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The Burnt Land

The Burnt Land-by Ahmad Mahmoud

The following is an excerpt from the book The Burnt Land by Ahmad Mahmoud (December 25, 1931 – October 4, 2002). He was a prominent contemporary Iranian novelist from Ahvaz, in the southwest of Iran. He was known as a distinguished social realist writer based on his works, which mainly concern the lives of working-class and lower-class families in the urban societies of southern Iran, especially Khuzestan. He has written extensively about the Iran-Iraq War and its impact on the province.

The Burnt Land

It’s the last days of the summer. The afternoon nap has made me sluggish. The suffocating mugginess is still holding its demonic grip on the city. I turn off the cooler and get out of the room. The sun has reached the top of the wall. Saaber is sitting on the ledge of the flower bed, drinking tea. Mina is holding the hose watering the petunias. The pleasant smell of petunias has filled the whole yard. I squat by the pond and splash two handfuls of water on my face. I hear Mother, sitting on the balcony by the samovar.

– Do you want tea?

– Pour it in a glass, Mother.

Mina puts down the hose in the flower bed and takes the tea from mother and gives it to me. The sparrows are making a fuss inside the thick branches of the cedar tree that’s in the middle of the yard. They swarm this tree in the evenings in groups, and it becomes black with the sparrows at dusk. I savor the tea, absorbed by the goldfish in the pond, when I hear Saaber.

– You slept a lot today.

I had slept for four hours. It was six o’clock. Mina is sweeping the red petals of the bougainvillea and the green and yellow leaves of the cedar tree and then takes the hose again and washes the ground of the yard. The broad branches of the bougainvillea have spread all over the eastern wall. Their petals resemble shining gems inside the folds of the green leaves. The sun is moving up from the edge of the wall. Shaahed enters from the outside door. He has a newspaper folded under his arm.

– What’s new?

Shaahed gives me the newspaper and says:

– Looks like something’s going on at the border.

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