Rafik Schami; translated by Philip Boehm
published 2011 • 5 1/2" x 8 1/4" • 263 pages
ISBN 9781566568319 • paperback • $15.00 •
"This wonderful book is enlightening and endearing, witty and wise. Salim the coachman tells enchanting tales, but suddenly he is struck dumb. Just as Scheherazade told tales to save her life, Salim's friends must spin yarns to save his speech. Set in Damascus in 1959, the novel alternates the real lives of our storytellers with stories from the distant past. These are neither fables nor fairy tales with everlasting, happy endings, and they often require readers to suspend their disbelief. Each chapter is preceded by a one-line hint of what is to come, such as 'How one person's true story was not believed, whereas his most blatant lie was.' The author (A Hand Full of Stars), who is a professional storyteller in Germany, has written a book appropriate for both adults and young adults. It is also a terrific book to read aloud. Highly recommended for all fiction collections."
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A reissue of Rafik Schami's award-winning novel
In the classical Arab tradition of tale-telling, here is a magical book that celebrates the power of storytelling, delightfully transformed for modern sensibilities by an award-winning author.
The time is present-day Damascus, and Salim the coachman, the city's most famous storyteller, is mysteriously struck dumb. To break the spell, seven friends gather for seven nights to present Salim with seven wondrous "gifts"—seven stories of their own design.
Upon this enchanting frame of tales told in the fragrant Arabian night, the words of the past grow fainter, as ancient customs are yielding to modern turmoil. While the hairdresser, the teacher, the wife of the locksmith sip their tea and pass the water pipe, they swap stories about the magical and the mundane: about djinnis and princesses, about contemporary politics and the difficulties of bargaining in a New York department store. And as one tale leads to another... and another... all of Damascus appears before your eyes, along with a vision of storytelling—and talk—as the essence of friendship, of community, of life.
A sly and graceful work, a delight to readers young and old, Damascus Nights is, according to Publishers Weekly, "a highly atmospheric, pungent narrative."
Rafik Schami was born in Damascus in 1946, came to Germany in 1971 and studied chemistry in Heidelberg. Today he is the most successful German-speaking Arabic writer. His novels have been translated into 21 languages and received numerous international awards. His bestselling novel The Dark Side of Love (Interlink, 2009) received a starred review in Publishers Weekly and was selected by PW as a Favorite Summer Read.
"Timely and timeless at once."
—Malcolm Bradbury, The New York Times Book Review
"A picturesque collection of tales... wonderfully contemporary."
—Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"A highly atmospheric, pungent narrative."
"A charming book of Arab tales about tale-telling by tellers Dickens might have invented."
"A master spinner of innocently beguiling yarns, slyly oblivious to the Western cartographies of narrative art and faithful only to the oral itineraries of the classical Arab storytellers, Rafik Schami plays with the genre of the Western novel, and he explodes it from within."
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