The Dark Side of Love

The Dark Side of Love

by Rafik Schami
     
 

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"A dead man hangs from the portal of St Paul's Chapel in Damascus. He was a Muslim officer - and he was murdered. But when Detective Barudi sets out to interrogate the man's mysterious widow, the Secret Service takes the case away from him. Barudi continues to investigate clandestinely and discovers the murderer's motive: it is a blood feud between the Mushtak and… See more details below

Overview

"A dead man hangs from the portal of St Paul's Chapel in Damascus. He was a Muslim officer - and he was murdered. But when Detective Barudi sets out to interrogate the man's mysterious widow, the Secret Service takes the case away from him. Barudi continues to investigate clandestinely and discovers the murderer's motive: it is a blood feud between the Mushtak and Shahin clans, reaching back to the beginnings of the 20th century. And, linked to it, a love story that can have no happy ending, for reconciliation has no place within the old tribal structures." Rafik Schami's novel spans a century of Syrian history in which politics and religions continue to torment an entire people. Simultaneously, his poetic stories from three generations tell of the courage of lovers who risk death sooner than deny their passions. He has also written a heartfelt tribute to his hometown Damascus and a great and moving hymn to the power of love.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

LIke the mythopoeic India of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, the main protagonist of Schami's encyclopedic, jigsaw puzzle of a novel is a country: Syria. In telling the story of a Romeo and Juliet-like romance between Farid Mushtak and Rana Shahin, two teens in Damascus in the late 1950s, Schami goes back through their family history, to the Ottoman era, and forwards to 1970. The baroque feud between their families is a microcosm of the internal, patriarchal violence from which the whole country suffers. George Mushtak and his bride, Laila, appear in the Christian village of Mala and begin to make inroads on the power base of Mala's most powerful man, Jusuf Shahin, beginning a multigenerational feud that creates a legacy of violence-George persecutes his own, Elias, who flees to Damascus, and Elias in turn persecutes his son, Farid; Rana well remembers how her aunt was the victim of an honor killing. Rana's bullying brother, Jack, marries her off; Farid goes from a punitive stay in a monastery to intensifying persecution and incarceration because of his dissident politics. Through Farid and Rana's romance, Schami gives voice to the entire chorus of Damascus life. Which is why, despite the grim plot line of revenge, this is essentially a joyous book, an exile's book of love and a surprisingly fast read. Schami, a major international talent, has a broad range, from the scatological to the sexually comic to the painful, and deserves to establish an American audience. (July)

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Library Journal
This first American edition of a novel initially published in Germany in 2004 introduces Syrian-born Schami to English-speaking audiences. At the forefront of the migrant literature movement in Germany, Schami replicates Romeo and Juliet's tale in his complicated and embellished story of two star-crossed lovers, Farid Mushtak and Rana Shahin. The young lovers meet and fall in love in Damascus during the 1950s and encounter numerous obstacles because of a long-standing family feud between their two Christian families. Schami establishes context by recounting the 1907 events that initiated the feud. Moving forward, the narrative spans Syrian social and political history during the first half of the 20th century; a discussion of Farid's experiences as a political dissident reveal the range of political alliances and coups at that time. VERDICT At almost 900 pages, this book is daunting, but patient readers will enjoy rambling through the streets of Damascus, a city that Schami clearly loves and evokes effectively and affectionately. An important contribution to Syrian literature.—Faye A. Chadwell, Valley Lib., Oregon State Univ., Corvallis
Kirkus Reviews
Romeo and Juliet meets Arturo Perez-Reverte and John le Carre in the dusty streets of Damascus in this novel from Syrian-born Schami, a bestselling author in his adopted homeland of Germany. The setup: The body of a Syrian intelligence officer is found in a rather unnatural position that rules out suicide. A police commissioner named Barudi steps in to investigate. Stop one is the alluring young widow, "composed, cool, and monosyllabic"-and utterly unhelpful, though Barudi, lonely bachelor that he is, allows that he "would have liked to catch a glimpse of whatever lay beneath her facade." What lies beneath Madhi Said's murder, however, is anything but monosyllabic. Bit by bit, Schami reveals an endlessly complex tale that turns on a simple universal: Boy meets girl, boy's mom and dad disapprove, girl's mom and dad disapprove, mayhem ensues. The Shahin and Mushtak clans are bound, as if by fate, to hate each other with pure fire, as young Rana Shahin and Farid Mushtak discover, try as they might to get away from the discord and merely be together. ("I want you to know," Rana tells Farid, "that even if I have to wait all my life to live free with you for a single day, I won't regret it.") The reader soon senses, as this long but swiftly paced narrative unfolds, that there is more going on than an ordinary vendetta, for Schami is carefully describing life under one of the most oppressive dictatorships in the world, and moreover, the dissolution of ancient bonds that enabled Syria's Christians, Muslims and Jews to coexist. Schami's multilayered allegory is never obviously allegorical, but it is insistent in exploring the mysteries of identity ("His real name was not George Mushtak atall, but Nassif Jasegi"). The truth that Barudi eventually ferrets out pleases no one, and, as in all dictatorships, he is punished for it-caught, as it happens, in a blood feud of a different kind. A rewarding and beautifully written, if blood-soaked, tale.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781566567800
Publisher:
Interlink Publishing Group, Incorporated
Publication date:
07/28/2009
Pages:
900
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.90(d)

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