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Literature / A Hand Full of Stars

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A Hand Full of Stars (Eine Hand voller Sterne) is a novel by Syrian-German author Rafik Schami. It was published in 1987, and translated into English in 1990.

The story is told in the form of diary entries by the fourteen-year-old narrator, who is never once given a name in the book. He lives in Damaskus with his father, a baker, his mother and his sister Leila. They are part of the Christian minority, but the narrator is not really that interested in religion.


The topic of most of the entries is the school, which he likes going to, his desire to become a poet and/or a journalist, his friends Mahmud and Josef, his love for the neighbor girl Nadia and his friendship with the elderly neighbor Uncle Salim.

Eventually, the narrator decides to write a 'Socks newspaper', distributed through cheaply sold socks, which actually tells the truth instead of just writing what the government would like to hear, with a the journalist Habib, who is a mentor to him, and his friend Mahmud. This gets Habib in trouble, and he is arrested, but the narrator, Mahmud and Nadia decide to continue the newspaper anyway.


Tropes in this novel

  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Leila to the narrator. It's clear that he loves her, but she still annoys him a lot at times.
  • Benevolent Conspiracy: Well, sort of. The narrator and his friends Josef and Mahmud decide to form the gang "The Black Hand" to protect the innocent. They end up pinning a vaguely threatening letter to the door of Nadia's father, a known member of the Secret Police, who is actually legitimately scared of it and doesn't realize it's just three teenaged boys.
  • Cool Teacher: Mr. Katib, the narrator's Arabic teacher, who encourages him to send his poems to a publishing company and is generally loved.
  • First Love: Nadia and the narrator for each other.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: The narrator gets jealous quite a few times, describing his friend Josef being too close to Nadia. It seems that Nadia is completely in love with the narrator, however, and she either doesn't realize that Josef is hitting on her or the narrator is just misinterpreting what is going on.
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  • Honorary Uncle: Uncle Salim doesn't appear to actually be related to the narrator's parents, he just calls him that.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Uncle Salim dies at the end of the story.
  • No Name Given: The narrator.
  • Secret Police: Nadia's father is part of it. Everyone in their street is afraid of him.
  • Starving Artist: What the narrator's father thinks the narrator will end up being if he pursues his passion for poetry. He is very proud of him however when a few of his poems end up being published.
  • Tragic Dropout: The narrator, who really likes to go to school and would like to become a journalist, is forced by his father to leave school and start working in his bakery. The narrator actually plans to run away because of his, because he hates the bakery. Uncle Salim convinces him otherwise, and after a while the narrator meets Habib, who teaches him about journalism, and finds another job in a bookstore, which his father accepts, as he is bringing money home, and where he can learn more. Nadia, too, is forced by her father to leave school. She would have liked to become a doctor but has to work as an assistant in a law firm.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Habib, the narrator's mentor, has an affair with his neighbor Mariam, who is married.


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