Leg over Leg or the Turtle in the Tree: Concerning the Fariyaq, What Manner of Creature Might He Be - Vol. 3

Leg over Leg or the Turtle in the Tree: Concerning the Fariyaq, What Manner of Creature Might He Be - Vol. 3

Leg over Leg or the Turtle in the Tree: Concerning the Fariyaq, What Manner of Creature Might He Be - Vol. 3

Leg over Leg or the Turtle in the Tree: Concerning the Fariyaq, What Manner of Creature Might He Be - Vol. 3

Synopsis

Leg over Leg recounts the life, from birth to middle age, of 'the Fariyaq,' alter ego of Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, a pivotal figure in the intellectual and literary history of the modern Arab world. The always edifying and often hilarious adventures of the Fariyaq, as he moves from his native Lebanon to Egypt, Malta, Tunis, England and France, provide the author with grist for wide-ranging discussions of the intellectual and social issues of his time, including the ignorance and corruption of the Lebanese religious and secular establishments, freedom of conscience, women's rights, sexual relationships between men and women, the manners and customs of Europeans and Middle Easterners, and the differences between contemporary European and Arabic literatures. Al-Shidyaq also celebrates the genius and beauty of the classical Arabic language. Akin to Sterne and Rabelais in his satirical outlook and technical inventiveness, al-Shidyaq produced in Leg Over Leg a work that is unique and unclassifiable. It was initially widely condemned for its attacks on authority, its religious skepticism, and its "obscenity," and later editions were often abridged. This is the first English translation of the work and reproduces the original Arabic text, published under the author's supervision in 1855.

Excerpt

Are they not enough, the troubles to which men are subject by way of misery and care, effort and wear, toil and disease, hardship and dis-ease, of deprivation and lucklessness, despair and unhappiness? Men are carried to nausea and craving, born in pain and suffering, nursed to their mothers’ detriment, weaned to their imperilment. They crawl only to stumble, climb only to tumble, walk only to lag, labor only to flag, find themselves unemployed only by hunger’s pangs to be destroyed. They languish and grow weak when they go without, suffer indigestion when they eat and grow stout. When they thirst, they lose weight, and when they drink, become sick as poisoned birds, gulp air, and nauseate. Lying awake at night, they waste away, worried and fraught, and sleeping, their allotted share of hours goes by and gains them naught. Old and feeble, they’re a burden to kith and kin, yet, should they die before their time, they cause them such grief as may do them in.

In the midst of all this, they must strive to obtain the means to earn their daily bread, while tormented by the need to make a show of dress and thread. The bachelor’s desperate to find a woman to call his own, the family man preoccupied with spouse and care of children, be they young or grown. When they fall ill, he does so too and when they mourn, he mourns and grieves in turn. Woe to him should his wife be overly fertile, but so too should she be barren and sterile, for then he sees other married men surrounded by bonny faces and children with pleasing graces and says to himself, “Verily, in sons lies all this world’s pleasure, and I am as one who dies (and what a fate!) leaving no successor!” . . .

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