Paradise, for the skeptic Mohammed Afifi, was just four steps down from his porch into a sunny garden. There he would sit, morning and evening, in the shadow of Tamaara, his beloved tamarhinna tree, soaking up the sights, sounds, and smells of his precious corner of the natural world. From an old yellow straw chair, Afifi would train his perceptive gaze on that garden in all its detail. Flora and fauna blessed him with honorary membership in their enchanted realm. Only the rare downpours of winter and the dust storms of spring could banish him indoors. Yet, whether inspired at the side of the heater, purring black cat on his lap, or next to the pansy bed, with ecstatic flocks of bee-eaters overhead, Afifi’s intimate, whimsical musings radiate a profound and unique sense of place.
Lisa J. White’s nuanced translation of Taramiim fii Dhill Taraara captures Afifi’s impish, ironic sense of humor and his unsparing honesty. She handles Afifi’s parting gift to the world with great care and honor. Mohammed Afifi died in 1981, in winter, just after completing this fictionalized memoir. Majestic and melancholy, mysterious and magical—the essence of his world, Afifi’s extraordinary garden, is here revealed to the English-speaking world.