The Wedding of Zein and Other Stories

Tayeb Salih (Author) Denys Johnson-Davies (Translator)
& 1 more


"The Wedding of Zein" unfolds in the same village on the upper Nile where Tayeb Salih's tragic masterpiece Season of Migration to the North is set. Here, however, the story that emerges through the overlapping, sometimes contradictory voices of the villagers is comic. Zein is the village idiot, and everyone in the village is dumbfounded when the news goes around that he will be getting married--Zein the freak, Zein who burst into laughter the moment he was born and has kept women and children laughing ever since, Zein who lost all his teeth at six and whose face is completely hairless, Zein married at last? Zein's particular role in the life of the village has been the peculiar one of falling in love again and again with girls who promptly marry another man. It would be unheard of for him to get married himself.

In Tayeb Salih's wonderfully agile telling, the story of how this miracle came to be is one that engages the tensions that exist in the village, or indeed in any community: tensions between the devout and the profane, the poor and the propertied, the modern and the traditional. In the end, however, Zein's ridiculous good luck augurs an ultimate reconciliation, opening a prospect of a world made whole.

Salih's classic novella appears here with two of his finest short stories, "The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid" and "A Handful of Dates."

Product Details

$14.95  $13.75
New York Review of Books
Publish Date
March 02, 2010
5.0 X 0.5 X 7.9 inches | 0.4 pounds
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Tayeb Salih (1929-2009) was born in northern Sudan and educated at the University of Khartoum. After a brief period working as a teacher, he moved to London to work with the BBC Arabic Service. Salih later worked as director general of information in Qatar in the Arabian Gulf, and then with UNESCO in Paris and the Arab Gulf States. Along with The Wedding of Zein, his books in English include Season of Migration to the North (also published as an NYRB Classic) and Bandarshah.

Denys Johnson-Davies (1922-2017) translated more than thirty-five books by modern Arab authors, including Naguib Mahfouz and Mahmoud Darwish. He has also produced more than fifty books for children, mostly taken from traditional Arabic sources. In 2007 he was awarded the Sheikh Zayed Prize for his services to Arabic literature.

Hisham Matar was born in 1970 in New York City to Libyan parents and spent his childhood in Tripoli and Cairo. His first novel, In the Country of Men (2006), was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. He lives in London.

Illustrated by Ibrahim Salahi.


"Tayeb Salih is one of those writers who come upon us stealthily. We welcome them, but discover, after they leave, that they have stolen something precious from us. They have made it imperative for us to reconsider everything." --Ali Al-Rai

"This book. . . has timelessness and universality. . . humanity and abundant humor in all hues. . . insights and worldliness and awareness." --London Tribune

"The Wedding of Zein presents a view of rural life so resilient it seems capable of withstanding challenge from any quarter...Salih weaves the story of Zein's life forward and backward, touching nearly everyone..." -The Christian Science Monitor

"What I find particularly attractive about Mr. Salih's way of writing is his attitude to the village people he describes. All of them are seen in a humourous way; the reader is invited to laugh at them, or at least to smile. And yet this humour is fundamentally kind; even at their most ridiculous, all the characters retain an essential dignity." -Kingsley Amis

"These three stories are interesting, formally, because they show what happens when a considerable sophistication and resourcefulness of technique is applied to traditional storytelling material." -The Guardian (London)

"A group of three sympathetic, well-told tales of Sudanese village life." -The Listener

"It is certainly time that [Salih] be better known in America." --The Christian Science Monitor