The narrator of the novella The Diesel explains that being raped in a mosque when he was fifteen forced him to confront troublesome questions about his authentic gender early in life. When he turns eighteen, he joins his sister’s clique of widows and divorcées. Later he becomes an acclaimed performer with his sister’s otherwise all female song and dance troupe. After temporarily losing his will to perform, he returns—more resolute than ever—as the troupe morphs into a pro-democracy movement. From the United Arab Emirates comes this exploration, which is partly told in the form of a folkloric fantasy, of the meaning of sexual identity and of the links between gender liberation, the arts, and rebellion against patriarchy. This excerpt is the novella’s concluding section.
Chapters 4-8 of this translation appeared in a slightly different form in Banipal: Magazine of Modern Arab Literature no. 35, Summer 2009.
Thani al-Suwaidi was born in the United Arab Emirates in 1966. He has published two collections of poetry: Liyajiff Riq al-Bahr (So the Sea’s Foam May Dry Out, (Ittihad Kuttab wa-Udaba’ al-Imarat, 1991), and al-Ashya’ Tamurr (Stuff Happens, Dar al-Intishar al-Arabi, 2000).
His novella, al-Dizil (The Diesel) was published in 1994 by Dar al-Jadid in Beirut, reprinted in Baghdad in 2006, and then published in 2008 by al-Maktab al-Misri lil-Matbu‘at in Cairo.
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