Rafik Schami’s “The Dark Side of Love”

David Butter, who writes for the Economist Intelligence Unit dropped me a line to say:

I am also deeply into Rafik Schami’s The Dark Side of Love, a magnificent Marquez-like novel of 20th century Syria that is a must-read for anyone interested in Syrian history and society — and deserves a much wider readership. It has just been published in English (from original German) — I fear it may never come out in Arabic — too much sex and politics.

Here is a link to a review by Robin Yassin-Kassab, who is an SC reader and writer. He states:

“Egypt, with its unending metropolis, is the home of the Arabic novel, and Egypt produced the Arabs’ master of fiction, Naguib Mahfouz. But a flame equally bright now burns from Damascus, via Germany, as shown by what may turn out to be the first Great Syrian Novel.”

All the best

Also read this review by The Armenian Odar Reads who read the book in two days.

Here are some other puffs from Amazon:

Rafik Schami’s dazzling 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.

“A grandiose book–one of the richest, most venturous, and most beautiful projects of capturing the world…”

“A cascade of stories, which again and again inflame themselves… An Arab variation of Romeo and Juliet with a happy ending… A wonderfully easy read… A modern Arab genre tableau… an immense declaration of love to Damascus with its East-West tensions…”
–Neue Züricher Zeitung

“The strangeness of the Arab world in Schami’s novel becomes immediately familiar–in 896 pages, in 300 stories, between grief and laughter, crime and poetry.”
–Süddeutsche Zeitung

“Rafik Schami’s novel is a festival for the imagination…”
–Süddeutsche Zeitung

Comments (23)

majid said:

A member of the so-called ‘government’ of the zionist entity proposes steps to be taken by the entity to punish the USA:

اقترح وزير الدولة الإسرائيلي يوسي بيليد فرض عقوبات على الولايات المتحدة، بسبب ما اعتبره تغييرا في سياساتها التي أصبحت عدائية تجاه إسرائيل، بحسب رأيه.

كما أوصى -في رسالة وجهها إلى حكومته- بخطوات بإمكان إسرائيل اتخاذها للتعويض عن “موقف واشنطن الجديد” مقترحاً إعادة النظر في المشتريات الإسرائيلية المدنية والعسكرية من الولايات المتحدة وشراء تجهيزات حساسة ترفض واشنطن توزيعها عالمياً.

واقترح الوزير أيضاً السماح لدول منافسة للولايات المتحدة بالتدخل في عملية السلام والحصول على موطئ قدم لقواتها العسكرية ووكالاتها الاستخبارية في إسرائيل.

ودعا بيليد أيضا إلى شراء طائرات من شركة إيرباص الفرنسية بدلاً من بوينغ الأميركية.

كما اقترح التدخل في السباقات الانتخابية بالكونغرس الأميركي لإضعاف الرئيس باراك أوباما والطلب من المانحين اليهود عدم المساهمة في حملات المرشحين الديمقراطيين بالكونغرس، متوقعاً أن يدفع ذلك المرشحين الديمقراطيين إلى الضغط على أوباما ليصبح مؤيداً لتل أبيب.

وأوضحت صحيفة جيروزاليم بوست التي حصلت على نسخة من الرسالة أن بيليد سلم الرسالة شخصياً إلى رئيس الوزراء بنيامين نتنياهو بالجلسة الحكومية الأسبوعية الأحد الماضي، وحثه على دراستها بجدية.

غير أن مصدرا مقربا من رئيس الحكومة علق على الرسالة بازدراء، وشدد على أن أياً من الاقتراحات التي تتضمنها لن تطبق.

June 9th, 2009, 5:21 pm


norman said:


I agree with the Israeli minster , They should do that ,

June 9th, 2009, 5:43 pm


Alex said:

CD and MP3 downloads are now available for Syrian Pianist Malek Jandali’s “Echoes from Ugarit”


The album features original piano & orchestra compositions by Malek Jandali recorded with The Russian Philharmonic Orchestra. The title piece, “Echoes from Ugarit” is based on the oldest music notation in the world, discovered in Ugarit, Syria, on clay tablets dating back to 3400 B.C. Mr. Jandali is the first Arab musician to arrange this ancient Syrian music to bridge the gap between cultures and civilizations.

2009 witnessed a new step in Malek’s artistic career, as he signed a landmark record deal with renowned producer Mohsin Gaber, Chariman & CEO of Mazzika Holding – Digital Sound in Cairo, the album would be distributed through them as well as in all Virgin Megastores in the Middle East. A music clip for the track “Piano Dream” will be on air exclusively on Mazzika and Zoom satellite TV channels in the next couple of weeks and will hit other TV channels worldwide!

“Mr. Jandali is looking forward to working with Mazzika & Digital Sound and is excited about this new venture”, a spokesman for the artist said . Meanwhile, Mazzika & Digital Sound – whose artists include Tamer Husni, Hany Shaker, Omar Khayrat, and Haifa Wehbe – said it was proud to be working with “true music legends”.

Concert dates are planned for the 2009-2010 season, with venues to be announced soon. The album has already received praise, and will be featured on various radio stations and television programs in the Middle East, Europe and North America.

June 9th, 2009, 6:00 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

i agree with Norman

June 9th, 2009, 6:03 pm


jad said:

Alex, that is one of the most BEAUTIFUL piano playing and music I listen to in and out of Syria. EXCELLENT work.
Thank you!

June 9th, 2009, 6:23 pm


Nour said:

Here’s an example of the thuggishness and corruption of the March 14 mafiosos, if you understand Arabic.


June 9th, 2009, 6:44 pm


Off the Wall said:

Malek Jandali is one outstanding fellow. Once I sent him an email asking when his CD will come out, and he was so kind to send me not samples, but few full pieces of his work. I would love to see him playing in our concert hall. I believe he is an outstanding ambassador for Syrian culture (or according to some, lack of it).

His harmony is beautiful and his musical sentences are enthralling. I will make a point to meet him personally on my next visit to Atlanta for I heard that he is one heck of an approachable person for someone as accomplished as he is.

June 9th, 2009, 6:55 pm


Off the Wall said:

What a mafioso. Are they all like that?

June 9th, 2009, 7:01 pm


Alex said:


If you listen to the original pieces in high quality (on CD) it is even more beautiful. Malek is a talented composer, arranger and performer.

And a reminder : ) … first music notation (including basic harmony) on earth was found in Syria (Ugarit) .. just like the oldest wheel was found in Syria …

June 9th, 2009, 7:09 pm


Nour said:


Well let’s look at their three main leaders. Samir Geagea, a warlord, war criminal, convicted murderer, thief, and thug; Walid Jumblatt, a warlord, war criminal, feudal lord, thief, liar, and thug; and Saad al-Hariri, a swindler, thief, sectarian chieftain, wannabe playboy, and thug. And the rest are basically their subordinates. But there is not a single member of the March 14 thugs who is remotely decent. Not one.

June 9th, 2009, 7:12 pm


Obsaerver said:

Here are the conclusions of the Carter Center:
Lebanon is back to square one, the only thing is that the March 14 have got to deliver now. If they insist on abrogating the veto power of the minority they will not have a national unity regime
If they insist on diasming HA when the armed forces cannot protect Lebanon then they will not have a unity goverment

The conclusions of the center are telling

The Carter Center offers the following findings and recommendations about the electoral process:

The Minister of Interior and Municipalities (MOIM), tasked with the administration of the elections, successfully implemented Lebanon’s first single-day voting process, which was marked by high levels of voter participation. The logistical and operational aspects of the election were conducted effectively, with a high level of professionalism being exhibited by polling staff in most of the stations visited. Minister Baroud earned the confidence of Lebanese stakeholders through his commitment to a transparent process. In addition, the security forces played a critical role in support of the process, behaved professionally throughout election day, and were responsive to isolated incidents of violence.
The 2008 elections introduced several important reforms in the country’s electoral system which increased transparency in the electoral process. These reforms include the provision of an explicit role for domestic and international observers. The domestic observers in particular, played a significant role in promoting transparency and encouraging accountability.
Despite these positive steps, Lebanon’s electoral system falls short of international standards regarding fundamental civil and political rights, including secrecy of the ballot, the right to be elected, and equal suffrage. The lack of official pre-printed ballot papers, together with the use of the family code in the voters registry, undermines secrecy of the ballot by allowing for the creation of unique ballots that can be linked to particular voter or sets of voters. In addition, the electoral system, which restricts candidacy to eleven recognized confessions, does not fully protect the right of all citizens to be elected, and inequalities in the number of voters per constituency effectively undermine equal suffrage.
Although the 2008 law adopts provisions to regulate campaign finance, it has important loopholes. In addition, although foreign funding is prohibited by law, public allegations of illegal funding were pervasive throughout the campaign period, as were allegations of vote buying. The Carter Center urges Lebanon to address these problems and further strengthen their system of financial regulation.
Carter Center observers noted a number of procedural shortcomings on election day that resulted in long lines at many polling stations. For example, until late on election day, polling procedures only allowed one voter to be in a polling station at a time. Additionally, in many cases, the only effective polling staff were those appointed by the MOIM. This lack of sufficiently trained staff hindered efficiency and resulted in overcrowding.
In addition, in most cases the supplementary polling station staff were candidates’ representatives, which introduced an element of partisanship. Furthermore, in the majority of polling stations visited, Carter Center observers noted active campaigning both within and around polling stations
At polling stations in areas throughout the country Carter Center observers reported that several parties had set up temporary offices in the direct vicinity of polling stations, a violation of campaign regulations which had the potential to influence voters. In addition, in some districts in Southern Lebanon observers noted multiple instances of intimidation by party supporters outside polling stations.
Carter Center observers noted a high-level of female participation in the voting process. However, the Center is disappointed in the low number of female candidates.
Despite recent steps to increase the political participation of disabled citizens, Carter Center observers noted that most polling stations did not provide sufficient access for disabled voters.
The Carter Center encourages all stakeholders, including the electoral administration, civil society, and religious and political leaders to continue to pursue electoral reform. Key recommendations for reform include:
Increased protection for secrecy of the ballot, for example through the use of official, standardized, pre-printed ballots.
Increased independence of the electoral authority
Positive measures to increase the representation of women in parliament.
The adoption of changes aimed at making the electoral system more representative.
Implementation of recent legislation regarding lowering the voting age and the facilitation of overseas voting.
Steps to ensure equal participation of disabled persons in the electoral process

June 9th, 2009, 7:41 pm


norman said:

LATEST NEWS: Syria satisfied with Lebanon polls, praises spirit of reconciliation…

Syria satisfied with Lebanon polls, praises spirit of reconciliation
Published: Tuesday, 9 June, 2009 @ 7:30 PM in Beirut
Damascus- Syrian Arab news agency ( SANA ) quoted Presidential Political and Media Adviser Bouthaina Shaaban on Tuesday as saying “the Lebanese elections are an internal Lebanese matter” and said she expressed ‘Syria’s satisfaction over the safe and stable course of the elections.’

Shaaban underlined in a statement Syria’s concern for the” unity, stability and prosperity of Lebanon, and its readiness to help it in all fields to attain these goals.” SANA reported

Shaaban added according to SANA “Syria encourages the spirit of reconciliation shown by all the Lebanese parties, hoping that it will be turned into tangible steps through the national program in the coming phase.”

Shaaban’s comments were the first official Syrian government reaction to Sunday’s parliamentary election.

On Monday, however, before the results were confirmed officially, Syrian newspapers said massive vote-buying and fraud had deformed the election.

The ruling Al-Baath party daily said on Monday the US-backed Hariri coalition “has been accused of having bought votes and using bribery,” adding that “this could pave the way to large-scale falsification of the election.”

For the Carter Center this was the 76th monitored election.

“I think this was one of the better ones,” Former US president Jimmy Carter said earlier today

” On election day, things were very harmonious, and the election came off generally peaceful.” Said David Carroll, the Carter Center’s director of Democracy Programs.

Last Sunday the March 14 coalition headed by MP Saad Hariri, son of the assassinated former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, landed 71 seats in the 128-member parliament against 57 for the Iranian and Syrian backed March 8th Hezbollah-led coalition .

The vote was seen as a blow to Syria and Iran. Ali Hussein ,a Lebanese political analyst told Ya Libnan” Hezbollah defeat could influence the outcome of the presidential elections in Tehran “.

On the other hand Saudi Arabia is very happy with the poll results. According to press reports coming from Riyadh , all eyes are now on Tehran . A defeat in Friday’s Iranian election for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, would be seen as another victory for Riyadh.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah delivered a graceful concession speech on TV Monday in which he admitted defeat ‘with sportsmanship and democratic spirit’ , congratulated his opponents and confirmed the acceptance of the election results.

Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat, one of the key pillars of March 14 alliance hailed as “positive” the stance by Hezbollah chief .

The next step in Lebanon is forming the new government and the first step in the process is for the president to appoint a prime minister ,based on consultations with key members of the parliament and bloc leaders. Since March 14 alliance controls the parliament majority, its recommendation will be the crucial factor in the naming of the next premier. According to analysts March 14 could either recommend Saad Hariri or Fouad Siniora .

If past history is any indication , the forming of the cabinet could be a task almost as fraught as the election itself. The sticking issue will be the demand by the minority for a veto in the new government , something the majority is expected to reject outright. The veto power granted to the minority in the existing government led to the obstruction of all key decisions and for this reason Lebanon until now does not have the a budget for 2009 and yet it should have been approved over 6 months ago

June 9th, 2009, 8:16 pm


t_desco said:

The Daily Star sides with Alex:

“Nasrallah is right on this score: The numbers show that the opposition garnered over 100,000 more votes than March 14 did on election day.”
(Nasrallah is walking a think line when it comes to Lebanese elections (sic), The Daily Star, June 10, 2009)

June 9th, 2009, 9:19 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

I too agree with Norman.

Look at the shocking resemblance between Obama and Pharaoh Amenhotep IV :


June 9th, 2009, 9:21 pm


Alex said:

Thanks t-desco

That’s about 15% more votes for the opposition… and they lost.

But everyone is accepting the results of this election so far .. although General Aoun did not speak yet, he will tomorrow.

Off the Wall,

Malek will be happy to meet you I’m sure.

June 9th, 2009, 9:56 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:


A ‘Zionist entity’ is indeed it. But “it” has a name.

You see? .. there is “Is” .. then comes “ra”.. and it ends with “”el”.
Now a bit faster for you.. please repeat: Is-ra-el.

I’m sure that after a short practice, you should be able to say it
with no further help.

June 9th, 2009, 9:57 pm


Majhool said:

The imbalance between popular vote and PM seats is due maily to christians/druze having more seats given their voter numbers.

But that’s how its always going to play out given the 50% Muslims/50% christians equation.

The 50/50 is also justified since millions of christians expats are not allowed to vote abroad.

June 10th, 2009, 3:11 am


majedkhaldoun said:

I was reading Torah,book of numbers number 34,it seems that Moses talk about borders,much smaller than the zionist entity has now,they should give back to palastinians much more land

June 10th, 2009, 4:25 am


majid said:


I do not think that Moses was a zionist.

Anyway those people of Moses are not the same as these latter so-called zionists. Moses was dealing with the sons of Y’acoub. These zionist have no relation whatsoever.

Just be careful.

June 10th, 2009, 5:14 am


offended said:

Sounds like a fascinating book. Thanks Josh.

إذا كان عنا وزارة ثقافة متل الخلق كانوا بيتبنوا هالرواية و بيعملولها ترويج…


June 10th, 2009, 7:43 am


milli schmidt said:

How wonderful that attention is drawn to Rafik Shami! He is very well known in Germany (he publishes in German), particularly for the absolutely wonderful book “A Handful of Stars” – a moving, beautifully written, funny account of his childhood in Bab Tuma, when the old city was still a collection of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Armenians and a handful of madmen and women thrown in. I’m also just now reading a collection of stories that expands on one character out of A Handful of Stars (the old coach driver Salim), called Damascus Nights – all highly recommended!

June 10th, 2009, 8:49 am


milli schmidt said:

Very interesting and well written piece on the Iraqi refugee crisis in Syria, contains a wider analysis of the country’s economic and political situation:


June 10th, 2009, 11:29 am


Off the Wall said:


June 10th, 2009, 9:50 pm


Post a comment

Neoprofit AI