writers in residence
In Residence
Zurich, Switzerland
January — June 2023

Khaled Khalifa

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A Short Passage

“Death is Hard Work”

“Forty years earlier Abdel Latif had picked up his tin suitcase and left his village for good, after he had failed to support his sister Layla in her refusal to marry a man she didn’t love. Not even when she said, “I’ll set myself on fire before I marry a man who stinks of rotten onions.” And, sure enough, on the day of the wedding she had been forced into, she stood on the roof of her family’s tall house in her white dress, poured out a jug of kerosene, and set herself alight, carrying out the threat no one had taken seriously. She whirled around like a Sufi to best let the flames take her body, which had become a charred corpse before anyone could reach her. Abdel Latif had watched her from a distance, weeping for her silently, as his three children were doing now for him: despite how bad life had become, death could still seem terribly cruel.”

— From “Death is Hard Work" (Faber & Faber, London 2019)