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There was much more than that glass wall between us: society and the illusion of a good life. Every morning, for a year, I’d see her face. She’d stand behind the glass wall of my office and glance at me, her caramel-brown hair in a tight ponytail and her petite body in a drab white-and-black uniform.
When an individual acts upon his most evil impulses, we call that a crime. But when the deluded masses do the same, we call that war, Rania pondered as she stared out the window.
There is something ominous about Damascus, something that I couldn’t describe as the inexperienced, young occasional visitor I had been before my ordeal.
There was nothing extraordinary about it. It was like any other white-walled room in an assisted living facility. The furniture was minimal: single size bed, dresser, coffee table, and two chairs. I sat on the one facing him, placed the voice recorder on his side of the table past the glass of water in the middle, and pressed the button. The small red light began flashing.
The flickering light in this cell does not annoy me, not even in the slightest. Neither does the sense of impending doom, nor do the distant cries of the condemned. The scratches left on the filthy walls haunt my eyes wherever they roam. But I seem immune to such misery, for in such hard existence I feel most delighted. And only in opposition to all that is deemed joyful can I truly know who I am.
There is nothing that I find more repulsive than the dirty, melting snow on the sidewalks of Cluj-Napoca. People say that my dislike is rather peculiar, but to me, this unsightly scene, which becomes more frequent by the end of March, reflects the duality within the city.
Hell has long been my dwelling. My soul was born hovering above the fine line that separates dreams from reality—if the latter truly exists. It is rather tragic that our waking state has been regarded as the single most in which the real is experienced, while all we see in our slumber is derided as “unreal.”
The summer sun of Cluj-Napoca shone upon the suburb of Gheorgheni. Tall trees stood proudly in the green spaces between apartment blocks while red and white roses adorned the front yards of the few detached houses. Nothing ruined that scene but the sight of three open dumpsters bulging out of the nearby doorless lean-to shed whose outer walls had retained very little of their original white color and were now covered by a layer of dirt and mold.
Alajlani, Zaher. “Mission Possible: Intercultural Communication and the Quest for Finding Shared Meaning”. Metacritic Journal for Comparative Studies and Theory, 7.2 (2021). Doi: https://doi.org/10.24193/mjcst.2021.12.11
Alajlani, Zaher. “Cultural Schizophrenia and Rebellion in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.” Journal of Romanian Literary Studies, vol. 19, no. 19/2019, Nov. 2019, pp. 890–896.
Alajlani, Zaher. “A Prediction of Ruin: Self-Fulfilling Prophecy as Plot Device in Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart.’” Journal of Romanian Literary Studies, vol. 20, no. 20/2020, Feb. 2020, pp. 677–682.
Zaher Alajlani’s short stories are both haunting and exalting. In one breath, he dashes you to an existential dread, and in another, he sings with you about the fleeting beauties of life: the passion of young love, a long drink of good wine, and realization of unfettered dreams. Zaher’s take on modern Gothicism is a voice all his own, and the tales he spins have a way of staying with you long after you’ve read them. I highly recommend his latest tales.
Zaher Alajlani's stories beautifully counterbalance realist prose writing with the darkness and violence of fantasy outbursts. Present-day places and events (Romanian everyday life, the COVID pandemic) become a background for social and moral debates, but mostly the receptacle where difference, irregularity, and monstrosity activate. On the Bank of Someșul Mic and Other Stories includes tales that are very often ignited by a main character watching things from a safe and rational distance, only to plunge headfirst into a parallel reality: dream, hallucination, nightmares, or possible time loops. Tradition, routine, customs, and habits are thoroughly interrogated in a skeptical light, which makes a most unlikely and surprising pair with magic and the irrational in these noir narratives. Alajlani's stories are not to be missed.
Like an unleashed creator that cannot protect his creation from his own blasphemous imprecation, Zaher Alajlani explores, with a dark pathos, worlds that exist at the border of psychic derangement and the need of ablution, worlds that could lead him to finally find an exit. The volume In Death Veritas seems to belong to an author who, for the time being, cannot find his peace in words and who keeps exploring the temptation of madness, hoping that the world he creates will eventually coagulate through a redemptive act.
Zaher Alajlani is a compelling, new voice in the short-story realm. A devotee of realism, Alajlani reminds readers at almost every turn that the genre is not dead, nor is it the least bit dated. Alajlani takes his inspiration from such muses as Somerset Maugham, Italo Calvino and Saki- among other, great short-story icons of the 20th century. Though he is Syrian by birth, Alajlani’s tales deftly conjure-up the ambiance of Athens and Moscow in a powerfully-appealing, ever-natural tapestry. He is especially capable of depicting 'underdog' characters—those largely barren souls clawing desperately to survive fetid urban jungles or squalid psychiatric asylums- with a beauteous compassion. The smallest of incidents are enough to motivate him to plunge deeply into human nature. His riveting characters, torn by desire, distress and despair, find salvation only through true love. They subjugate lustful instincts in favor of the spiritual, regardless of morals and social class. Alajlani portrays everyday existence in a relentless subdued style, avoiding whatever urges he may harbor to summon-up artistic conventions- those dramatic and imaginative story-telling techniques. Readers will find the method intriguing or disappointing. This is of no concern to Alajlani whose unswerving fealty is to a truth absent all embellishment.