The Clothesline Swing
The Clothesline Swing is a journey through the troublesome aftermath of the Arab Spring. A former Syrian refugee himself, Ramadan unveils an enthralling tale of courage that weaves through the mountains of Syria, the valleys of Lebanon, the encircling seas of Turkey, the heat of Egypt and finally, the hope of a new home in Canada.
Inspired by Arabian Tales of One Thousand and One Nights, The Clothesline Swing tells the epic story of two lovers anchored to the memory of a dying Syria. One is a Hakawati, a storyteller, keeping life in forward motion by relaying remembered fables to his dying partner. Each night he weaves stories of his childhood in Damascus, of the cruelty he has endured for his sexuality, of leaving home, of war, of his fated meeting with his lover. Meanwhile Death himself, in his dark cloak, shares the house with the two men, eavesdropping on their secrets as he awaits their final undoing.
In the press
- “The writing is lovely: it’s poetic, lush, lyrical, and rich with magic realism. And the central relationship is breathtakingly tender. The book also really brings old Damascus to life, with its jasmine blooms and twinkling mosque lights.” – Tara Henley – CBC
- “The Clothesline Swing is an enjoyable, if challenging, cultural and historical excursion.” – Gordon Arnold – Winnipeg Free Press
- “Ramadan’s delicate use of imagery links these narratives, allowing them to reverberate with meaning and emotion.” – Publishers Weekly
- “This debut novel from the Vancouver-based Syrian writer reads as many things – a coming-out memoir, a history lesson, a critique of authoritarianism, a narrative about sharing narratives – but above all, it’s a requiem for a dying country and people.” – Kamal Al-Solaylee – Quill and Quire.
- “By turns sombre, fantastical, violent and tender, Ahmad Danny Ramadan’s English-language debut is a gay son’s conflicted love letter to Syria – a look on the present from a possible future.” – Jade Colbert – The Globe and Mail
From the book
- It seemed to me that I stayed up very late that night. I must have slipped into dreamland long before midnight. At three a.m., a loud knocking from the street awakened us. “Al-mesaher,” my tetta Samira said, opening the door to our small room. “Who wants to see al-mesaheer?”
The cold pinched my little face when I opened the window that looked over the narrow street outside. An old man appeared from afar. He was wearing traditional Syrian sherwal pants, a black jacket and a red fez; he held a little drum near his chest, knocking on it five times in front of each house.
“Wake up for your suhour, let the month of Ramadan visit your homes,” he sang loudly under each door, calling people to eat the pre-fasting meal. “Abu Mohammed, wake up for your suhour.” the minute the mesaheer’s silhouette was close enough to see the details, I saw his son walking sleepily behind him holding a small lamp.
- The sweetest kisses are the ones we share in forbidden places. The kiss I stole from you in the back of a dark cab roaming Damascus, while the driver was cursing at checkpoints and wars; the time I pulled you back into the changing room in H&M in Beirut and printed my lips upon yours; the one you gave me as we hid in the depth of tall grass on Vancouver’s Wreck Beach.