The Hat Stand

translated by Chip Rossetti

Whatever happened in the neighborhood, ‘Ubayd was said to be behind it.

Disappearing water pumps and gas cylinders, broken streetlights, and fires in the farmers’ market. The occupation, explosions, the financial crisis, the drop in oil prices, and the civil war.

Even when there was an outbreak of chickenpox among the neighborhood children, they said, “It’s him, it’s him. It’s ‘Ubayd and no one else.”

One day, word spread about the existence of a strange, savage creature that eats the testicles of young boys. Naturally, fingers of accusation were pointed toward ‘Ubayd. Everyone agreed to surround his house, arrest him, and be rid of him for good. He was late hearing about that rumor—at first, people said that it was the Americans who had dropped that savage creature out of one of their war planes in order to frighten the residents—he didn’t have time to flee. So he submitted to his fate and took refuge in a corner of the isolated single room that he lived in on the riverbank.

But when they barged in, they only found a large hat stand crammed into the corner. They hung up their clothes on it and began looking for someone else, someone they could hang the blame on for ‘Ubayd’s disappearance.

Translation from the Arabic

Translator’s note: “The Hat Stand” is from Diaa Jubaili’s collection of flash fiction No Windmills in Basra, which won the 2018 Almultaqa Prize for the Arabic Short Story, the largest prize for the short-story genre in the Arab world. From Lā Ṭawāḥīn hawā’ fī-l Baṣra, copyright © 2018 by Diaa Jubaili.

Read Rossetti’s note on translating Jubaili from this issue.

Diaa Jubaili (b. 1977, Basra, Iraq) is the author of eight novels and three short-story collections, including What Will We Do Without Calvino?, winner of the Tayeb Salih International Award for Creative Writing, and No Windmills in Basra. He was a contributor to the short-story collection Iraq +100 and has written for the Guardian.

Chip Rossetti has a doctorate in modern Arabic literature from the University of Pennsylvania. His published translations include Beirut, Beirut, by Sonallah Ibrahim; Metro: A Story of Cairo, by Magdy El Shafee; and Utopia, by Ahmed Khaled Towfik. He is currently editorial director for the Library of Arabic Literature at NYU Press.