"What it is to be a Christian in a Muslim Country. . . ."
In this extraordinarily poetic and intricately textured political novel, Nicholas Saudray dramatizes the explosion of religious fundamentalism in the Middle East through the predicament of a young Christian architect. Gabriel returns to his country "Marsania" after studying in the United States in order to enter a government-sponsored competition for the erection of a mosque--a "House" of the four prophets of Islam: Moses, Abraham, Jesus and Mohammed. Because Gabriel is a Mozarab, an Arab Christian, he encounters political and religious obstacles that he is determined to overcome because he believes his mosque to be symbolic of the alliance of Christians, Muslims and other minorities who have co-existed for 13 centuries in the Arab world.
His tolerance of his sister's marriage to Ruwan, a childhood friend and a leader of an increasingly powerful Islamic fundamentalist sect, reinforces his yearnings for this alliance. The vaulted alleys, the earthen churches, the mountains and the sea of Marsania echo his quest. He wanders in and out of relationships that evoke it: a love affair with the Durrellian Safia, a Jew; a liaison with the Felliniesque Timsit, a young girl from the dissident Islamic mountain tribes, the Nussairis; and a betrothal to Eudoxia, a wealthy Christian girl from his own Mozarab community. These alliances, as euphoric as his vision, come too late. A Christian architect may not build a mosque. In despair, Gabriel makes a gift of his plans to a Muslim architect.