April 17, 2024

“The Girl Who No Longer Grows Up in the Photo Album: A Unique Model in the Short Story”

The Girl Who No Longer Grows Up In The Photo Album

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It is generally believed that writing novels is more difficult than writing short stories. Here, I am not preferring novelists over short story writers, or vice versa, but rather trying to understand the roots of this belief. In our fast-paced era, where phones, video clips, and social media have replaced books, haste has replaced deliberation, and escaping into the worlds of novels has replaced reflecting on poignant moments in short stories that condense and stimulate thought.

The short story is an art form that focuses on reflecting on a moment, scene, or event and intensifying it. One of the definitions closest to my heart for the short story was articulated by the esteemed writer Yusuf Idris: it is “a bullet that hits the heart.” Thus, I begin my review of the short story collection “The Girl Who No Longer Grows Up in the Photo Album” by the Saudi author Amal Al-Faran, published by Athr for Publishing and Distribution in 2019, which spans 92 pages and includes fifteen stories, with this introduction.

Redefining Time

The title “The Girl Who No Longer Grows Up in the Photo Album” suggests a redefinition of time, akin to a narrative flash in its own right. The story recounts the tale of five friends from different countries on their way to a leisure trip. One of them tells about her neighbor whose decomposed body was discovered by the police, shifting their conversation towards death.

“Stories of death flow from tongues, reminding me of an old dream in which, beneath my blanket, I felt a withered, dark-colored corpse sharing my bed. When I told my therapist about my nightmare, she asked, ‘Have you ever thought about suicide?'”

They delve into the death rituals of their respective countries; the Arab woman speaks of washing, shrouding, and burying the dead, while the Indian woman talks about cremating the body. The conversation continues until they meet an art dealer who catches their attention with a painting of himself at a younger age. It seemed as though time had radically transformed him, not just physically but spiritually as well, to the extent that they did not recognize him. The dealer apologizes, explaining that he has just returned from a friend’s funeral.

“At that moment, I understood where his sharp awareness of time came from, for death takes a soul and grants the survivors a burst of philosophy for a few fleeting days.”

And the story ends with their discovery of a photograph placed on an old bicycle seat:

“For the sake of the deceased, wear a helmet whenever you go out into the street.”

Variation at the structural level

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