Tag Archives: WW1

Nizar Tawfiq Qabbani and Damascus

I am researching and writing a novel set against the backdrop of the First World War. It is partly set in Australia: Margaret River and the Tumut Valley and in London and the Middle East. It is a time-split novel and has two casts of characters who are connected across time. And the research is a such joy!

One character is botanist and and another an artist who live a hundred years apart yet are connected by botanicals. The modern day botanist brings abandoned gardens to life and the hundred years ago artist paints images of the wildflowers she has collected.

One of my male characters joins the Light Horse Regiment (conveniently raised in Western Australia where part of the novel is set) and another travels to England and becomes a pilot.

The 10th Australian Light Horse Regiment AIF was the only AIF regiment recuited in Western Australia during the First World War.

My research lead me to the city of Damascus. 

In 1917 the 10th Light Horse Regiment were part of the Desert Column that advanced into Palestine. The regiment participated in the bloody battles to break the Gaza-Beersheba line and helped capture Jerusalem. They participated in the Es Salt Raid in May 1918. In August they were one of the regiments re-equipped with swords and rifle boots, and retrained to take a more orthodox cavalry role. In their new role they took part in the rout of the Ottoman army in the Jordan Valley, a campaign the light horse referred to as ‘The Great Ride’. In September the 10th was the first formed regiment to enter Damascus.

I spent time in Egypt some years ago and felt a connection to the culture and the history of the Middle East so a great joy for me while researching was my discovery of the poet Nizar Tawfiq Qabbani and his exquisite poetry.

Nizar Tawfiq Qabbani (Arabic: نزار توفيق قباني‎‎, Nizār Tawfīq Qabbānī) (21 March 1923 – 30 April 1998) was a Syrian diplomat, poet and publisher. His poetic style combines simplicity and elegance in exploring themes of love, eroticism, feminism, religion, and Arab nationalism. Qabbani is one of the most revered contemporary poets in the Arab world.

Nizar Qabbani was born in the Syrian capital of Damascus to a middle class merchant family. Qabbani was raised in Mi’thnah Al-Shahm, one of the neighborhoods of Old Damascus.

Part of Verse 14: Damascus, What are you Doing to Me.

I put on the jubbah of Muhyi al-Din Ibn al-Arabi
I descend from the peak of Mt. Qassiun
Carrying for the children of the city . . .
Peaches
Pomegranates
And sesame halawa . . .
And for its women . . .
Necklaces of turquoise . . .
And poems of love . . .
I enter . . .
A long tunnel of sparrows
Gillyflowers . . .
Hibiscus . . .
Clustered jasmine . . .
And I enter the questions of perfume . . .

  1. Gillyflower
  2. A Syrian cat sitting behind a jasmine vine

Have a wonderful day (I am spending the afternoon with friends at  a lovely house with a walled garden).

Cheers, Elise.

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A Paris Apartment Lost in Time

When I was writing my first novel Castle of Dreams I came across an article about a Paris apartment that had been lost in time. I filed the article away knowing I would use parts of the story and some of the images in a future story.

My work-in-progress is a dual narrative story set in World War One and its aftermath and in contemporary times. The story of the Paris apartment easily transposes to early twentieth century Australia where one narrative is set.

The locked Paris apartment has all the things I love: an abandoned home, images of what was left behind, a romantic story, a mystery.

 

In my files I have an unpublished story I wrote some years ago in which one of the characters is an artist so it wasn’t difficult to gather the threads of that story, reread my original research, and use this in my WIP. I always give my characters a particular profession or hobby that defines them throughout a story and in the past narrative of my WIP one of my characters is an artist. So when I looked again at the photos of the Paris apartment and noticed the abandoned paintings I knew I’d have to include these in my story. Perhaps one of the found paintings will be of a young woman as beautiful as Marthe de Florian.

Marthe de Florian, the apartment owner’s grandmother who was a Belle Epoque socialite, theatre actress, and Boldini’s (the artist who painted this picture) muse.

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The Paris apartment has all the elements of a fairytale including another of my favourite things: love letters from the past. They were found in the apartment, wrapped in different colored ribbons and scrawled in the hand of, among others, Boldini and 72nd Prime Minister George Clemenceau.

In the present day narrative my protagonist is a botanist who seeks the secrets of her family’s past. My mother was a keen gardener and loved to be outdoors and my daughter inherited her grandmother’s love of nature and gardens.  I didn’t.  Yet now I have started to research this subject I’m fascinated. Biblical references to plants and flowers is something I will use in my story: the healing properties of herbs, perfume, and more.  Botany is a wide church.

Jasmine Flowers

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Have a wonderful week, dreaming, writing and reading.

Elise x

 

 

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Filed under Castle of Dreams, Elise McCune