AWEJ for translation & Literary Studies volume, 1 Number 2, May 2017                                                 Pp.2-17

Bans and Boundaries: The Arab Layman in Zakaria Tamer’s Sour Grapes

May Witwit

Hon. Research Fellow
University of Bedfordshire, United Kingdom



Abstract PDF

Social diseases, incompetent governments and the effeminate existence of the Arab person are recurrent themes in Zakaria Tamer’s Sour Grapes (2000). Set in a fictitious Syrian neighbourhood, the stories of the collection Sour Grapes identify the bans and boundaries burdening contemporary Arab life. By presenting the unusual and the nonsensical, Tamer highlights not only the socio-political and economic problems but the impact of the various social customs and inaccurate interpretations of religious teachings on gender roles and on all that burdens the sheer existence of the Arab individual. The novelist does not name a figure or a regime but compels his reader to question the quality of existence in a working class Arab neighbourhood. Written in (2000), the collection foresees the inevitability of an Arab uprising, which was to take place ten years later. Unlike the stereotypical observations of many orientalists, Tamer’s Sour Grapes takes his readers through the narrow alleys of Queiq, introducing them to the Arab layman. Through the characters’ defiance or their commitment to the social bans and religious prohibitions, Tamer discloses the deep crisis in the Arab social fabric. Through textual analysis and the explanation of inherited bans and boundaries, this paper highlights Tamer’s clever use of the ridiculous to demonstrate how dictators are instated in most aspects of Arab life. This paper looks deeply into some of Tamer’s short stories to explain what lies between the lines and the ideas behind Tamer’s depiction of the bizarre and the peculiar to demonstrate how the powerful people in an Arab society thrive at the expense of the simple Arab person and his culture.

Cite as:

Witwit, M. (2017). Bans and Boundaries: The Arab Layman in Zakaria Tamer’s Sour Grapes. Arab World English Journal for Translation & Literary Studies, 1(2).


Dr. May Witwit is a Hon. Research fellow at the University of Bedfordshire and Associate
Member of the Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS).Her research
interests include Victorian anti-suffrage and the policy of British Empire, the position of the
Victorian women, Victorians’ interest in Arab life in addition to modern Arabic literature. Her
current research looks on the representation of Arab women in Englishworks of literature and
whether these past representations form the basis of today’s Islam-phobia and the stereotyping of
Arab women.