Rebecca R. Gould


Rafik Schami

Secret Calligraphy

Rafik Schami believes everyone is an artist

Rafik Schami in Pen Transmissions

“The crucial question was not one of courage or cowardice, but of might and power in the state,” says the narrator of Rafik Schami’s novel The Calligrapher’s Secret.

Cover for The Calligrapher’s Secret (2011)

The plot

Persian calligraphy via Pinterest

Ibn Muqla, the real master calligrapher

proportional writing system developed by Ibn Muqla via CalligraphyQalam


In the frame story of Ibn Muqla’s life that interrupts the narration of Hamid Farsi’s failed marriage, we read that the ambition of this most famous of all calligraphers was “to invent a new Arabic alphabet.” With only twenty-five letters, as opposed to the traditional twenty-eight, this alphabet was supposed to “express all the languages known at that time.”

An Ironic Ending

“We attack and persecute our prophets.”

This review first appeared here.

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