Aslan, the Jewish narrator, harks back to his youth as a rich spoilt teenager – and closet homosexual living in 19th century Damascus. His relationship with a Christian monk, therefore, held all the seeds of personal disaster and incipient pogrom. Aslan's account, given in old age, is neither easy to read - he changes from 1st to 3rd person frequently - or to be trusted, so it’s up to the reader to decide just what did happen. Fascinating.
Mahmoud presses me to his body and he whispers in my ear that it is now time for us to celebrate, and he expresses a wish to take me to a far remove from this land of tortured prisoners and dunghills, of hatred among peoples of my faith, to a new land, both far and near ... and my beloved plants a stealthy kiss on my neck, and after three or four doors have been opened and closed behind us we are presented with the key to a cabine, where we undress and Aslan slouches for his body is woolly and unattractive.