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The Calligrapher's Secret by Rafik Schami


The Calligrapher's Secret by Rafik Schami

Even as a young man, Hamid Farsi is acclaimed as a master of the art of calligraphy. But as time goes by, he sees that weaknesses in the Arabic language and its script limit its uses in the modern world. In a secret society, he works out schemes for radical reform, never guessing what risks he is running. His beautiful wife, Noura, is ignorant of the great plans on her husband's mind. She knows only his cold, avaricious side and so it is no wonder she feels flattered by the attentions of his amusing, lively young apprentice. And so begins a passionate love story of a Muslim woman and a Christian man.


'Warmly observed, richly detailed, and often bold and exciting, Schami's fine portrait of life in Damascus, Syria, in the middle of the 20th century is filled with a compelling set of characters. Noura is a Muslim girl who looks like Audrey Hepburn. Rami Arabi, her father, a noted sheikh, is frustrated that those who attend his mosque 'treat God like a waiter in a restaurant.'
Salman is a Christian boy, hated by his drunkard father and devoted to his dog, and to Noura. Nasri Abbani is a wealthy man from an important family, but also a hopeless playboy, his business kept afloat only because of his clever clerk, Tawfiq. When Nasri sets foot in the studio of Hamid Farsi, the leading calligrapher in all of Syria, tragic and wondrous events are set in motion that will affect all in the most emphatic ways. Schami, born in Damascus, is one of Germany

's most respected writers, bridging Arab and Western culture with his exquisite storytelling. A novel to be savored.'
Publishers Weekly 20101025 The background to this bold and political novel is cosmopolitan: Jews

, Armenians, Arabs and Iranians live cheek by jowl in Schami's Damascus. Finely rendered into English by Anthea Bell, The Calligrapher's Secret is a celebration of diversity. Rightly so; after all, as Serani, Farsi's old master points out: 'the Quran was revealed in Mecca and Medina, recorded in Baghdad, recited in Egypt, but written most beautifully of all in Istanbul. -- Andre Naffis-Sahely Times Literary Supplement 20111207 'Suspensful, spectacular, and searing are not adjectives one would use to describe The Calligrapher's Secret. Intriguing, intelligent, and multifaceted are far more accurate to convey what readers can expect from this well written story about love, art, family and Syrian culture.
New York Journal of Books 20111101

About the Author

Rafik Schami was born in Damascus in 1946 and has lived in political exile in Germany since 1970. Today he is one of the most successful Arab writers in Europe and writes in his adopted language of German. His novels have been translated into 21 languages and received numerous international awards. His novel The Dark Side of Love (Arabia Books, 2009) was shortlisted for The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

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Book Info

Publication date

31st March 2011


Rafik Schami

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Arabia Books Ltd


450 pages


Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
Fiction in translation



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