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 Damascus-born, Germany-based children's writer Schami delivers an occasionally charming but more often unmoving tale of Arabian nights and a determined effort to help a master yarnspinner regain his lost ability to speak. In 1950's Damascus, Salim the old coachman had a well-earned reputation as a fabulous storyteller--before his good fairy deserted him and left him mute and inconsolable. His friends rally around to find a cure, proposing that he drink seven wines and cross seven mountains to sleep in seven foreign cities, but to no avail, before hitting on a plan to spend seven evenings together, with each of them telling Salim his own tale. Teacher Mehdi speaks of Shafak the carpenter's helper, who once told him of why he faithfully watched two stars chasing each other; Junis the cafÇ owner recounts his wondrous childhood, and his sadness at having betrayed a good-hearted benefactor who minted his own money; Tuma the emigrant shares some of his adventures in America, which included trying to barter in a New York department store; Faris the ex-minister puts his listeners to sleep with a tale of a king who wanted a son and who lost his hearing because of his single- mindedness. Finally, the locksmith brings his wife to speak in his stead, and Fatmeh's story of a woman whose voice enchanted a monster in his lair proves the charm that breaks Salim's silence. The magic of the various tales is undermined when the speakers revert to their ordinary selves--but the moments when the spell holds are binding indeed.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-374-13446-4
Page count: 276pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1993


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