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This report is taken from PN Review 166, Volume 32 Number 2, November - December 2005.

The Pigeon Wars of Damascus (4) Marius Kociejowski


Sulayman's father died the previous year, as had mine. I remember him well, an elderly Bedouin biding his time, as taciturn as an old grocer sitting in front of his own grocery store. He never had many words for me, but then I don't think he had many words for anyone. An old soldier, already into his eighties, he seemed still to be a tower of strength. I picture him seated beneath his prize possession, an ornamental sabre that hung on the wall, which was presented to him by the French for his services. Sulayman told me his father worked for them as a desert tracker. The Bedouin are famous as trackers although not quite so renowned for their skills as the Druzes. Also they are deemed loyal to whomever they serve, the object of their obedience questionable at times.

Sulayman, his chronology oddly scrambled, spoke of his father's life. Almost always he spoke in collages, which is not to say he was disorganised in his thought but that what he produced was prismatic in effect - one saw all the clearer through the jumble. The man he described was simultaneously dead and alive.

'You would give him a subject and on the following day, after analysing it, he'd come back to you, speak of its defects and short-comings. When he was young he was a lieutenant in the French army. There was no Syrian government at the time. And he had ...

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