ABOUT THE STORY Although fiction is a very worldly form, it is probably more sympathetic than the world is to idealists. In this story by the Kuwaiti writer Laila al-Uthman, the child protagonist’s deformity—everyone calls him “One-eye”—seems to result in a corresponding single-mindedness of vision, untouched by doubt or irony.
Our instinctive response when we see a character in fiction as earnest, indeed gullible, as Muhaysin, is to pity him, as we pity the inflexiblity of Don Quixote, Coriolanus, or Eklavya. But such characters also make us feel slightly embarrassed because they are willing to give up so much for the sake of their ideals or their duties, and yet their reward for being better people than us seems to be to live in a more dangerous world. Their vulnerability results from the fact that it is we, not they, who are two-faced. “I can see. That’s what matters,” Muhaysin keeps insisting when people call him “One-eye”. But he seems to see a different reality from those around him, and there appears to be not room enough in the world for both these visions of life to co-exist. The more powerful force wins, and, in al-Uthman’s trenchant phrase, only the shadow of the other remains.
Only The Shadow Remains