cover image The Clothesline Swing

The Clothesline Swing

Ahmad Danny Ramadan. Nightwood (Midpoint, U.S. dist.; Harbour, Canadian dist.), $19.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-88971-332-1

This English-language debut from Ramadan, a Syrian journalist and author who previously published two short story collections in Arabic, showcases the remarkable talent that he brings to his new home country of Canada. The opening prologue introduces the three central characters in this story—a storyteller (hakawati), his terminally ill lover, and Death, who is revealed to have been the hakawati’s constant companion since his first near-death experience—a gay bashing endured at the hands of his friends in Egypt as a young man. The novel takes the shape of a series of stories told between these three characters about family, friends, lovers, and demons. Stretching from Damascus to Cairo, Beirut to Vancouver, and populated with characters who suffer from mental illness, who have lost family or bits of themselves to oppressive regimes, who faced persecution because of their gender or sexuality, who fled or have endured war, these stories are woven together with skill and artistry. While each story is autonomous, Ramadan’s delicate use of imagery links these narratives, allowing them to reverberate with meaning and emotion. They call into question the nature of the memories that inform the stories we all tell ourselves. (June)