Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, January 3, 2013

"Tigers on the Tenth Day" by Zakaria Tamer Project 196 Syria

"Tigers on the Tenth Day" by Zakaria Tamer (1967, 5 pages)

Project 196

In Support Freedom for  the People of Syria

Country 14 of 196
Zakaria Tamer

  1. Georgia 
  2. Canada
  3. U. S. A.
  4. The Republic of Korea
  5. Antigua and Barbuda 
  6. Haiti
  7. Trinidad and Tobago 
  8. Ukraine
  9. Cameroon
  10. Botswana
  11. Sudan
  12. Dominica 
  13. Israel
  14. Syria
"On the ninth day, the tamer came carrying a bag of hay, and threw it towards the tiger.
“Eat,” he said.
“What is this?” asked the tiger. “I eat meat.”
“From now on, you’ll eat nothing but hay,” said the tamer.
And when the tiger’s hunger grew, he tried to eat the hay. He was shocked by the taste and backed away in disgust. But he went back, and gradually became accustomed to it.
And on the tenth day, the tamer, his students, the tiger and his cage disappeared, and the tiger became a citizen, and his cage a city."

f you are an author and want to represent your country, please contact me.  If you want to do a guest post on your favorite story for the feature please contact me also.

If you are a publisher that has an anthology that is done in the 196 spirit, please contact me as I will be spotlighting appropriate collections.  

At first I thought I was setting myself an impossible task but a bit of research has made me optimistic  that I can find a short story from all 196 countries in the world.   I feel this part of the project will be completed.   I also hope to publish a contemporary short story from an author from all 196 countries and I know this is a crazy idea.

For the last two years there has been a very bloody civil war raging in Syria.  The United Nations estimates over 60,000 people have been killed and over 500,000 have fled the country.   The battle is between opponents of the current dictatorial government and government troops and backers.    Some analysts see a long nightmarish future for Syria with an extended period of chaos and terrible suffering for ordinary citizens.  Even if the government steps down, unlikely, there a power vacuum will exist in which small war lords will rule the country.  Syria, for a long time a French colony, became independent in 1946.  The national language is Arabic.  The historical roots of Syria date back to the origins of civilization.   

Yesterday I posted on a short story by an author from Israel, Amos Oz.  One of the cornerstones of Syria government policy for the last 50 years has been opposition to Israel based on a deep hatred.  In every encounter, the Syrians have been badly beaten.  

"Tigers on the Tenth Day" by Zakaria Tamer (1931, Damascus, Syria) is a beautiful short story, more parable than story, about the ways politicians use misery  to control their citizens.  I think George Orwell would have liked this story.  (There will be a link at the end of the post where you can read it online, in English or Arabic.)   There are only two characters in this story, a magnificent tiger in a cage and a tiger trainer.  The story begins with a quote right from the playbook of any petty or grande dictator the world has known since the days of Babylon.

"The forests had forsaken the tiger, imprisoned in his cage, but he could not forget them. He glared hatefully at the men beyond the bars; their eyes, curious and unafraid, studied him. One of them spoke in a calm, authoritative tone: “If you truly want to do what I do, to become a tamer, you must never for a moment forget that your adversary’s stomach is your primary target. You will see that this profession is both easy and difficult at the same time. Look at this tiger: he is fierce, arrogant, proud of his freedom, his power and his strength. But he will change, become meek, gentle, and obedient–like a small child. Watch what happens between he who holds the food and he who does not, and learn.”

On the first day when told he will not be given food until he learns to obey, the tiger roars out that he is a proud tiger and will not submit.  The tamer tells him he once was a tiger, now he is an animal in a cage.  On the second day the tamer tells him to just admit he is hungry and he will be fed.  The tiger thinks to himself, well I am hungry and what can this hurt.  Everyday the tiger has to accept a future act of degradation. .    On the last day he is required to bray like a donkey and now he is no longer a tiger and the tamer releases him.  He eats hay and he starts to like it.  His cage is the city.

Author Data

Born in Damascus in 1931, Zakaria Tamer lived in its traditional working class neighborhoods, where he worked from a young age in blacksmithing and hand crafts, through which he came to know his society and people, the circumstances of their lives and their varied mentalities.

In 1957, he decided to enter the world of writing and chose short stories as his literary genre.

From 1960 until 1978, and between 1994 and 2005, several collections of Tamer’s short stories were published, including the “Neighing of the White Horse”, “A Spring in the Ashes”, “Thunder”, “Damascus of the Fires”, “The Tigers in the Tenth Day”, “Noah’s Calling”, “We will Laugh”, “Sour Grapes”, “Knee Busting”, and “The Hedgehog”. In addition, he published children’s stories, most notably “Why the River went Silent” and “The Rose said to the Sparrow”.

Most of Tamer’s stories dealt with social and political (and humanitarian) issues of relevance to both the Syrian and Arab realities in a breathtaking narrative style, a sarcastic language, an amazing stock of imagination, and without imitation.   He has lived for many years in Oxford.  

Here is what he has said about the Syria Revolution

Z.T:     My answer to this question might sound contradicting, for the Syrian revolution surprised me, but it did not at the same time. This contradiction is due to my belief in the non-existence of a Syrian citizen that supports this brutal regime. However every Syrian citizen has a dual personality, one a covert personality that hates the dominant regime blindly, despises it and wishes its swift demise, and the other personality is overt, publicly supporting the regime, heaping praise on it and obeying all its directives. The Syrian revolution was successful in uniting both personalities in one extremely solid individual, ready to die for what he/she believes in, and has no demand but freedom and salvation from tyranny. It is for sure that my relationship with Syria will witness some invisible change after the Syrian people, with all their sacrifices, proved that they are paranormal people, which an innovator would not be blamed for being proud of belonging to.

This is from a fascinating interview with Tamer Here.   The web page is a very good source of information on Syria and the revolution.

"Tigers on the Tenth Day" is about more than just politics.  Long ago I once worked for a giant corporation, owned by incredibly rich people.  I once heard one of them say that recessions are good as they make the employees easier to control.  

Tigers on the Tenth Day can be read here

This was the first story I have ever read by an author from Syria.  It is totally worth reading.   I will seek out more stories by Tamer.

Mel u

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