Praise for My Books

"Manreet Sodhi Someshwar is a gifted writer of great promise. I have a gut feeling we have a new star rising in Punjab's literary horizon. She has an excellent command of English and a sly sense of humour."
- Khushwant Singh on The Long Walk Home

"An enjoyable tale of a sassy girl's headlong race up the corporate ladder."
- India Today on Earning the Laundry Stripes

Monday, 30 July 2012

Appointment in Samarra

Today while reading Maureen Dowd's hilarious take on Mitt Romney's disastrous London visit, in the run up to the Olympics, a particular line made me pause. Afterwards, I went to that line again and then went to the fount of all knowledge - google. Suffice to say that my li'l exploration led me to this wonderful short story by Somerset Maugham.

First, the line:

It’s like the epigraph in John O’Hara’s “Appointment at Samarra.” You can run from fate, but fate will be waiting in the next town, at the next marketplace.

The story is so brilliant - like a finely crafted jewel - that I thought to share it here. Let's see what you make of it.

There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said “Master, just now when I was in the market-place I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.” The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the market-place and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, “Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning? “That was not a threatening gesture,” I said, “It was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.” 
-Somerset Maugham- 

What I loved in Maugham's story is the manner in which Fate is depicted: like another worker with a job, only his is ferrying people from this world to the next. This day jobber is in the market shopping for his wares/daily needs and is surprised to sight the servant there - a bit like bumping into a colleague whom one had fixed to meet later in the day.

And yes, the fact that Fate is a woman!


  1. I have always admired Somerset Maugham's sense of wit and wisdom that lies in all his stories. I have read several volumes of his books, but happy to read this one which I hadn't seen before! My all time favorite though is The Moon and Six Pence.

    1. Yes, it's great to discover a piece by a writer you admire. Happy for you!

      Maugham was essential reading when I was growing up. And I must say I benefited much. Of Human Bondage is my fav.

  2. I had not read this one, Manreet. And running away to escape as a way to avoid something is so true for many of us.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Loved reading the story again. We can't run away from our fate. Need to face it.

  4. Action and not its fruits is the Only way forward and we need to accept this.
    Jai Shankar