tayib salihOn a night such as this momentous deeds occur. This was the  night of reckoning. I walked from the station to the house carrying my overcoat over my arm, for my body was burning hot and the sweat poured from my forehead. Though ice crackled under my shoes, yet I sought the cold. Where was the cold? I found her stretched out naked on the bed, her white thighs open. Though her lips were formed into a full smile, there was something like sadness on her face; it was as though she was in a state of great readiness both to give and to take. On first seeing her my heart was filled with tenderness and I felt that Satanic warmth under the diaphragm which tells me that I am in control of the situation. Where had this warmth been all these years?

“Was anyone with you? I said to her in a confident voice I thought I had lost forever.

“There was no one with me” she answered me in a voice affected by the impact of mine. “This night is for you alone. I’ve been waiting for you a long time.”

I felt that for the first time she was telling the truth. This night  was to be the night of truth and of tragedy. I removed the knife from its sheath and sat on the edge of the bed for a time looking at her. I saw the impact of my glances live and palpable on her face. We looked into each other’s eyes, and as our glances met and joined it was as though we were two celestial bodies that had merged in an ill-omened moment of time. My glances overwhelmed  her and she turned her face from me, but the effect was apparent in the area below her waist which she shifted from right to left, raising her self slightly off the bed; then she settled down, her arms thrown out languorously, and resumed looking at me. I looked at her breast and she too looked at where my glance had fallen, as though she had been robbed of her own volition and was moving in accordance with my will. I looked at her stomach and as she followed my gaze a faint expression of pain came over her face. As my gaze lingered, so did hers; when I hurried she hurried with me. I looked long at her white, wide-open thighs, as though massaging them with my eyes, and my gaze slipped from the soft, smooth surface till it came to rest there, in the repository of secrets, where good and evil are born. I saw a blush spread up her face and her eyelids droop as though she had been unable to control them. Slowly I raised the dagger and she followed the blade with her eyes; the pupils widened suddenly and her face shone with a fleeting light like a flash of lightning. She continued to look at the blade-edge with a mixture of astonishment, fear, and lust. Then she took hold of the dagger and kissed it fervently. Suddenly she closed her eyes and stretched out in the bed, raising her middle slightly, opening her thighs wider.

“Please, my sweet,” she said, moaning: “Come—I’m ready now.”

When I did not answer her appeal she gave a more agonizing moan. She waited. She wept. Her voice was so faint it could hardly be heard. “Please darling.”

Hear are my ships, my darling, sailing towards the shores of destruction. I leaned over and kissed her. I put the blade-edge between her breasts and she twined her legs round my back. Slowly I pressed down. Slowly. She opened her eyes. What ecstasy there was in those eyes! She seemed more beautiful than anything in the whole world.

“Darling,” she said painfully, “I thought you would never do this. I almost gave up hope.”

I pressed down the dagger with my chest until it had all disappeared between her breast. I could feel the hot blood gushing from her chest. I began crushing my chest against her as she called out imploringly: “Come with me. Come with me. Don’t let me go alone.”

“I love you,” she said to me. Don’t let me go alone.”

“I love you,” I said to her, and I spoke the truth. We were a torch of flame, the edges of the bed tongues of Hell-fire. The smell of smoke was in my nostrils as she said do me: “I love you, my darling,” and as I said to her “I love you, my darling,” and the universe, with its past, present, and future, was gathered together into a single point before and after which nothing existed.


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Salih - nyrbclassics tumblrIf you’ve never read Seasons of Migration to the North by Sudanese writer Tayeb Salih, you’re missing out on one of the weirdest African novels ever written.  It tells the story of a stranger with a dark past who came to live in a village located in the Upper Nile and affected the lives of the villagers in very unexpected ways. The novel was published in 1966 to worldwide acclaim but was banned in Sudan, perhaps for the heavy erotic content.

Apart from a stint as a school headmaster in Sudan, Salih spent most of his life in London where he worked in Broadcasting. He only published two novels.

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