Page 24 - Vladimir Bartol ALAMUT
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26 Vladimir Bartol ALAMUTHis art consisted mostly of an expressive belly and a strong command of his muscles. Flourishes with his hands and feet were little more than a rhythmic accompaniment to the movements of his belly. First he showed how it was done, then the girls were supposed to try it after him. He ordered them to take off their halters and bare themselves to the waist. Halima was embarrassed, but when she saw how casually the others undressed, she readily followed them. He designated Zuleika as the lead dancer and placed her in front of the rest. Then he sent Fatima to assume her place, and he took a long, thin flute and began to play.It was only now that Halima began to notice Zuleika. She undoubt- edly had the most beautiful figure of any of them. She was first in danc- ing and Asad’s assistant at lessons. Whatever he wanted she performed with precision, with the others imitating her. Flute in hand, he went from one girl to the next, expertly evaluating the agility and movement of their muscles, correcting them and showing how it was done.After the lesson Halima was tired and hungry. They went out into the gardens, but they couldn’t go far, because they had another subject coming up—verse making. Halima complained to Sara that she was hungry. Sara showed her where to wait for her, then slipped into the building and came back in a short while. She put a peeled banana in Halima’s hand.“We’re not allowed to eat between meals. Miriam is very strict about that, because she’s afraid we’ll get fat. She’d punish me for sure if she knew I’d given you anything.”Halima had never heard of anyone not being allowed to eat just so they wouldn’t get fat. Just the opposite. The fuller formed a woman or a girl was, the more she was praised, so she hardly welcomed Sara’s news. And what to make of the fact that the meals in this strange place consist- ed of nothing but delicacies?It was time for the girls to head back to the classroom, where Adi was about to serve as their poetry teacher. This was a subject that struck Halima as fun, and she was immediately excited about it. This day he explained the short verse system of the ghazel, and all of the girls were supposed to use their inventiveness to contribute. Miriam recited the first verse and was free after that while the girls competed with each other to add verse after verse. After about ten lines they exhausted their resourcefulness, leaving only Fatima and Zainab, who kept doggedly

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