An Introduction to and a Translation into English of Khalil I. Al-Fuzai’s1 “Thursday Fair”2

Gassim H. Dohal


This narrative is the title story of the whole collection. Thursday Fair is a weekly marketplace where people go to buy, sell, and exchange commodities in the city on Thursday. The author draws a realistic picture of any weekly marketplace in Saudi Arabia; villagers, farmers, and those who live in the suburbs go to such places to sell their goods and buy their necessities. For example, he describes in vivid detail canopies that protect people from the heat of the sun and crowds cramming into the stores. More exciting is the description of Olyan, the main character in this story, “moving from place to place...3” in a race for time. Such a weekly marketplace is held in various regions of Saudi Arabia, moving from place to place on different days. Usually each day the marketplace moves a distance of ten to fifteen miles, so sellers with trucks and the ability can move to the next location. The commercial shops in each city benefit from these events. However, in the character of Olyan, the author draws a picture of a youth who goes to the city for his mother and neighbors. Of course, not everyone is able to go to the city to buy the items they need, particularly old people and women. And as this story indicates, being nice enough to volunteer for such an errand can bring one grief; one is expected not to forget, miss, or lose a thing. Indeed, one may be blamed. Unfortunately, people like Olyan are illiterate, so if someone writes him a list, he must find a reader at the marketplace. Even now, with education more available to new generations, some old people still bring pieces of paper with them and ask sellers to read for them. Besides, the author in this story presents the city and the marketplace from the villagers’ point of view: the market is a place of “contradictions... bad and good aromas... harmful and beautiful scenery... harsh and soft bodies... sounds of insult and curse...” while “salesmen of the city are deceitful, so be careful O Olyan.” The author brings to light here an educational issue: in the seventies and eighties of the twentieth century, rural people used not to send their children to school at the age of six for many reasons. First, schools were a far walk for children, and there was no school transportation. Even today, students in rural villages and suburbs have to find their own means of transportation. Second, villagers often lack the money to pay for such transportation. Third, students from the villages are usually naïve and subject to bullying in the city. Furthermore, the story addresses the religious punishment of cutting off a thief’s hand. Such a punishment is carried out in public to warn others against stealing. Ironically, Olyan “finds nothing” in his pocket at the end of the story, himself becoming a victim of the crime. Apparently, the scene did not deter thieves because, perhaps, some people are sick or have no means of income or are not prepared to learn from the warning. In brief, this story depicts the simple life of people at the marketplace and circumstances that may transpire there while exploring a wide—perhaps too wide—array of social issues at the same time. Finally, translation is a medium for communication between cultures, nations, and people. The masses underestimate its significance in our world. It is through translation that people can create an atmosphere of understanding and respect. In that general sense, this contribution may fit. Also, this translation may attract the attention of translators to introduce their cultures to readers of different culture.


Al-Fuzai, Saudi, Story, “Thursday Fair,” Translation

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