The Wedding of Zein by Tayeb Salih
(New York Review Books)

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Synopsis

“The Wedding of Zein” unfolds in the same village on the upper Nile where Tayeb Salih’s tragic masterpiece Season of Migration to the North is set. Here, however, the story that emerges through the overlapping, sometimes contradictory voices of the villagers is comic. Zein is the village idiot, and everyone in the village is dumbfounded when the news goes around that he will be getting married—Zein the freak, Zein who burst into laughter the moment he was born and has kept women and children laughing ever since, Zein who lost all his teeth at six and whose face is completely hairless, Zein married at last? Zein’s particular role in the life of the village has been the peculiar one of falling in love again and again with girls who promptly marry another man. It would be unheard of for him to get married himself.

In Tayeb Salih’s wonderfully agile telling, the story of how this miracle came to be is one that engages the tensions that exist in the village, or indeed in any community: tensions between the devout and the profane, the poor and the propertied, the modern and the traditional. In the end, however, Zein’s ridiculous good luck augurs an ultimate reconciliation, opening a prospect of a world made whole.

Salih’s classic novella appears here with two of his finest short stories, “The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid” and “A Handful of Dates.”
 

About Tayeb Salih

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Tayeb Salih (1929-2009) was born in northern Sudan and educated at the University of Khartoum. After a brief period working as a teacher, he moved to London to work with the BBC Arabic Service. Salih later worked as director general of information in Qatar in the Arabian Gulf, and then with UNESCO in Paris and the Arab Gulf States. Along with The Wedding of Zein, his books in English include Season of Migration to the North (also published as an NYRB Classic) and Bandarshah. Denys Johnson-Davies has translated more than thirty-five books by modern Arab authors, including Naguib Mahfouz and Mahmoud Darwish. He has also produced more than fifty books for children, mostly taken from traditional Arabic sources. He was recently awarded the Sheikh Zayed Prize for his services to Arabic literature. He lives in Cairo. Hisham Matar was born in 1970 in New York City to Libyan parents and spent his childhood in Tripoli and Cairo. His first novel, In the Country of Men (2006), was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. He lives in London. Illustrated by Ibrahim Salahi.
 
Published April 20, 2011 by NYRB Classics. 144 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Wedding of Zein

The New York Review of Books

Zein is the village idiot, and everyone in the village is dumbfounded when the news goes around that he will be getting married—Zein the freak, Zein who burst into laughter the moment he was born and has kept women and children laughing ever since, Zein who lost all his teeth at six and whose fac...

Mar 02 2010 | Read Full Review of The Wedding of Zein (New York...

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