Read These Four Very Short Stories by Osama Alomar
The Syrian-American writer has a sly, economical yet incisive way of upending conventions and exposing hypocrisy and injustice.
Illustration by Feroze Alam
I first encountered Osama Alomar's very short stories back in 2010, in the pages of the literary magazine NOON. I was immediately struck by the Syrian-American writer's sly humor, deft economy, and graceful yet incisive way of upending conventions and exposing hypocrisy and injustice. In 2013, I had the good fortune of publishing four stories by Alomar in the sixth print issue of Gigantic, the literary magazine I co-founded. My favorite of these stories is " Descender!" about a name-calling match between two elevators, one going up, one going down. In just two sentences, Alomar manages to coin a new and wonderfully absurd insult, "descender" (so close to the Bushism "decider"), before delivering the sudden, sublime knockout punch. VICE is proud to present four new very short stories by Osama Alomar.
The Beautiful Face
I sat on the top of a hill looking into the amazingly beautiful face of history. It seemed to me that his beauty surpassed even the most wonderful human form in charm and loveliness. I went down from the top of the hill and walked toward him. I was dazzled and taken by him, and I carried in my heart a bouquet of flowers that multiplied continuously. But as soon as I came near him, I noticed something terrifying in his wonderful eyes: His irises were the openings of two giant cannons firing inter-chronological missiles through the ages. From his precisely drawn mouth came slanderous insults and profanities that crossed the centuries, and hatreds and grudges that didn't recognize the boundaries of time. I turned and went back to my house cursing the splendor of a history that is eager to destroy the future.
The Dog and the Nation
Yesterday, as I was heading to work in the early morning, I saw two big flyers posted side by side on a fence outside the public park. One of them had a picture of a small white dog with the word "lost" written above it. The other one had a strangely shaped map with the words "lost nation" written above in red. What surprised me was the huge number of people packed around the picture of the beautiful white dog, words of regret and distress crowding about them thicker than the crowd of people, while the flyer for the missing nation remained neglected, unable to draw the attention of a single person.
Freedom of Expression
The government issued a decree guaranteeing citizens the right to freedom of facial expression. It was considered a great step forward, especially since many countries had banned this form of expression entirely. Millions of citizens took to the streets in huge demonstrations of support for this great and unprecedented victory for democracy. They smiled widely as they marched, their faces grotesque masks of joy.
I threw the thin and brilliantly colored veil of imagination over the rocky terrain of reality. It became a beautiful sight, but its topography remained just as it had been.
—Translated from the Arabic by Osama Alomar and C. J. Collins
Born in Damascus, Syria, in 1968 and now living in Chicago, Osama Alomar is the author of three collections of short stories and a volume of poetry. His first collection in English, Fullblood Arabian, was published by New Directions in 2014. He is a regular contributor to various newspapers and journals within the Arab world.