Tawfiq Hakim’s Sparrow from the East

Arab Hyphen

BirdfromtheEastTawfik Hakim’s Sparrow From the East, published in 1938, is an early example of a narratives in which Arab characters visit Europe. In the first chapter, when Andre discovers Muhsin, the sensitive art-loving hero, eating dates in the streets of Paris, he calls him “sparrow from the East,” and the East/West divide is established. Later on, Andre and his wife tease Mushin about the woman he describes as his beloved, asking “is she from a thousand and one nights or Paris?” Exasperated by Muhsin’s sitting in the café gazing at his beloved in the ticket booth, Andre says, “I can’t spend my life sitting like this…you Easterners don’t know the meaning of time.” Muhsin responds, “We have been freed of it.”

Muhsin easternizes himself too, towards the end when his beloved leaves him, he asks why she didn’t tell him the rules of the game from the start…

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