About the Translator: Mahmoud Fathi Saad
CEO and Translation Manager of Endpoint Translation Company
Mahmoud Fathi (born in 1987) is an English <> Arabic translator with more than 12 years experience in this field. He holds two Bachelor degrees in English language; one from the faculty of Education of Fayoum University (2008), and the other is from Minia University (2010). He started his career as an English language translator immediately after his first graduation in 2008. During the past 12 years he has worked for many translation companies around the world including businesses in the USA, Canada, and Asia. He has a track record of more than 10 million words translated in most areas of translation. Now, he is the CEO of Endpoint Translation Company.
About the Author: Mustafa Lutfi el-Manfaluti
Mustafa Lutfi el-Manfaluti (1876–1924) is an iconic Egyptian writer and poet who was famous for his unique and remarkable writing style. One of his most notable traits was that he couldn't read or speak French. He asked some of his friends to translate plays or books to Arabic, then he rewrote them in his fascinating style. The short stories he wrote in his books evoke every emotion and sympathy for the diverse characters, melting even the hardest of hearts. Our short story today is from his book “The Views” (Al Nazarat).
His most prominent books are:
1-The Tears (Al-Abarat)
2- The Views (Al Nazarat) (three parts)
3- For the Sake of the Crown
On The Deathbed Written by the Iconic Egyptian writer Mustafa Lutfi al-Manfaluti Translation made by: Mahmoud Fathi Saad
On The Deathbed
While I was walking through one of Cairo’s districts a few years ago, I passed a house. I saw a crowd of people gathered in front of the door, and I heard someone saying, “Behold! The curse of Allah is on the Suicide.”
Another one said, “I think he was a strange young man; I haven’t seen anyone crying over him.”
I was told a short summary of the incident: a young man committed suicide inside that house which was why people were crowded around it.
The summary was not enough for me and I was curious to know all the details. I tried to get into the house but failed due to the crowd. I waited until one of my contacts from the police came, and then I accompanied him into the house. Lying there, on the deathbed, was a 20 years old young man. He was thin with yellow skin, but even death could not extinguish his beautiful features. A few remnants could still be glimpsed in the same way you can still smell little scents of a flower just wilted.
While the policeman was checking his clothes in an attempt to find something that would reveal his identity or lead to the grounds of his suicide, and the doctor was examining his corpse in order to discover the cause of death. I was sitting beside him thinking sadly about the misfortune that befell him and mourning his youth and beauty that had faded way. I saw some papers scattered around his bed which I collected and stealthily put into my wallet in order not to be seen by the policeman or the doctor.
The doctor concluded that he had committed suicide by drinking arsenic. The policeman decided to transfer the corpse to the hospital. So, it was removed, and the crowd dispersed.
Later, when I returned my house, I spread the papers over my desk. They were nothing but reflections of a passionate lover who drank the first sip from the cup of love only to find that it was delicious, so he kept drinking without realizing the bitterness of the other sips until he reached the final sip that contained the venom which took his life.
When I read these reflections, I shed tears over that young man and was touched by his passion. I rolled up the papers, and left them untouched for a long time.
Yesterday, while I was searching for something in my desk, I found the papers which I had kept in a small folder whose color had faded away. Over time, its color had faded in the same way a decomposed body’s coffin does. I felt a shiver trembling over my whole body. Seeing these papers in their folder again, I saw in them the ghost of their owner lying there in his tomb.
I spread out the papers and read them again. I saw the heart of that passionate lover beating amongst their lines, reflecting the times of happiness and sorrow in which he had lived. I decided to publish them for all people who risk their hearts for the sake of that killer, i.e. love.
I saw her and we fell in love. Before we met, my heart was swamped by complete darkness. I could feel nothing. When I loved her, I felt as if a sun rose inside my heart providing it with light and beauty without any danger from its scorching heat.
I had felt that my heart was deserted, left alone and never knew anyone, or knowing some but rejecting them. When I fell in love, I had found another heart that could feel mine and was beating in rhythm with it. I felt such great pleasure and happiness creeping into my soul that if it were to be shared among the hearts of all people, they would never grieve or sorrow again.
I had heard a lot about happiness but never understood its true meaning except being combined with something like a palace, a garden, gold, silver, an authority, a power, a celebrity, or a reputation. When I fell in love, I thought that there was no other happiness except that of love. I realized that people all seek physical happiness, not that of soul. Doing the same, they are like a dead person who is buried in a coffin of silk yet whose inside part is nothing but a habitat for worms and insects.
I loved her even before I knew her or knew anything about her except that she loved me too. I felt that I gifted her my heart since she gifted me hers, a small price for such an expensive gift which I had never promised myself or even allowed my aspirational reflections to push it into my mind. I had lived a very long time among people who cared nothing about me or my affairs. I suffered severe unsustainable pains of life and hard times. Sometimes, I found people asking about my health, feeling sorry for the misfortunes that befell me or showing mercy for my life. But I had never found a heart that beat in rhythm with mine or an eye that shared my tears when I cried.
I met people who loved me for my physical beauty as if looking at a statue professionally crafted, or who loved me for my wealth as if looking at a safe full of money. I met those who admired my speech as if listening to a novel written in a fascinating style. But through all this, I had never met a person who truly loved me.
But today, I have found the heart that beats with me, the eye that shares my tears, and the soul that loves me for nothing but myself. It was such a little price to gift her my life, so how can I withhold my heart from her?
One day, we were alone together. I was unable to restrain myself from holding her hands and raising them to my chest in order to satisfy my flaming, thirsty passion. When I touched her, she gave me a reproachful look.
She said, “Be a man in your love and avoid such childish actions. If you are loving me for my soul, here you have won my heart and became its solo lord and I no longer have any authority over it. If you are loving me only because of my physical features and traits, how weak is your interest, and how low is your spirit?!
“Do you shed tears, stay up all night and melt your heart for the sake of a bone to touch or flesh to kiss?!
“I am sure that you have a chaste soul, so should your love be too. Let me tell you something, I loved you for your soul and you should love me so too.”
When she had said such words, I despised myself and wished that my soul had been taken before such a rotten thought had crossed my mind. I sought her forgiveness and she gave it. Since that time, I never repeated such an action.
I realized the greatness of her speech and the significant impact that virtuous love may have on human souls. I, now, feel as if my soul is a rusted mirror and love is a glazier polishing it little by little.
Before that love, my heart was full of grudges and hatred against my enemies. Now these feelings ceased to exist as they were replaced by the love that conquered my heart leaving no room for other feelings.
My chest became tight and constricted when affliction befell me. I used to get angry quickly if I failed to achieve an aim, but now I became a very patient person who never gets upset or hurt by anything ever since being submerged in and convinced of the happiness of love. I, now, care nothing about any other types of happiness.
I was a bit callous and a coldhearted person. I never showed tenderness for any miserable or weak person. But now, I have become another person feeling sympathy for unfortunate people and aching for hurt ones. This is due to the light of love that shone in my heart, illuminating it and melting the ice between it and others’ hearts.
In general, I was a scary monster that nobody could tame, and because of that love I turned into a decent person and an affectionate angel.
Tonight, we went to the riverbank where the water and the sky were clear. In both of them, you could observe the reflections of the brilliant stars glittering. We couldn’t recognize which was the actual star, and which was its reflection, nor whether the one over us was the water or the sky.
We walked for a long distance without talking, as though the stillness of the night had crept into our hearts, and we honored it with our silence.
At that time, I was felt that my body was very light, and my mind was very clear. It occurred to me that I could fly even without wings. I imagined that if I looked at the sky, my eyes could penetrate its veils and reach its most exalted heights where I could see all what is veiled from humans. I wished that the night would never depart, and that the day would never come, in order that we could walk with each other forever.
I turned to her and asked, “Do you feel the happiness I am feeling?”
She said, “No, since life has taught me lessons other than the ones you have been taught. I don’t view the world in the same way you do. You are happy due to the hope consuming you and I am sad because of the realty and truth that I know. You feel happy since you think that your happiness is endless, infinite, and immortal and I am miserable since I expect the decline of such happiness in every passing hour. If you could stop the sun in the middle of the sky, freeze the earth from its rotation, prevent static items from moving and mobile items from stopping, only then could you rest assured that your happiness would continue and never decline.”
After these words, she stopped talking and kept quiet for a long time. I saw the tears cascading down her face like flowing beads from a broken bracelet. I shed tears over her weeping. I asked, “Why are crying?”
She said, “Fear of separation.”
I replied, “Do you mean a breakup in our life or separation by our death?”
She said, “I don’t mean the breakup in our life since nobody, no matter who he is, can prevent me from reaching you as long as we are still in the same world. I fear the separation of death.”
I said to her, “Let’s make a promise to live together and die together:”
And so, we did.
After that we went home during the departure of the night and arrival of the day. We agreed to meet again in a certain time, and then we went away.
Can’t this treacherous life ignore this human being for a while?
Can’t it give him a whiff of pure happiness without any misery?
Can’t it stop giving him happiness if it will deprive him of it later in the future?
The human being can withstand permanent misery, but he can’t withstand being deprived of happiness once it’s been tasted.
It is said that: ‘Hope is the main source of human life, and there is no other killer and terminator of the human being except such hope.’
I wish I hadn’t been so happy since such happiness was the main cause of my misery and sadness later. I wish I hadn’t had any ambitions in my life, since these false ambitions led to the hope that killed me. The girl who was the sun of my life, the glimmer of my hope, the fountain of my happiness and peace of mind, died.
When she died, I felt that all the living creatures in the world had died too.
Now, I saw that the earth had changed to a different one, and so did the heavens. I saw that the birds no longer tweet, the branches no longer move, the stars have all set, the flowers have wilted, and nature is entombed with sadness. In my eyes, the whole world had returned to its prehistoric era when there were no living creatures; neither human nor animal. I became like Adam complaining of his loneliness after being dismissed from paradise and exiled to earth.
O treacherous life, although you managed to deprive me from her, you can’t force me to forget her. You can take away any person, but you can’t return her.
O soul fluttering in the heavens, don’t give up and rush, I swear to God, I will fulfill our promise and I shall be with you soon to end your isolation and solitude. Our fate in the future will be the same as it was in the past since it was our souls that knew each other in that life and so they will in the other world.