The Merchant of Syria: A History of Survival (Hardback)
  • The Merchant of Syria: A History of Survival (Hardback)
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The Merchant of Syria: A History of Survival (Hardback)

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£25.00
Hardback 224 Pages
Published: 26/04/2018
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The Merchant of Syria tells the life of Abu Chaker, a cloth merchant from Homs who lived from 1921 to 2013. Barely literate, he nevertheless built up a commercial empire based on trust, then lost everything twice through political instability and war, before coming to northern England as an economic migrant. The climax of this devout Sunni Muslim’s tumultuous life was to buy and save a Yorkshire wool mill, which still serves as the headquarters of the textile manufacturing company he turned into a global brand. Standing on Little Horton Lane in Bradford, Briggella Mill continues to manufacture the finest quality English cloth. Its looms clatter on.

Drawing on interviews conducted in Syria, Lebanon and Britain, Abu Chaker’s story exemplifies many of today’s pressing global issues – poverty, Islamic values (he gave away a great deal to charity, albeit discreetly), religious co-existence, refugees, displacement, multiculturalism, political unrest and terrorism.

One strand of the book offers the reader the vital backdrop against which his life was lived, while the other focusses on Abu Chaker himself. Diana Darke’s final chapter weaves these strands together, seeking answers to a vital question: how, after seven years of war, in which half of its population has been displaced and the currency lost ninety per cent of its value, can Syria survive?

Publisher: C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd
ISBN: 9781849049405
Number of pages: 224
Dimensions: 216 x 138 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

'A sure and pithy explanation of the country’s descent into chaos . . .  the real strength of this book is the fascinating insight that it provides of domestic life . . . a powerful meditation on how trust glues societies together.'

'Darke presents a richly detailed work that contextualizes Syria's long history as a 'melting pot of civilizations' while giving an intimate view of one Syrian’s extraordinary life. . . . Darke does a magnificent job of taking what could otherwise be a dispiriting tale of national crisis, and reframing it as an inspirational story of personal survival and triumph.' - Publishers Weekly

'If I had to recommend a single book for someone wanting to understand Syria, it would be this. The Merchant of Syria is a fascinating read.'  

'A captivating telling of 20th century Syrian history told through the prism of a larger than life character . . . Darke's passion for Syria is infectious . . . a delightful read.'

‘Darke writes with authority . . . [the book] includes some of the best available accounts of what has actually been going on in Syria in the last decade.’

‘Thoroughly narrated . . . informative . . . a deeply human view of a world destroyed.’

‘Lively, readable . . . interesting and inspiring, Darke provides, not only a useful introduction to Syrian history and the ongoing civil war, but also a challenging story of human tragedy and success. Highly recommended.’

'A wonderful evocation of the Syria we have lost, alternating between public events and the career, family life and moral outlook of a remarkable but, in a way, typical Syrian man. A unique insight into the country Darke obviously loves.' - Hugh Kennedy, Professor of Arabic, SOAS, University of London

'Enormously rich and powerful, beautifully written and from the heart.' - David Nott, humanitarian and volunteer surgeon in Syrian conflict zones

'The story of a single man can shine a powerful light on the tragedies of history. Darke sensitively deciphers these tragedies in a book that illuminates Abu Chaker's zeitgeist and enhances our understanding of Syria's past, present and future.' - Ece Temelkuran, Turkish writer, author of 'Turkey: The Insane and the Melancholy'

'Diana Darke quarries future hope for us from the ruins of Syria, by chronicling this inspiring story of how a young merchant from Homs became a modern Dick Whittington to Bradford, without once turning his back on his own rich culture or his new nationality.' - Barnaby Rogerson, author of 'The Heirs of the Prophet Muhammad'

'Darke's empathy, deep knowledge of Arabic, and capacity to weave effortlessly along a complex path make her uniquely qualified to take us through Syria's history, leaving us with many insights into a society constantly able to find inner strength after disasters.' - Ross Burns, former Australian Ambassador to Syria and Lebanon

'Admirable and empathetic. Darke's elegance of style and understanding of the broad strokes of Syria's history over the past two millennia draw the reader deeply into the life and times of the merchant, Abu Chaker.' - Dawn Chatty, author of 'Syria: The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State'

'By stitching together the fabric of Syria's history through the life and experiences of a merchant from Homs, Diana Darke paints a textured narrative of a richly complex country, society and people. A book filled with passionate understanding.' - Chris Doyle, Director of The Council for Arab-British Understanding

'The extraordinary story of a country summed up in the life of a man. Darke reveals the details of Syria's cultural and religious history in a style that captures the mind and the heart.' - Muhammad al-Yaqoubi, Syrian scholar and imam, author of 'Refuting ISIS: A Rebuttal Of Its Religious And Ideological Foundations'

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