“The Battle of the Rabbits” by Muhammed Mustajab is a sort of ridiculous and slightly gruesome story of a young man’s encounter with a colony of rabbits. However, while bizarre happenings are physically occurring, the thoughts in the young man’s head provide great insight into the social norms of Egypt. This young man is going to meet the father of his future wife, who also happens to be a former prime minister. The prime minister lives in a large villa, with a garden where all of the absurdities with rabbits occur. The young man comes from a poor, humble family. His father is what the young man impetuously refers to as a peasant, but decides to call him a farmer because it holds more social significance.
The short story lets the reader into the mind of the young man, where he is holding mock conversations out of nervousness for his meeting with the former prime minister. The conversations revolve around him attempting to make himself seem as socially worthy as possible, admitting his humble family while trying to hold his own stature as an educated, working young man. These fake conversations tell the reader about the importance of social status in Egypt. The young man admits that he is not nearly as worthy as his to-be bride, and carefully selects his language in order to paint himself in the most flattering way.
These simulated conversations take place as the young man is traveling to the villa and while he is waiting to meet the former prime minister. He is waiting in what I understand to be an atrium or garden that has patio furniture and a colony of white rabbits. The young man doesn’t seem surprised to find the rabbits, he even relates them to the pen of rabbits his mother had when he was a child. To me, this seems rather bizarre, for a fine palace-like home to host a bunch of rabbits, but again, the young man isn’t fazed. In fact, he sets out on a sort of rabbit hunt, and ends up killing a few of them. This is even more perplexing for me, as it seems weird and honestly rude to go into someone’s house and then kill his rabbits.
What is also bizarre is that he is doing this while waiting to meet a former prime minister, and at one point he gets so sweaty he takes his shirt off. I’m not entirely sure as to whether I’m missing some sort of old norm in the rabbit owning area or if the story is just meant to be startlingly bizarre in order to emphasize the stress of the conversations in the young man’s mind, and therefor the stress of the situation of meeting the father of the woman you love, when everyone involved is aware that you are of a lower class and could be deemed as “unfit”!
Author: Melinda McCoy