Spouses, lovers, and other strangers : men, women, and relationships in the works of Rafik Schami
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Syrian-German author Rafik Schami has a literary career spanning approximately thirty years. Although his native Syria often forms the backdrop for his stories, Schami’s intended audience is clearly German-speaking because he composes his works in German. As most of the discourse on minority literature in Germany focuses on Turkish-German literature, an examination of Schami’s texts would offer another perspective on this phenomenon. This dissertation project focuses on several novels from Rafik Schami, including Reise zwischen Nacht und Morgen, Die dunkle Seite der Liebe, Die Sehnsucht der Schwalbe, and Das Geheimnis des Kalligraphen, all of which thematize various types of interpersonal relationships, including familial and romantic. With few exceptions, men and women inhabit different worlds, and this complicates their ability to maintain a connection to one another. The world of women is frequently depicted as exotic or secretive, whereas the world of men is one of brutality. This separation of men and women is imposed by political and cultural means. In his characterization of the relationships between men and women, the author draws attention to their respective situations and criticizes the forces that draw them apart. Most of the scholarship on Rafik Schami’s texts has focused upon intercultural communication, migration, and exoticism. Very little attention has been paid to issues of gender, although relationships and differences between men and women inhabit a significant portion of his novels. This project employs a close reading of thematic as well as structural elements in order to examine the respective worlds of men and women and the author’s critique of the factors which led to this division. The project will also examine the reception of the author’s works in order to characterize their position within contemporary German literature.