and anguish, while others pondered the nature of love and beauty. The remainder circled themes of estrangement, belonging, significance, transience, and liberation. Within minutes, he found himself ensnared between the walls of uncertainty, truth, and distraction, akin to a ship lost amidst a tempest of anxiety and sorrow, burdened by myriad forms of suffering.

An hour drifted by without disturbing Ayoub’s contemplation until he caught sight of his friend Ali, the esteemed thinker whom he held in the highest regard. Ayoub had known Ali since their school days in government institutions, and neither had ever tasted despair. Ali had blossomed into a gifted writer, poet, and bilingual historian, while Ayoub had transformed into a translator whose approach was steeped in the philosophical, ethical, and cultural underpinnings of literary texts. As soon as Ayoub noticed Ali approaching, his trademark warm smile adorning his round face, he rose respectfully and greeted him: “Welcome, man of unwavering integrity, a beacon in the Arab cultural sphere.” Ali extended his hand in the customary evening salutation, whispering sincerely, “Leave everything aside and continue crafting the novel.” Observing the fading vigor in Ayoub’s spirit and the onset of its fragmentation, Ali added solemnly, “I am confident that you are now capable of molding the novel’s concept into a captivating narrative that reveals a robust internal coherence—a testament to the legacy of a profound thinker.”

Ayoub found himself torn between old dreams and new questions about his place in the world, and he continued to insist on his decision to abandon the development of the novel. The novel was no longer within the scope of his interests, while Ali saw in the novel that Ayoub had shown him a few months earlier the potential to create a literary work of depth and appeal, encouraging him with heartfelt words.

Ali, the unassuming thinker, was not satisfied, and he urged Ayoub, saying, “Do not rush to judgment, for sometimes the truth does not appear until time has passed and the most subtle dynamics of the story have been fully integrated.” Ayoub then cast a mournful glance toward the horizon through the window, as if soaring through the space of the encroaching darkness, and addressed his friend Ali with words drawn from his subconscious: “I remember well what you said to me when I was still a youth, striving in secondary school… Our innate strength calls us to explore our depths and seek the values of the human spirit, such as high morals, a spirit of adventure, integrity, patience, sacrifice, and courage.” Then he stood up to leave the café.

Ali raised his hand with visible emotion and said, “Where to?

Ayoub replied as if he were a mechanical man: “Excuse me… I feel faint and must leave.” Then he continued, his mind lost in deep contemplation: “Life, my friend, has no value unless we are able to see the beauty in simple things.

With a smile conveying profound understanding, Ali remarked, “Sometimes, the simplest things hold the most value. But what’s transpired? Why do you appear so despondent now? We all undergo those experiences ordained for us in life. Yet have you pondered your inner fortitude? My friend, strength isn’t always found in triumph, but rather in the resilience to rise again after each defeat. Your heart seeks something eternal and boundless, doesn’t it?

Ayoub slowly withdrew towards his seat, yet instead of sitting, he remained rooted in place. Then he uttered, “My strength?! I am adrift amidst old dreams and new inquiries. I no longer possess the fortitude to discern between my losses and victories. I feel no tether to anything in this world. You’ll say my dreams have crumbled, won’t you? And yet, you speak to me of my strength?! But where might I uncover it?

Ayoub said with a tone suffused with whispered sorrow, “Perhaps, but life leaves me bewildered and doubtful.” Then he gazed out the window in astonishment and added, “How can hope endure amid this darkness?

Ali responded with heartfelt confidence, “Hope arises from our bearing of pain and our ability to explore our depths. Search for strength within yourself, Ayoub.”

Ayoub moved away from the table with heavy steps as if burdened by the weight of life on his shoulders. He continued to navigate through the labyrinths of darkness, his eyes betraying the weight of pain he carried. Meanwhile, Ali, his steadfast companion, remained seated, observing him with eyes filled with understanding and concern, aware that Ayoub carried not only the burdens of life but also the weight of deep memories and worries.

Ayoub let out a groan as he pushed his feet towards the street. After taking a few steps, he chose to sit on the side of the road, as if he had been struck by a powerful wave of grief and pain over the loss of the girl, he had not been able to propose to, who had passed away in a tragic car accident.

An hour elapsed as he sat on the sidewalk, his mind awash with thoughts he couldn’t untangle despite his efforts. Ayoub’s anguish deepened and worsened as he remained on the pavement, his pain escalating as if struck by a severe blow to the head akin to lightning. Yet, amidst his despair, he caught sight of a bird soaring in the sky, prompting him to raise his hand in greeting and reverence to the fleeting visitor as it vanished into the distant horizon of the heavens.

After returning home in profound silence, nearly in a state of unconsciousness, he commenced the slow removal of his garments. Drifting towards his bed, he cradled his head upon the pillow, resembling a being worn down by years of relentless fatigue. A fleeting moment passed as he delved into his turbulent and overcrowded imagination, surpassing the boundless depths of hell itself, until he was seized by a bout of subtle mania, clouding his mind, and ushering forth a torrent of thoughts with an overly sensitive imagination. Hastening, he reached for a sedative pill and then surrendered his head to the awaiting pillow.

He felt as though he was witnessing a dream unfolding before his eyes, and he stood frozen in place like a statue when the apparition of his fiancée appeared before him, radiating joy with her welcome presence. He heard her melodious voice saying in a tone that revived his heart and enlivened his spirit: “I am delighted to meet you tomorrow.” Ayoub believed he had lost his senses and that his hopes had vanished, hesitating between surrendering to reality’s finite and transient nature and clinging to the infinite and eternal supernatural realm.

But his fiancée, lost in the distance, returned, and appeared to him in his dream, saying finally in a reassuring tone: “Do not seek to find me… you will only find me if you explore yourself amid pain.” She continued confidently: “The search for the self lies in the depths of pain, and every challenge represents a new opportunity to gain knowledge and maturity as time goes on. Ayoub, do not fear pain but invest in it and transcend it, for it will be the true catalyst for achieving a new radiance in your life. Amid pain, you will find me, and you will find yourself.

Ayoub awoke in the morning, realizing that his journey to find himself would be arduous and painful. Yet, he was resolute in facing his trials. No longer did he cower in fear of pain; instead, he perceived it as an avenue for growth and metamorphosis. Ayoub resolved to dedicate himself to completing his novel, understanding that he could delve into his innermost self and articulate his sorrow through writing.


A Man in the Dark – Saeed Mohammed Al-Hammadi

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