Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Reading Notes: Flaubert in Egypt 6 (Dance: The Bee)

Here follows the often mentioned “Bee” dance performed by Kuchuk Hanem. Karayanni pointed out Flaubert’s frequent use of pejorative words such as brutal and grotesque, likely in relation to this famous passage.

Kuchuk dances the Bee. First, so that the door can be closed, the women send away Farghali and another sailor, who up to now have been watching the dances and who, in the background, constituted the grotesque element of the scene. A black veil is tied around the eyes of the child, and a fold of his blue turban is lowered over those of the old man. Kuchuk shed her clothing as she danced. Finally, she was naked except for a fichu which she held in her hands and behind, which she pretended to hide, and at the end, she threw down the fichu. That was the Bee. She danced it very briefly and said she does not like to dance that dance. Joseph, very excited, kept clapping his hands: ‘La, eu, nia, oh! Eu, nia, oh!’ Finally, after repeating for us the wonderful step she had danced in the afternoon, she sank down breathless on her divan, her body continuing to move slightly in rhythm. One of the women threw her her enormous white trousers striped with pink, and she pulled them on up to her neck. The other two musicians were unblindfolded. (117)

Another dance. A cup of coffee is placed on the ground. She dances before it, then falls on her knees and continues to move her torso, always clacking the castanets, and describing in the air a gesture with her arms as though she were swimming. That continues, gradually, the head is lowered, she reaches for the cup, takes the edge of it between her teeth, and then leaps up quickly with a single bound.( 118)

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