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.’
Rafik Schami was born in Damascus in 1946 and now lives in political exile in Germany. His novels The Dark Side of Love and The Calligrapher’s Secretwere both Europe bestsellers and The Dark Side of Love was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2010.