Had Rafik Schami written the One Thousand and One Nights, it would be thrice as long. Schami is a compulsive story teller. Whenever he mentions a new person in his novels, another full story shots on the side and blossoms under his pen. These side stories are always lively and entertaining, full of exotic flavors and images, but they do not necessarily add much to the rather simple main plot of the novel. They may detract from cohesiveness.Schami (a Christian) brings in again his favorite themes: love, (read: love that crosses religions, in particular between a Muslim woman and a Christian man--not the other way around); street life in busy, noisy and colorful Damascus; social and family interactions in modern Syria; corruption amongst the country’s political class; religious tensions. What is new in this book is his presentation of the art and history of the Arabic alphabet and calligraphy.Aside from his usual topics, what also characterizes Schami is his particular tone. He is capable of narrating with a sweet tone some charming scenes (he has also written books for children) and then brings in, abruptly, incidents of sudden brutality (could anything ever happen in Syria without any hint of violence?). I find this very peculiar.This will be my last Schami. I have enjoyed his depictions of life in Damascus, and learning about the complex history of modern Syria in [b:The Dark Side of Love|6359825|The Dark Side of Love|Rafik Schami|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348746072s/6359825.jpg|2555674], but I have reached my saturation point. His characters remain flat and do not emerge beyond those in a tale. I wonder whether he will ever write about what is happening in Syria these days.