The Clothesline Swing is a journey through the troublesome aftermath of the Arab Spring. A former Syrian refugee himself, Ramadan unveils an enthralling tale of courage that weaves through the mountains of Syria, the valleys of Lebanon, the encircling seas of Turkey, the heat of Egypt and finally, the hope of a new home in Canada.
Inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, The Clothesline Swing tells the epic story of two lovers anchored to the memory of a dying Syria. One is a Hakawati, a storyteller, keeping life in forward motion by relaying remembered fables to his dying partner. Each night he weaves stories of his childhood in Damascus, of the cruelty he has endured for his sexuality, of leaving home, of war, of his fated meeting with his lover. Meanwhile Death himself, in his dark cloak, shares the house with the two men, eavesdropping on their secrets as he awaits their final undoing.
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.
The Clothesline Swing
I hung onto each word,sentence and soulful story woven into this beautiful novel. Loved it from beginning to end.