The Calligrapher's Secret

Overview

A new international bestseller from the award-winning author of The Dark Side of Love. 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, Nura, is ignorant of her husband's ambitions, knowing only his cold, avaricious side. So it's no wonder ...

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Overview

A new international bestseller from the award-winning author of The Dark Side of Love. 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, Nura, is ignorant of her husband's ambitions, knowing only his cold, avaricious side. So it's no wonder she feels flattered by the attentions of his young apprentice. And so begins a passionate love story—the love of a Muslim woman and a Christian man.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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. (Jan.)
Kirkus Reviews

Affectionate, insightful, tangential tales of life in 1950s Damascus enfold the central story of a mismatched marriage and a runaway wife.

Schami (The Dark Side of Love, 2009, etc.) delivers social breadth as well as generational depth in his leisurely, lyrical exploration of the truth behind the rumor concerning beautiful Noura's flight from her chilly calligrapher husband Hamid Farsi, supposedly because of the unwelcome attentions of philanderer Nasri, who has paid the unwitting calligrapher to write his love letters. The truth, more complicated and passionate, involves Salman, a Christian and "a penniless man with a child's beardless face and jug ears" with whom Noura has fallen in love. Schami's unhurried tale-spinning offers a brightly detailed panorama of life on the streets and in the homes of Damascus, including schoolyards, hammams, dressmakers and betrothal ceremonies—lending particular insight into the gender divide as well as the customs of the country. Salman meets Noura while working as the calligrapher's errand boy. She, the daughter of a scholar, is in despair over her boring, conceited, occasionally violent husband and finds in Salman the tenderness she craves. For the master calligrapher, humiliation is followed by disgrace after he stabs Nasri and is sentenced to life imprisonment. Meanwhile in Aleppo, a less gifted but more amiable, jug-eared calligrapher makes an adequate living, and his wife will eventually become a famous calligrapher too.

An engaging, rich, deceptively revelatory if lengthy insight into Syrian society.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781906697280
  • Publisher: Arabia Books
  • Publication date: 3/28/2011
  • Pages: 444
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 1.40 (d)

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