Innocence

InnocenceBakara
SELMI Habib
Dar al adab, Beirut, Lebanon, 2016, 206 pages

Summary

Summary

Al-Bashir and Mustafa are old and close friends. So close, that Mustafa was Al-Bashir’s designated “minister” during his wedding night: He was nearby, in case Al-Bashir needed his experienced advice on deflowering his bride, Mabruka. Al-Bashir, it turns out, did need Mustafa’s advice. But the wedding night remained the two friends’ secret. Until the day the Revolution reaches their remote village in Tunisia, and a vicious rumor spreads. According to the rumor, which started around a shop where some of the villagers hang out, Mustafa is the one who deflowered Mabruka, instead of Al-Bashir, some thirty years ago.

At first, none of the two friends who have been meeting everyday under the same tree for years, dares bring up the rumor during their daily encounters. They are however both very upset. Al-Bashir, now a rich and powerful cattle merchant, wonders if Mustafa is the one to have betrayed their secret – might he have shared the details of that night with his wife? Mustafa, knowing that he is not the one who betrayed his friend, is torn between pity for his situation, and anger at the possibility that Al-Bashir might have lied to him – regarding how he deflowered his bride, perhaps with the help and advice of someone other than Mustafa.

As the gossip grows, the characters who are affected by it react differently: Manubia, Al-Bashir’s mother-in-law, is mad. Convinced that Mustafa is the one who started the rumor, she wants him dead to avenge her son-in-law’s honor. Mahbuba, Mustafa’s intelligent wife, realizes that the only person who might benefit from spreading the rumor is the shop keeper, who has complained that Al-Bashir sold him the place for much more than its worth. Meanwhile, Mustafa remembers how he had desired Al-Bashir’s wife, before her wedding and during her wedding night. With the rumor, he feels guilty of a crime he did not commit. In parallel, out of revenge, Al-Bashir looks at Mahbuba’s big breasts with lust. Confrontation between Manubia and Mahbuba follows, escalating the tension, until finally Al-Bashir dares to open the subject. Reassured by his friend’s denial, he now knows Mustafa is innocent. Meanwhile, Manubia still wants to kill Mustafa, and almost convinces her husband Hamed to help her. But Hamed changes his mind at the very last minute. And – almost – everything goes back to normal in this small village of Tunisia where mere echoes of the Revolution were used to challenge the establishment.

Narrated by multiple voices, from the intimate perspective of various characters, Innocence is ultimately an illustration of the hypocrisy of Arab societies. Even though they speak of modernity and the need for change, they still cling to obsolete traditions and values, which among other things, limit women’s place in society, confining them to their household.

Translation sample

Translation sample

Coming soon.

Rights

Rights

RAYA has world rights to this title.

Check Habib Selmi‘s page for an updated rights situation on this title.

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