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The Secret Maker of the World - Abbas El-Zein

The Secret Maker of the World


Published: 26th February 2014
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A powerful collection of fiction that lingers long after the last word

A boatman fishes bodies from the Yellow River searching for the one he can claim. A construction worker speeds through the Indonesian jungle to board his plane on time. Playing a terrifying game of cat and mouse, an isolated sniper in Beirut observes the city from his rooftop perch.

With profound insight El-Zein’s stories cross continents and time zones, effortlessly melding themes of loss and longing with larger questions of power, politics, faith and love. His characters, as provocative as they are diverse, confront issues of violence, justice and redemption with varying degrees of rage, suspense, satire and wit.

With a sharp eye for the ridiculous, El-Zein’s collection cleverly illuminates stereotypes and contemplates global truths. These are worldly stories in the best sense, and wise ones.

Read Caroline Baum's Review

A collection of thoughtful, often cerebral short stories with a cosmopolitan perspective from a Lebanese writer who now lives in Sydney.

His characters are often solitary: a sniper in Beirut, a traveller on a plane musing on fellow passengers, a priest anxious for promotion, a lord mayor on a way to deliver a speech... we share their interior lives as fragments of a bigger canvas of humanity on the move. People uprooted, people in transit, both past and present. Prose full of nuance and ambiguity.

About the Author

Abbas El-Zein was born and raised in Beirut. He was twelve years old when the civil war broke out in 1975. He lived in Beirut through most of the war and, like many Lebanese of his generation, experienced shelling, car bombs, shootings and displacement. Although he came from a family of Shia religious scholars, he attended a French secular school and studied civil engineering at the American University of Beirut. He migrated to Australia in 1996. Abbas has written essays and short stories about war, identity and displacement for The New York Times, The Age, Meanjin, HEAT and Australian Book Review. His first novel, Tell the Running Water (Sceptre, 2001), is set in Beirut and tells the intersecting stories of two young men and a woman who are engaged in the war, and coming to terms with the violence around them. He lives in Sydney with his wife and their two sons and lectures in environmental engineering at the University of Sydney.



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The Secret Maker of the World

(based on 1 review)

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It's good! But...


from Adelaide, AU

About Me Bookworm

Verified Buyer


  • Deserves Multiple Readings
  • Well Written


  • Difficult To Follow

Best Uses

  • Older Readers

Comments about The Secret Maker of the World:

Not gonna lie - this one took a commitment to read, and probably expects you know more geography and global politics than I do. Apparently the stories have subtle links, but these were totally lost on me. Still, there's some beautiful passages, and it was cool to glimpse parts of the world I don't normally visit in narratives.

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'These stores range across time and culture, yet somehow sit outside both. They are often disturbing and beautiful in the same moment. A stark, moving and memorable collection.' - Eva Hornung

ISBN: 9780702250071
ISBN-10: 0702250074
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 192
Published: 26th February 2014
Publisher: University of Queensland Press
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 19.9 x 12.9  x 1.4
Weight (kg): 0.19
Edition Number: 1