Nostalgia for a Lost Damascus Leads Native Son into Danger in New Thriller


In his latest novel, “Sophia,” Syrian-German author Rafik Schami takes readers on a journey from Beirut and Heidelberg to Rome and Damascus through the eyes of Salman, the son of Sophia, the novel’s namesake, who is a beautiful Christian woman who had recently left her Muslim lover, Karim, to marry Yusuf Baladi, a rich Damascene Christian goldsmith. The story follows Salman’s trail as he flees Syria to Lebanon after accidentally wounding a police officer in an armed revolt to topple the dictatorship. From there, he leaves for Heidelberg, falls in love, and starts a family in Rome -- only for his heart to yearn for his childhood Damascus. With the help of family, Salman is able to clear his name and visit Damascus, only to find himself trapped in a false murder accusation that keeps readers on the edge of their seats as he flees underground. Schami pulls no punches in his descriptions of Assad’s Syria, which Salman refers to in the novel as “a fear factory.”

Author Rafik Schami, born in Syria, moved to Germany at the age of 25, becoming “one of the most important writers of the German language,” according to Goethe Institut. His homeland Syria takes the focus of several of his novels. A review by Fawaz Azem of his book “Sophia” is scheduled to appear in the forthcoming issue of Al Jadid, Vol. 22, No. 75, 2018.

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