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The Calligrapher's Secret

by Rafik Schami

Reading this felt like strolling through a beautiful park, deep in conversation with a friend, without noticing the gradient. When you reach the top of the hill, you turn around to discover the whole city of Damascus spread out before you, full of thousands of lives, linked together in subtle patterns only visible from this birds-eye view.

Extract

Abdullah Mahaini was a well-read and humorous man. 'I'm occupied all day,' he said, 'keeping the peace among nine warring wives, my forty-eight children, ten servants, and two hundred and fifty employees. Napoleon had a much easier time.'



He liked the traditional ways, but was open to innovations. He married nine wives, but would not allow any of his wives or daughters to wear the veil.
Translated by Anthea Bell

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