The Wedding of Zein, by Tayeb Salih. Published 2010 by NYRB Classics. Literary Fiction. Translated from the Arabic by Denys Johnson-Davies.
The Wedding of Zein is a comic novella by Sudanese author Tayeb Salih centering on the unlikely nuptials of the town eccentric, a fellow named Zein. Tall and odd-looking, with just two teeth in his mouth, Zein has made a reputation for himself as the man who falls in love over and over with girls who promptly marry other men- to the point where mothers seek him out in hopes that he will draw the eye of available suitors to their eligible daughters. No one ever thought of Zein as marriageable himself.
As the town reacts to the idea of Zein's marriage, the reader gets to know a whole community- its factions, its backstories, its characters and rituals. We see how differences in approaches to politics, religion and lifestyle work themselves out and make this community come together over its favorite oddball. Zein befriends others marginalized in this tight-knit town- the disabled, the enfeebled and the outcast, so it should come as no surprise that Zein's intended is a headstrong young woman considered eccentric herself.
The Wedding of Zein is a delightful, well-paced quick read about a colorful community and the very lovable man at its center. It's the perfect off-the-beaten-path book for readers of literary and world fiction. The setting, a traditional Muslim Sudanese town on the cusp of growth and modernization, is beautifully rendered and the culture is portrayed with love and affection. The wedding celebration itself is so lovingly and vividly described that I felt like I was there among the revelers. And by the end, I was celebrating Zein's wedding, too.
FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.