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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.

Lost Memories and Enduring Struggles: A Critical Analysis of Fatima Wahidi’s “The Second-To-Last Picture”

Lost Memories and Enduring Struggles: A Critical Analysis of Fatima Wahidi’s “The Second-To-Last Picture”


Hatem Al-Shamea



Fatima Wahidi’s short story, “The Second-To-Last Picture,” is a poignant narrative that explores themes of obsolescence, dignity, and the relentless march of modernity. Set against the backdrop of a rapidly changing society, the story follows Sabir, a traditional photographer, as he grapples with the loss of his livelihood and identity in the face of technological advancements. Through the lens of literary criticism and theory, this analysis delves into the story’s intricate layers, examining its use of symbolism, character development, and socio-cultural commentary.


Narrative Structure and Symbolism

Wahidi employs a straightforward yet deeply symbolic narrative structure to convey Sabir’s emotional and existential plight. The story begins with Sabir’s tender interaction with his camera, which he holds “with tenderness and longing, like a father holding his daughter.” This simile sets the tone for the camera’s symbolic role in the narrative. It is not merely a tool for Sabir; it embodies his passion, livelihood, and a sense of purpose. The camera symbolizes the old world, a time when manual craftsmanship was valued, and personal interactions were integral to daily life.

As Sabir ventures out with his camera, he encounters a world that has moved on without him. The park, once a bustling hub for his photography, now feels “narrower every day,” a metaphor for Sabir’s shrinking opportunities and relevance. The contrast between the past and present is stark, highlighting the encroachment of modern technology (smartphones) that renders his skills obsolete.


Character Development and Internal Conflict

Sabir’s character is crafted with profound empathy and complexity. He is portrayed as a man caught between his love for his craft and the harsh realities of a changing world. His internal conflict is palpable when he contemplates selling his beloved camera, a decision he equates with “tearing his soul apart.” This moment underscores the depth of his attachment and the gravity of his situation.

Sabir’s interactions with his wife and children further illuminate his internal struggle. His wife’s “barrage of words” and the children’s innocent questions about dessert expose the economic pressures he faces. Sabir’s tears, which provoke his wife’s anger, reveal his vulnerability and desperation. This familial dynamic underscores the societal expectation for men to provide, adding another layer to Sabir’s turmoil.


Socio-Cultural Commentary

“The Second-To-Last Picture” offers a subtle yet powerful commentary on socio-cultural shifts and the impact of technology on traditional livelihoods. The story critiques the relentless pace of modernity, which often leaves individuals like Sabir behind. His experience at the nightclub, where he is reduced to taking photos of customers with a dancer, represents the commodification of personal skills and the erosion of dignity in the pursuit of survival.

Wahidi’s depiction of the nightclub is particularly telling. The dim lights, loud sounds, and intertwined bodies create a disorienting atmosphere, a stark contrast to the innocence of the park where Sabir once worked. This setting symbolizes the moral and ethical compromises individuals must make to adapt to a rapidly changing world. Sabir’s initial horror at the idea of working in such a place reflects his struggle to reconcile his values with the need to provide for his family.


The Role of Technology and Modernity

The intrusion of technology into Sabir’s life is a central theme in the story. Smartphones, which allow lovers to capture their own moments, symbolize the broader trend of technological displacement of human labor. Sabir’s profession, once a source of joy and pride, is rendered obsolete by the convenience and accessibility of modern devices.

The climax of the story, where Sabir accidentally deletes the photos he has taken, serves as a powerful metaphor for the erasure of his past and the futility of his efforts to adapt. This moment of erasure highlights the precariousness of his situation and the ease with which technology can undermine human effort and dignity.


Gender Dynamics and Power Relations

Wahidi also explores gender dynamics and power relations through Sabir’s interactions with his wife and the nightclub environment. His wife’s scolding and the children’s innocent demands reflect the gendered expectations placed on men as providers. Sabir’s inability to fulfill these expectations exacerbates his sense of failure and emasculation.

In the nightclub, Sabir’s position is further diminished as he navigates a space dominated by male desires and female objectification. The dancer, who initially appears as an ally helping him earn money, ultimately represents the transactional nature of human interactions in this new world. Sabir’s role is reduced to that of a mere facilitator of others’ pleasures, highlighting the loss of agency and respect in his new job.



Fatima Wahidi’s “The Second-To-Last Picture” is a deeply moving exploration of obsolescence, dignity, and the impact of technological advancement on traditional livelihoods. Through the character of Sabir, Wahidi vividly portrays the emotional and existential struggles faced by individuals caught in the relentless march of modernity. The story’s rich symbolism, nuanced character development, and socio-cultural commentary make it a powerful critique of contemporary society’s disregard for the past and the human cost of progress.

In a world that increasingly values convenience and technology over craftsmanship and personal connections, “The Second-To-Last Picture” serves as a poignant reminder of the human stories behind the march of progress. Sabir’s journey is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the enduring struggle to find meaning and dignity in an ever-changing world.


The Quarantine Philosopher – Wajdi Al-Ahdal – trans. Hatem Al-Shamea

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