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The Blue Manuscript Hardcover – November 17, 2008
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“A strange and engrossing cross-cultural fable.”—Robert Irwin
“It positively teems with colours, sounds, scents and languages ... The Blue Manuscript could hardly be more timely and apposite.”—Charles Palliser
About the Author
Sabiha Al Khemir was born in Tunisia. She is an author, illustrator and Islamic art historian. Her publications span fiction, cultural essays, art history and book illustration. She has also written and presented television documentaries, and was the founding director of the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar.
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The reader moves back and forth from the frenetic pace of the contemporary urban metropolis into a rural village marked by the rhythms of weather, folk tradition, faith, and age-old stories. As the days pass, physical and metaphorical doors open, secrets are revealed, and individuals are irrevocably transformed--all through the poetic prose of a scholar who herself is a consummate story teller.
Ultimately, The Blue Manuscript shows us that truth is far more than historical fact, that scholarship can reveal and obscure, and that wisdom comes in many (unanticipated and often inexplicable) forms. As we immerse ourselves in its compelling pages, our own sense of time and space is suspended. Once the tale ends, we remain in its grip and continue to ponder its sensitive and timeless explorations of human motivation and behavior.
A truly AMAZING book! From the very beginning we are drawn into a world where everything has more than one meaning, more than one set of consequences and everything has reverberations back and forth throughout its pages. We encounter people from many countries and many eras although some of them are living in the `modern world'. We travel across the desert with a royal caravan that brings the bones of the royal ancestors towards the founding of the great city of Cairo "carrying the past into the future". There are many reflections and many `parallels' at every turn. But it's an easy read and I found myself sometimes laughing out loud at the gentle humour - and sometimes there was a welling up of emotion that is hard to explain.
An international team of archeologists travels to a remote village in Egypt in search of the manuscript of the title. And from the moment they cross the border at the airport in Cairo they begin a journey in which they (and we) seem see the world more and more through a kind of kaleidoscope of reality. Sometimes we become aware of some of the consequences of actions and events and sometimes it is only later that one interpretation of the events seems to fall into place. A clever use of vivid historical sections underlines this as we are witness to events from history which are interpreted by the modern archeologists, what emerges is a sense of being close to a 'correct' reading of events but that it is just one of the many possible ways to understand what has been encountered.
One of the most striking aspects is the skill with which the characters are powerfully brought to life, the excavation team and the villagers are portrayed with a disarming clarity and we are witness to poignant and absurd events, to the dispassionate cruelty of some people's lives and the joyful innocence of others. What comes across with all of this is an undeniable compassion for humanity at large and a call for tolerance and greater understanding of what might at first seem to be so very different. By the end of the book those apparent differences seem trivial next to the reality of the similarities.
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