Magazine article New Internationalist

The Riddle of Qaf

Magazine article New Internationalist

The Riddle of Qaf

Article excerpt

The Riddle of Qaf by Alberto Mussa translated from the Portuguese by Lennie Larkin (Aflame Books, ISBN 9781906300036)

Alberto Mussa is a Brazilian of Lebanese descent and in his fourth work of fiction, The Riddle of Qaf, he has drawn on his Middle Eastern heritage and seasoned the results with a good sprinkling of Latin American Magical Realism. Mixing elements of melodrama with the conventions of love poetry, the book centres on the ancient verses of the Muallaqat, the seven poems that, by tradition, hung in the Kaaba in Mecca, Islam's holiest place. The hero of the book is a lovesmitten poet who, hearing whispers of a lost eighth Muallaqat, sets out on a journey across time and space to track it down.

The novel is elaborately structured with 28 narrative chapters corresponding to the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet, inter-leavened with 'excursions' and 'parameters' which illuminate gaps in the tale or simply explore interesting byways, such as the origins of the Arab peoples or the development of love as a philosophical concept. …

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