Illumination of Tradition and Ceremony in Tayeb Salih's Short Stories

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Sudanese writer Tayeb Salih (1929 – 2009) was an acclaimed author of the Arab world whose literary works were prominent during the 1960’s. His works are often set in context of colonialism in the Sudan. Throughout Salih’s short stories, “The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid” and “The Wedding of Zein” the importance of tradition and ceremony as aspects of culture are illuminated through the features of Islam, oral tradition, and the preservation of culture in contrast change and modernism. Salih uses language, narrator, and the creation of tension through contrast to effectively depict these cultural aspects. Religious language is used throughout both stories to convey the prominence of Islam and spirituality in culture. In “The Wedding of Zein” there are constant references to God and His prophet in the dialogue between characters; this develops the reader’s understanding that religious references are part of the everyday language of the people. For example, the phrase “…there’s no god but God and Mohammed is the Prophet of God.” (“The Wedding of Zein”, 32) appears several times throughout the story, often used when one hears something blasphemous and shocking, so it is used as a common exclamation. It is also significant that the works are translated from Arabic into English. Arabic is considered a sacred linguistic language because Islam is a prominent aspect of civilization not only in Sudan, but also in the entire Arab world. Therefore, Arabic is perceived as holy and of God. So in Salih’s translated works, the diction is eloquent and poetic as a result of the original language being very religious-oriented. The translated text not only contains passages that make direct references to God, but also descriptive passages that take on a divine fluency. In “The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid” the role of spirituality and faith is illuminated through the many anecdotes the narrator tells the audience that depict the villagers’ faith and reverence of the doum tree that sits by the...
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