Every once in a while a book comes along that feels so personal, that the authour has laid so much bare, the it’s beyond review; that was my experience with this book. In reading The Clothesline Swing, I couldn’t help but feel that I was taking a peek into Ahmad Danny Ramadan’s life in Syria that was never meant to be for me, but that he felt compelled to share. I don’t know how much of this book is true or what was embellished, but it’s clear that these stories were inspired by truths: in his acknowledgements, Ramadan thanks those who have shared their “happiness and sorrow” with him. I highly recommend watching Ramadan’s TED Talk after reading this book – you’ll fall in love with him.
The format is unique: two lovers reminisce over their youth in Syria through fables and memories – there are stories within stories. Death, a surprisingly welcome character, joins the men as Hakawati comforts his aging partner with stories of his childhood. Death lingers on the sidelines, providing occasional commentary, waiting for his final breath.
This book is heavy, both in content and in prose, but also descriptive and beautiful, and so worth the effort. Readers should take this book slowly, absorb every word, and appreciate the education that Ramadan provides. We learn not only about life for gay youth in Damascus and Aleppo, but about the beauty that Syria has to offer. And yes, we learn about the war. For anyone ready to open their minds and enjoy a beautifully told narrative, do yourself a favour a pick this one up.