Fetters of the Dead / Zakaria Tamer

Fetters of the deadThe story is told of a man who loved a woman, but she refused to marry him. “How can you refuse to marry me,” the man asked in astonishment, when you’re continually telling me that you love me?”

“I do love you,” the woman protested, “but you belong to a family that doesn’t bury its dead ancestors. How can you expect me to live with you in a house with rooms that are filled with corpses?”

The man pondered for a moment. “You are right,” he replied. “The dead should be in graves, not in the houses of the living”.

He immediately began digging a deep pit in which to bury his ancestors’ bodies, but the spirits of his ancestors and the enemy bound him with chains and buried him in the pit he had already dug.

The woman wept no tears. She just whetted her man’s sword and waited without despair for his return so that he could fight both the ancestors and the enemy.


Translated by Roger Allen. Tablet and Pen, Edited by Reza Aslan. 2011



Zakaria Tamer is one of the most important and widely read and translated short story writers in the Arab world. He also writes children’s stories and works as a freelance journalist, writing satirical columns in newspapers.