Schami, Rafik 1946-
Schami, Rafik 1946-
PERSONAL: Born June 23, 1946, in Damascus, Syria; married Root Leeb (an artist, painter, and writer), 1991. Ethnicity: “Syrian.” Education: University of Heidelberg, doctorate, 1979.
CAREER: Writer. Publisher of a newspaper in Damascus, Syria, prior to emigration in 1970. Founding member of the literary groups Siidwind, 1980, and Polynationaler Literatur-und Kunstverein, 1981; gives readings and storytelling sessions.
AWARDS, HONORS: Thaddäus-Troll-Preis, Förderkreises deutscher Schriftsteller in Baden-Württemberg, 1986; Ziircher-Kinder-und Jugenbuchpreis (Switzerland), 1987; Preis der blauen Brillenschlange (Switzerland), 1987; Österreicher Staatspreis Ehrenliste (Austria), 1989; Smelik-Kiggen Preis (Netherlands), 1989; Rattenfängerpreis der Stadt Hamel, 1990; Phantastik-Preis der Stadt Wetzlar, 1990; Mildred L. Batchelder Award, 1991, for A Hand Full of Stars; Adelbert-von-Chamisso Förderpreis, 1993; Hermann-Hesse-Preis, 1994; Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, 1995 and 1996; Prix de Lecture à deux voix 96, 1996; Hans-Erich-Nossack Preis, 1997; award from Storytelling World, 1997; Wilheimer Literaturpreis, 2003; Kunstpreis Rhineland-Pfalz, 2003.
IN ENGLISH TRANSLATION
Ein Hand Voller Sterne (novel), Beltz & Gelberg (Weinheim, Germany), 1987, translation by Rika Lesser published as A Hand Full of Stars, Dutton Children’s Books (New York, NY), 1990.
Erzähler der Nacht, Beltz & Gelberg (Weinheim, Germany), 1989, translation by Philip Boehm published as Damascus Nights, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1990.
Der Schnabelseher, illustrated by Els Cools and Oliver Streich, Nord-Süd Verlag (Zurich, Switzerland), 1995, translation by Anthea Bell published as The Crow Who Stood on His Beak, North-South Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Fatima und der Traumdieb, illustrated by Els Cools and Oliver Streich, Nord-Siid Verlag (Zurich, Switzerland), 1996, translation by Anthea Bell published as Fatima and the Dream Thief, North-South Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Albert and Lila, illustrated by Els Cools and Oliver Streich, illustrated by Anthea Bell, North-South Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Das Schaf im Wolfspelz. Märchen & Fabeln, [Dortmund, Germany], 1982.
(With Franco Biondi and Jusuf Naoum) Zwischen zwei Giganten. Prosa, Lyrik und Grafiken aus Gastarbe-iteralltag, Edition CON (Bremen, Germany), 1983.
Das letzte Wort der Wanderratte. Märchen, Fabeln & phantastische Geschichten, illustrated by Erika Rapp, Neuer Malik Verlag (Kiel, Germany), 1984.
Der Fliegenmelker und andere Erzahlungen aus Damaskus, Das arabische Buch (Berlin, Germany), 1985.
Der erste Ritt durchs Nadelohr. Noch mehr Märchen, Fabeln & phantastische Geschichten, illustrated byErika Rapp, Neuer Malik Verlag (Kiel, Germany), 1985.
Bobo und Susu, illustrated by Erika Rapp, Jungbrunnen(Vienna, Austria), 1986.
Malula: Märchen und Märchenhaftes aus meinem Dorf, Neuer Malik Verlag (Kiel, Germany), 1987.
Die Sehnsucht fährt Schwarz. Geschichten aus derFremde, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1988.
Der Löwe Benilo, illustrated by Erika Rapp, VerlagJungbrunnen (Vienna, Austria), 1989.
Der Wunderkasten, Beltz & Gelberg (Weinheim, Germany), 1990.
Der fliegende Baum. Die schonsten Märchen, Fabeln und phantastischen Geschichten, illustrated bywife, Root Leeb, Neuer Malik Verlag (Kiel, Germany), 1991.
Vom Zauber der Zunge. Reden gegen des Verstummen, Verlag im Waldgut (Frauenfeld, Germany), 1991.
Der ehrliche Lugner. Roman von tausendundeiner Luge, Beltz & Gelberg (Weinheim, Germany), 1992.
Der brennende Eisberg. Eine Rede, ihre Geschichte undnoch mehr, Verlag im Waldgut (Frauenfeld, Germany), 1992.
(With Wolf Erlbruch) Das ist kein Papagei!, Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1994.
Zeiten des Erzahlens, Herder (Freiburg, Germany), 1994.
Reise zwischen Nacht und Morgen (fiction), Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1995.
Hürdenlauf oder, Von den unglaublichen Abenteurern, die einer erlebt, der seine Geschichte zu Endeerzahlen will, Freundeskreis des Instituts fu Ju-gendbuchforsag, University of Frankfurt (Frankfurtam Main, Germany), 1996.
Loblied und andere Olivenkerne, illustrated by Root Leeb, Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1996.
Gesammelte Olivenkerne. Aus dem Tagebuch der Fremde, illustrated by Root Leeb, Carl Hanser Ver-lag (Munich, Germany), 1997.
Milad. Von einem, der auszog, um einundzwanzig Tage satt zu werden, Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1997.
(With Erich Jooss) Damals dort un heute hier. Über Fremdsein, Herder (Freiburg, Germany), 1998.
(With Uwe-Michael Gutzschhahn) Der geheime Bericht fiber den Dichter Goethe: Der eine Prufung auf einer arabischen Insel bestand, Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1999.
Sieben Doppelgänger (fiction), Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1999.
Wie kam die axt in den Rücken des Zimmermanns? Morderische Geschichten über Handwerker und andere Dienstleister, Sanssouci(Zurich, Switzerland), 1999.
Die Farbe Der Worte. Bilder Und Geschichten, illustrated by Root Leeb, Ars Vivendi (Cadolzburg, Germany), 2002.
Mit fremden Augen, Palmyra (Heidelberg, Germany), 2002.
Die Sehnsucht der Schwalbe, Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 2003.
(With Ole Konneke) Wie ich Papa die Angst vor Fremden nahm, Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 2003.
Die dunkle Seite der Liebe (novel), Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 2004.
Der Kameltreiber von Heidelberg. Geschichten fuuir Kinder jeden Alters, illustrated by Henrike Wilson, Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 2006.
Damaskus im Herzen und Deutschland im Blick, Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 2006.
Lob der Ehe. Ein weltliterarisches Treuebuch, Manesse (Zurich, Switzerland), 2007.
Coeditor of the series “Südwind-Literatur,” Neuer Ma-lik Verlag, until 1985.
Schami’s books have been published in more than twenty languages.
SIDELIGHTS: Rafik Schami was born in Damascus, Syria, to parents who originally came from the Christian-Aramaic town of Malula, in Syria. He has lived in Germany since 1971. He wrote his first stories in Arabic, but now he writes mostly in German and is known for his novels for adults and for his children’s books, which have won several prizes and are widely popular in Germany and other countries.
The novel Ein Hand Voller Sterne tells the story of Schami’s youth in Damascus. Written in the form of a diary, it describes four years in a young boy’s life. He worries about homework and dreams of his girlfriend, but he is also faced with the difficulties of political instability and continually changing dictatorships that lead to the arrests of innocent neighborhood men. When he is taken out of school to work in his father’s bakery, he is initially crushed because this is a blow to his dream of being a journalist, but with the help of a friend, he starts an underground newspaper that is critical of the government. A Publishers Weekly reviewer of the English translation praised the book’s depiction of a different culture, its emphasis on free speech, and its sense of fun.
Der fliegende Baum. Die schonsten Märchen, Fabeln und phantastischen Geschichten is a collection of fairy tales, fables, and fantastic stories characterized by “the plant and animal world, cherished uncles, young women named Fatima, adolescent boys, Gastarbeiter [foreign workers in Germany], ghosts, music, magic, poverty, timeless references to a medieval world, and wide-eyed joy,” according to Erlis Wickersham in World Literature Today. She also cited the stories’ “bittersweet and simple truth, viewed through the eyes of a visitor to the European culture he depicts and contrasts with his own.”
In Milad. Von einem, der auszog, um einundzwanzig Tage satt zu werden, Schami tells the story of Milad, a Syrian man who returns to Damascus after a life of adventure. Near death, he recovers and tells the author his amazing story, described by Thomas A. Hajewski in World Literature Today as “a narrative recalling a composite of styles and scenes from both the Arabian Nights and the prose of T.E. Lawrence.”
Albert and Lila stars Lila, a chicken, who makes friends with Albert, a pig, starting gossip in the farmyard. Although the two come from very different social groups, they have both experienced teasing from their own groups and find solace with each other. In the end, they team up to save their tormentors from a fox.
In the novel Sieben Doppelgännger, Schami tells a story based on his own experiences as a writer; the main character is named Rafik Schami and is a successful writer. When he tells his friends that his schedule of readings, appearances, and public presentations has become so demanding that he has no time left to write, one friend suggests that he hire several men who look like him and who are trained to be familiar with his works and mimic his mannerisms. These men then can go to all the public events, leaving Rafik home to write. The plan goes into effect, with seven doppelgänger, or doubles, of Rafik, and initially all goes well. However, soon trouble appears: some of the doppelgänger have fallen in love with women they met at the readings, and each of these women thinks she has the “real” Rafik. Another doppelgänger becomes ill, and Rafik must take his place. One is attacked by thugs, and another hires his own group of doubles so he can have more time off.
In Die Sehnsucht fährt Schwarz. Geschichten aus der Fremde, Schami presents stories for adults about life in modern-day Germany for the many people, not originally from Germany, who live and work there. Schami explores the feelings of alienation, homesickness, and confusion regarding different customs and beliefs, as well as the experience of being discriminated against by native Germans. Despite these serious comments, the stories are, according to Thomas J. Hajewski in World Literature Today, “highly readable, interesting, often comical and quite entertaining.”
Schami is one of the founders of the Polynationaler Literatur-und Kunstverein (or Polinational Literature and Art Association), one of three major trends in German literature, written by people originally from other cultures. In the International Fiction Review, Iman Osman Khalil wrote that “the implicit theme in Schami’s tales is that … people should develop an understanding for each other and a unity among themselves, notwithstanding ethnic, social, religious, cultural, and gender differences
Personally, Schami has been enriched by his immersion in another culture. He told Christopher M. Franceschelli in the Horn Book, “It is a liberating act to write in another language. It puts a necessary distance between the experiences of my youth and my writing.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Children’s Writers, 5th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Twentieth-Century Children’s Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1989.
Horn Book, March-April, 1992, Christopher M. Franceschelli, “A Publisher’s Perspective,” p. 231.
International Fiction Review, summer, 1990, Iman Os-man Khalil, “Rafik Schami’s Fantasy and Fairy Tales,” pp. 121-123.
New York Times Book Review, November 7, 1993, Malcolm Bradbury, “The Man with a Story for Everything,” p. 13; November 10, 1996, Patricia T. O’Conner, “Can You Do This?,” p. 51.
Publishers Weekly, May 27, 1996, review of The Crow Who Stood on His Beak, p. 79; December 2, 1996, review of Fatima and the Dream Thief, p. 60; December 15, 1996, p. 734; September 13, 1999, review of Albert and Lila, p. 84.
Wilson Library Bulletin, October, 1990, Cathi MacRae, “Young Adult Perplex,” pp. 104-105.
World Literature Today, fall, 1996, Thomas J. Hajewski, review of Die Sehnsucht fährt Schwarz. Geschichten aus der Fremde, p. 950; autumn, 1997, article by Erlis Wickersham, p. 778; spring, 1998, Thomas J. Hajewski, review of Milad. Von einem, der auszog, um einundzwanzig Tage satt zu werden, p. 361; autumn, 1999, Thomas J. Hajewski, review of Sieben Doppelgänger, p.
Rafik Schami Home Page,http://www.rafik-schami.de (March 16, 2008).*