The President, in the Trial of the Century
In Mubarak’s skin as he awaits his verdict.
Former President Mubarak is getting up in there in age. In his mid-eighties he is weak and ill. Only a few months ago, he had all the power and force of the Pharaoh’s throne, where he sat for 30 years, giving orders however he pleased. Perhaps he overheard this stanza from the history of Arab Hypocrisy:
- “From Egypt” attempts to draw a cultural map of Egypt and the Arab world by profiling the artistic, literary, and political issues that affect the region via on-the-ground coverage of current events, publications, and the fight for freedom of expression.
- Hamdy El-Gazzar is an Egyptian writer and one of the 39 young Arab writers included in the Beirut 39 Project. His first novel, Sihr Aswad (Dar Merit, 2005) won the prestigious Sawaris Award, and was subsequently translated by Humphrey Davies (Black Magic, AUC Press, 2007). His second novel, Ladhdhat Sirriyya (Secret Pleasures) was published by Dar al-Dar in 2008. He is currently working on a third novel.
“Command what you will,
not what the fates ordain,
For you are the one, the overpowering one…”
Or maybe he heard such hypocrisy rising from within him, and if he did not necessarily hear it, he surely believed it.
Today, the old man rests his ailing body on a stretcher. He wears black sunglasses that cover his eyes and most of his face. He has no desire to see people and more importantly, does not want people to see him, locked in a cell for the trial of the century. His whole body is transformed into two large ears awaiting the verdict. His hearing has been weak for years, but now he is sharpening it with all his senile strength. Meanwhile, one thought runs through his head, the same thought likely responsible for his constant bed rest for the past 16 months.
“What will they do to me? What will be my verdict? I have given my life to them. I did for them what no one else has done. I fed them when they were hungry and secured them when they were fearful. I led them to victory from my place behind the wheel. The ungrateful are denying all the good I have given them! Today they are prosecuting their great leader? They are prosecuting me? To hell with everything.”
In his cage he is accompanied by people from his circle who in the past would not dare look him in the eye. They used to bow down to him. If they could, they would’ve kissed the very floors he walked on. He did not hear a word from them over the course of thirty years except “Yes sir.”
Today they are distracted by their own fates. They do not bother to look at him. Their destiny now hangs on the tip of another man’s tongue. The judge is in control of their lives or deaths. As for this old, ailing man, his legacy is over in every possible way.
The president feels what is going through their minds and is pained that he is no longer their leader or the leader of millions of people. “To hell,” he thinks. “To hell with everything.”
The seconds and minutes pass like an eternity, and the president, laying on his stretcher, behind his black sunglasses, no longer listens to the judge’s words. His eyes are fixed on the ceiling of this cell, thinking:
“This building holds my name. I built it for my armed forces. This is my science academy. The day has come when they are prosecuting me inside it. What is this nonsense? What is this nightmare? When will the lips of this judge stop moving? I can’t hear what he is saying and I don’t want to know what he is saying. To hell with him. Who put him in that position? Was it not I? Who built this academy? Was it not I? Who established a constitution and law in this country?
“The people know that I am innocent. May my enemies and this country’s enemies go to hell. To hell with everything! The day has come when they dare look at me with pity and scorn. They are pleased to see me in this position, under prosecution like a criminal, at the mercy of a man whom I appointed to that seat. But history will record what I have done, not what I owe.
“One day, all these people will learn how ungrateful and unjust they were. One day, they will understand the gates of hell they opened and the crime they committed against me.
“As for you my sons, you did not know that Egypt’s throne would not come easily to you. Do you understand now how I remained in my position for 30 years? I provided you with the means to live like kings, so don’t get angry if you lose the throne. One day you will find your way back to it. Has the day come when my men will sell me out to the brotherhood? To hell with everything.”
Translation: Nour Abdelghani