I divide the days of the lord
Into sunlit and sunless
I found joy in the first of these
Delight and peace of mind

Yet the sun has been gone for months
And I have no veil to delude me
No memory of rites to inspire me
Nor even the remnants of a dream
To take my mind off this

My days without a shadow
And persist
Until I’m worn out by my lot
By my division of the days of the lord

Now I divide the days of the lord
Into ordinary and others that are also ordinary
With time I grow used to being
The same in the one and the other

Translation of "Qismatī fī Ayyām Ar-Rabb." Copyright Tarek Eltayeb. By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2011 by Kareen James Abu-Zeid. All rights reserved.

أقسّمُ أيامَ الرَّبِّ إلى
شَمْسِيَّةٍ ولا شَمسية
أكونُ مرحًا
مُنشرحًا مُرْتَـاحًا في الأولى
..  ..  ..
لكنِّي مُنْذُ شُـهُورٍ في الأخرى
ولا قناعَ يُسْعِفُني بوهمٍ
ولا ذاكرةٍ بتقليدٍ تُلهِمُني
أو حتى بالحلم

أيامٌ لا ظِلَّ لي فيها
حتى أزهقَ من قِسمتي
بين أيام الربّ
..  ..  ..
الآنَ أقسّمُ أيامَ الربِّ
إلى عاديَّةٍ وأخْرَى عادية
أُعَوِّدُ نفسي مع الوقتِ أنْ أكُونَ
في الأخْرَى مِثْلَ الأولى
(فايترزفيلد، شمال النمسا، 24. 12. 2000)

Tarek EltayebTarek Eltayeb

Tarek Eltayeb was born to Sudanese parents in Cairo in 1959. He has been living in Vienna since 1984. After studying at the Institute for Economic Philosophy of Vienna’s University of Economics, he is currently teaching at three universities in Austria. He has been writing since 1985 and has so far published two novels, two collections of short stories, five collections of poems, and one play in Arabic. His books have been published in German, English, Italian, French, Spanish, Macedonian, Romanian and Serbian translations. His poems have appeared in different languages in various literary anthologies, magazines, and journals worldwide.

He has been granted numerous major fellowships, including the Elias Cannetti Fellowship of the City of Vienna in 2005, and was awarded the International Grand Prize for Poetry 2007 at the International Festival Curtea de Argeş in Romania. In 2008, he was appointed Austrian Ambassador for the European Year for Intercultural Dialogue (EJID). In the same year, he received the Decoration of Honor for Services to the Republic of Austria. He is a faculty member of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. His last two poetry collections have been published in Beirut in 2010 (We Sold the Ground and Were Happy with the Dust) and in Cairo in 2011 (Not Sin). He has presented his work at many international literature festivals.

photo by Hans Labler

Translated from ArabicArabic by Kareem James Abu-ZeidKareem James Abu-Zeid

Half-American and half-Egyptian by blood, Kareem James Abu-Zeid earned his BA from Princeton University and is currently working on his PhD in Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley. He has taught courses in Arabic, French, German, and English language and literature at UC Berkeley and the universities of Mannheim and Heidelberg in Germany. His translation of Tarek Eltayeb's novel Cities without Palms (American University in Cairo Press) was joint runner up for the 2010 Banipal Translation Prize. His translation of Tarek Eltayeb's The Palm House is forthcoming from AUC and Oxford University Press, and he is currently translating Mohammed Achaari's 2011 Arabic Booker Prize winning novel The Arch and the Butterfly for Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing.