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Category Archive for 'Syria'

Daniel Silva’s fourteenth novel featuring Gabriel Allon, an Israeli secret service agent who also works as a restorer of fine art, starts with the gruesome torture murder of a former diplomat to the Middle East, found hanging by his wrists from the chandelier of an estate on Italy’s Lake Como. The victim, suspected of being both a collector and an exporter of stolen paintings from Italy, is well known to General Cesare Ferrari, head of the Art Squad of Italy, and Ferrari knows whom to contact to investigate this case about stolen art, who buys it, and why. Gabriel Allon, who is currently in Venice restoring an altarpiece, made his reputation with the Israeli secret service when he was a young man, when he personally tracked down and executed six Black September terrorists who killed eleven Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics in 1972. Ferrari asks him to help find the murderer of Jack Bradshaw at an estate along Lake Como. Bradshaw is believed to have been a collector of stolen art masterpieces, and he may also have been an exporter of them. The condition of Bradshaw’s body, which bears the marks of extreme torture, lead Ferrari and Allon to speculate that the murderer may have succeeded in gaining whatever information he needs to retrieve and sell the paintings Bradshaw is believed to have in his possession. Allon must follow the money trail, and it points in the direction of the leader of a Middle Eastern country.

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Set in Damascus, Syria, from 1931 through 1956, The Calligrapher’s Secret seems, on the surface, to be an impressionistic and romantic novel which strolls at its own leisurely pace, dropping in on first one character and then another, moving back and forth in time and across ethnic, religious, and social groups. Several main characters and families share their lives and problems, and, in the process, convey an intimate picture of life in Damascus, filled with vibrant descriptions of the city, its neighborhoods, and its varied social life. The novel is much more than a series of little domestic stories, however charming and interesting these may sometimes be. It is also a serious exploration of the issues surrounding Arabic calligraphy, issues so serious that some who want to make Arabic script more modern, so it can accommodate new words from science and philosophy, face death threats and personal attacks by traditionalists. They consider the language of the Quran, the word of God, to be sacred, inviolable, unchanging.

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