The days of the Rising Sun

The days of the Rising Sun

Publication Date: 2022

Publisher: Dar al ein

Country of Publication: Egypt, Cairo

Pages: 280

Ayyam al shams al mushriqa

Somewhere in the Southwest of the USA, lies a coastal valley with a vast community of immigrants called “Rising Sun”. This is where people die, live, fight, copulate, and most importantly: consume. The name of this miserable place is a perfect illustration of the exquisitely sarcastic tone of the novel, as it tackles the dehumanization of the world, migrants included.

The novel focuses on four main Arab characters: Naam, whose son Jamil commits suiscide in the novel’s opening; Ahmad Al Wakil, the man Naam lured into marriage, and the father of the suicidal boy; Najwa, the social worker who Naam befriends; Salim, the attractive man Naam, who is eternally seeking romantic love, desperately wants for herself. There also is Mimi Dong, the beautiful and proud young woman who Salim is in love with, and who Naam’s son, Jamil, was close to. Loved and desired by all, Mimi is loathed by Naam. A strong, free spirit, she is the only one to fight misery with dignity, to the point where it is told she was the daughter of an African king. Until she is found dead on the beach, at the indifference of friends and foes alike.
While Naam is the thread that connects the main characters together, the novel focuses on all four of them, and their relationships of friendship, lust, material need, suspicion and rivalry. The novel recounts the details of their backgrounds, often starting from their childhood, and how they found themselves in this place. While each of their journeys, from their corner of the world to the Rising Sun, is unique, all these characters have dreary pasts and an unbeatable survival instinct. These four characters, and the remaining secondary characters the novel introduces, are all united in their savage appetite for life, and their fierce desire to get themselves out of the gutter, at the cost of their humanity.
The rich, who live in a neighboring town up the hill, like the poor, the lucky or the disinherited: They are all part of the same brutal world, as if numbed by sufferance, and turned insensitive to the terrible afflictions they bear witness to. Leading to the novel’s closing chapter, where a migrant boat, remained afloat a few metres away from the coast, with screaming children and wailing mothers, offers nothing but a distracting spectacle to the passersby of the Rising Sun. A spectacle less annoying to the inhabitants of these parts, than the one offered by the screaming and barking dogs which, at this time of the year, push their puppies into the water to make sure only the fittest survives.

Translated by Leri Price

Weary and numb, Naam Khabbaz trudged through the streets of Rising Sun. Her heart was pounding for no apparent reason as she made her way through the narrow passages she knew so well. She paused briefly when she noticed the police cars and ambulances outside her house, and as soon as she spotted her neighbours shooting uneasy glances in her direction, Naam understood in a flash
that a catastrophe of unknown size and scope lay in store for her. It was difficult to count up all of the various calamities that occurred in this neighbourhood, and the full extent of their casualties was never really fully uncovered.

When she entered the house, Naam Khabbaz found her first-born son, just turned nineteen, lying face-down on the ground. The bullet that had pierced his brain had blown out the back of his head and landed in the wall. His huge body was lying in a pool of blood so fresh that it hadn’t even had time to congeal.

Ten months ago, this same disturbance had taken place in front of her neighbour Susanna’s house. Susanna’s daughter Yolanda had been murdered by shots fired from her boyfriend’s gun before he turned it on himself. The two bodies were whisked away in an ambulance and there had been no time for anyone to reflect how beautiful, eighteen-year-old Yolanda was dead. They had known her
as a little girl playing in and around the messy jumble of wooden houses with the other neighbourhood kids, they had watched her body as it blossomed, perfect and ripe, like a goddess of joy in the old myths. Then they watched her tragic exit from life.
Some observed how Susanna wept bitterly at the loss of her oldest daughter, and then resumed her usual activities: cleaning houses, and opening her blouse for those compassionate men who were indefatigable in their kind attempts to soothe her afflictions. The beautiful girl died and Susanna remained in the same house. She simply wiped away the bloodstains then flung the windows open
as if nothing had taken place behind them.

A short time before that, Rising Sun had also witnessed Oscar’s murder. He had been messing around with the ATM machine next to the gas station, opposite the pavement crammed every morning with labourers in hope of being offered a day’s work.

The days of the Rising Sun