Page 40 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
al-Sawarib can only mu tter: it is the decree o f Allah. Eventually he
dies, not by the hands o f the victim’s bro thers who almost succeed
in killing him, bu t from a h ea r t attack. Vengeance is executed by
the God o f Vengeance.
BREAKDOWN OF TRADITION
T he tense plot in the story is the result o f the drama tic m u rd e r
and develops to its denouem en t with the inevitability o f a Greek
tragedy . T h e backg round no longer displays the solid u n ­
changeability o f Islam. A noticeable erosion o f religious tradition
affects Arab youth: forb idden d rink and food is consumed, fasts
like the fast o f Ramadan are observed in the breach, prayer is
neglected. Within the framework o f partial disloyalty to the an ­
cestral faith, the staunch adherence of the pro tagon ist to trad ition
serves as an inspiring beacon o f light to all who come in contact
with him before the dastardly mu rder .
T he story o f “Jum a the Simpleton” is the perfec t coun terpar t to
Ancestral Vengeance.
Permea ted with the changeless traditions o f
Islam, it is a splendid docum en t o f Muslim men in the ir native
habitat.
Ancestral Vengeance,
on the o ther hand , is the presentation
o f partial decay in Islamic trad ition and erosion o f faith in a global
re trea t from faith. T h e idyllic background — as idyllic as possible
in an Arab milieu — is as righ t fo r “Jum a the S impleton” as the
passionate stance accords with
Ancestral Vengeance.
T he p ro ­
tagonist o f the story is a poor shepherd who tends his miserable
flock, bu t mostly the flock o f fellaheen who pay a scandalous
wage: an abbaya, two mats and two sacks o f flour per annum .
With the passage o f years he becomes more and more conscious
o f his poverty and humiliation; his loneliness marks him as a man
in league with demons and devils. People shun him; they come
when they need him. Eventually, he dies a miserable death: he is
kicked by a mule in the chest:
He lay beside the rock, motionless and quiet as a mouse, his
mou th open like tha t o f a fish seeking a d rop o f life-giving
air. Silent and unmoving, he gazed wide-eyed at the eternal
night . . . which ga thered him up.
T he cathartic agents in the story are not pity and fear, bu t indig­
nation and anger — indignation at the m a ltrea tmen t o f an inno ­
cent and anger at the impotence o f man in contest with blind fate.