Damascus Nights

Overview

A reissue of Rafik Schami's award-winning novel. Damascus Nights is a magical book that celebrates the power of storytelling, as 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. Damascus Nights is a sly and graceful work, and a ...

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Overview

A reissue of Rafik Schami's award-winning novel. Damascus Nights is a magical book that celebrates the power of storytelling, as 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. Damascus Nights is a sly and graceful work, and a delight to readers young and old.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
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 , Dutton Children's Books, 1990), 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.-- Olivia Opello, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566568319
  • Publisher: Interlink Publishing Group, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/1/2010
  • Pages: 268
  • Sales rank: 552,352
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Discussion Points

  1. What is the significance of Salim losing his voice? How does it shape the story, and why is it so important for Salim to get his voice back? Is the apparition who brings him the news a metaphor? If so, what?
  2. Who is the narrator in Damascus Nights? What is his role in the story?
  3. In Damascus Nights, Schami mingles reality and fairy tale: Medhi, the geographer, tells a fable about a farmer who is so poor he sells his voice to a wizard for gold, while Tuma, the immigrant, tells a story about New York skyscrapers and the impossibility of haggling in American stores. Why has Schami chosen to include both realism and fables? How do the ancient and the modern illuminate each other in his book?
  4. Tuma, the immigrant, tells the true story of his experience in America, and then tells a story he has made up. Schami titles the chapter: "How one person's true story was not believed, whereas his most blatant lie was." Why is it that the listeners are not able to distinguish the truth from what is made up? What light does Schami shed on the notion of truth vs. fiction? On the idea of perception?
  5. Faris, the minister, tells a story about a king who will not listen, and who finally has to hear the truth from his grave. Later, Salim remembers a story about a man who is cursed with two mouths and one small ear. He talks so much that everyone stops listening. When the man begs to have one mouth and two ears, his wish is granted, but only on the condition he "repeat every call and every sentence.-" In essence, become an echo. What does Schami imply about words and their worth? What isthe significance of listening? What role does listening play in Damascus Nights?
  6. Damascus Nights is about a man who loses his voice. Medhi, the geographer, tells the tale of a poor farmer who gives away his voice for gold. Tuma, the immigrant, relates how he lost his voice while living in America. Discuss how losing a voice means something different in each story? What significance does the voice have in Damascus Nights?
  7. The seventh story is the only one in Damascus Nights narrated by a woman — Fatma. Long ago, her mother advised her to tell her stories to her husband while he was still in love, but Fatma couldn't bring herself to tell her husband any of her stories. In fact, she only grew quieter. Why do you think Fatma was silent for so many years? Is there any significance to the fact that the last storyteller — the one who breaks Salim's spell — is a woman? If so, what? Does this story shed light on the role of women in the Middle East?
  8. Musa, the barber, tells a story of a king who masters all the lies in the world, but misses the one truth that is right in front of his nose. What fundamental human truth is contained in this story? What does Schami suggest about the relationship between truth and lying? Compare this story to the one Tuma, the immigrant, made up.
  9. Fatma's mother, Leila, enters the cave and encounters the wretched monster. Unlike everyone else, she does not turn to stone. Why doesn't Fatma's mother turn to stone? What does this story reveal about fear and fearlessness? About ignorance and knowledge?
  10. In addition to Salim's famous storytelling abilities, he is also known for his ability to restore flight to fallen swallows. How is this gift similar to his gift for telling stories? And why do you think Schami ends Damascus Nights with Salim helping another fallen swallow fly?
  11. Do you believe Salim actually lost his voice, or was he pretending, like the boy suggests at the end of the book? Does it matter to the story if he was telling the truth or not? In any case, what do you think cured Salim? And why did it cure him?
  12. What common themes tie the stories in Damascus Nights together?
  13. In what way is Damascus Nights a contemporary novel? And how does Schami bridge the gap between adult and children's fiction?
  14. What is Schami's vision of storytelling and its fundamental importance in our lives?
  15. How do you relate to Schami's stories, and what do you gain from reading them? Why do you think it's important to tell stories and to hear them?

Recommended Readings

Aesop's Fables, Aesop, edited by Blanche Winder,

Airmont, 1965

The Baron in the Trees, Italo Calvino

Harcourt Brace, 1977

Cities of Salt, Abdelrahman Munif

Random House, 1989

A Place Where the Sea Remembers, Sandra Benitez

Scribner Paperback Fiction, 1995

Dr. Fox's Fables: Leassons from Nature

Acropolis, 1980

Italian Folktales, Italo Calvino

Harcourt Brace, 1992

Mythologies, William Butler Yeats

Collier, 1989

One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Avon, 1976

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard BachMacmillan, 1970

Tales from the Arabian Nights, Richard Burton

Random House, 1993

The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, Bruno Bettelheim

Vintage, 1989

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2000

    Unbelievable!

    It is just amazing how tales can heal people's hearts. This book created an obession in me, and I could not put it down. Schami's stories come light but thoughtful-- they are magical but with details that make you believe that they happen around you everyday. Ador

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