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Calligrapher's Secret, The
Rafik Schami; translated from the German by Anthea Bell

published 2011 • 5 1/4" x 8 1/2" • 444 pages
ISBN 9781566568302 • paperback • $20.00

A new international bestseller from the award-winning author of The Dark Side of Love

In the narrow streets of the old city of Damascus, a rumor is circulating: Nura, the beautiful wife of the famous calligrapher Hamid Farsi, has escaped. Why would she leave behind a life envied by so many? Could it be that she was the victim of a kidnapping by one of her husband's enemies?

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 and how far the purists are willing to go to stop him.
His beautiful wife, Nura, 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-the love of a Muslim woman and a Christian man.

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 23 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.

Anthea Bell has won many awards for her translations; notably for W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz.

Media Reviews

"Start off your year... [with] Rafik Schami's superb new novel The Calligrapher's Secret, set in Damascus."
-Elle (Middle East)

"Schami's new novel shows Syrian society in all its colorful facets and touches all the reader's senses."
-BR Online

"'The Calligrapher's Secret' is a huge Syrian tableau!"
-Die Berliner Literaturkritik

"'The Calligrapher's Secret' is an exquisitely colorful universe of stories and a mirror of Syrian society in the 1950s."
-Denis Scheck, ARD Das Erste Television

"What a book! And what a theme that unites it: rebellion against the impossibility of love, against religious hatred, and against intolerance."

"A literary masterpiece... a sensual homage to Damascus... you only wish it were a never-ending story."
—Sabine Tesche, Hamburger Abendblatt

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Of Related Interest:
Damascus Nights