‘The Death of His Excellency, The Ex-Minister’ by Nawal El Saadawi


From Granta:

Place your hand over my head, Mother, the way you used to do when I was little. You’re the only human being left for me in this world. For twenty long years you never reproached me for failing to visit you. But you weren’t the only person I stayed away from; I was far too busy to pay attention to the world around me or even to myself. My wife and old childhood friends didn’t fare any better. I didn’t have time to see my daughter. I barely even had time to look at my own face. Before going out, I would cast a quick glimpse at myself in the mirror, only to adjust my tie and make sure there was no colour mismatch between my shirt and my suit.

I didn’t feel as if I lived in this world, Mother. Was it possible that I could live in another world without having actually died? Was it possible that I could die without an obituary in the papers? When eminent ministers like myself passed away, Our very first lesson in politics is that the correct answer is not necessarily the required answer. a great obituary would certainly be published nationwide. There would just as certainly be a solemn funeral procession, with rows upon rows of mourners. In the middle of the first row there would be the Great Man himself, wearing a black tie and concealing his tears behind dark glasses. Such a scene often filled me with so much awe that I wished I were lying in the coffin that was hoisted on people’s shoulders.

I was completely cut off from your world, Mother. And this was a burden too heavy for my body and mind to bear. My body sometimes ground to a halt out of sheer exhaustion while my mind continued working. On the other hand, my mind often got so worn out that it would stop functioning while my body worked on, moving here and there, going to the office, presiding over meetings or conferences, receiving delegations at airports, attending parties or travelling abroad on high-level missions.

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