Children of the Crimson Sun – Karim Ghahwagi



My previous reviews of this author here:
and of this publisher here:

When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

28 thoughts on “Children of the Crimson Sun – Karim Ghahwagi

  1. 0F2E2A45-17BC-435D-ABE7-57B849763289


    The bijou size and feel of this exquisite book make it seem a religious experience to read it. Two novellas across 192 pages.


    Pages 7 – 28

    “, but the great white Devil has taken my legs down to the dark belly of the sea, and the Lord has taken my eyes up to the bright eternal light of the heavens, leaving me in the darkness…”

    Captivated by the history, captivated by the spirit of place, the environs of an island near Malta, soon after the Crusades had finished, I follow a physician, himself recovering from the wars and a cave wherein he endured visions, is sent by the Abbot from his hibernation to help the spiritual crises of a twelve year old girl and her fisherfolk family. Crises said to be physical, not spiritual. So much more to avoid mentioning here, such as the most startling voluntary withdrawal of narrative omniscience I have ever encountered in literature, that has made me lie to you above. For fear of discovering the circumstances of what I have withheld, please do not proceed with reading my review when I come to start writing it again below. So far, I have only read up to page 28. Malta or Maltin.

  2. Pages 28 – 44

    “A strange symbol, four feet in diameter, had been drawn onto its surface. It consisted of three intersected triangles encircled unevenly by a thread of Roman numerals. Unrecognizable to the physician, and crude in its rudimentary design, the symbol nonetheless appeared fervent with intent.”

    We are encouraged, I sense, to compare the erstwhile cave and what it contained (the memory of which dogs the physician) with the the mouth of the girl whom the physician eventually finds at the edge of a cliff, finding her here after MethODD rituals, the Damian Murphy-like Methoddical of a path, towards an occult goal, I infer, and not without the imprints of blood as part of the path, a path scried from amid richly honed prose styles to honey or lubricate the otherwise natural dryness of words, whatever the words, and amid the eponymous crimson where through slots such stained sunshine can penetrate, there are some visions here that have stunned the reader.

    “…the image was rekindled, ever fervent, ever intent upon realigning the remnants of its own afterimage upon the very Azimuthian co-ordinates of its conjuring.”

  3. Pages 44 – 65

    “Gods or ghosts, the existence of one did not presuppose the existence of the other.”

    …nor preclude!?
    We remain imbued with the physician’s pathway, remaining close-chested, as I am, about this person’s nature and this person’s visions in the Jerusalem cave, amid thoughts of St Paul as once Saul of Tarsus… Not only visions, but the horn as reliquary brought back on pilgrimage from there with subsequent instinctively applied importance to “klitorá” et al. And thoughts, too, as to the hospitality of the hospitaller knights, the hospitum, and what its Abbot saw in the miraculous, momentarily cacophonous, effect (just epilepsy as the ostensible physician maintains?) of the twelve year old girl fetched by that physician to here within a circle of such clergy. Whereby caves and mouths and other bodily crevices and those earlier crimsoned slots of channelled sunshine potentially approximate each other in synchrony – alongside other methods in such madness? My own madness, notwithstanding. Mad enough to relish this material, as you, perforce, by gestalt, shall be mad enough to do so, too, I say.

    “Perceived linearity, in the wake of the vision, had been, on reflection in hindsight, a synchronous manifestation, larger and vaster than the sum of its parts.”

  4. Pages 66 – 97
    An “inner circle” formed to nurture the girl-child’s “divine work”, her divine laments of holy ‘revelry’ (sic), the Abbot on his own threshold of architectural spirituality of apostolic exegesis, but gradually our physician with guilty moments of trans-torment of self or responsibility for the girl is gradually withdrawn from mentoring her, but nevertheless we are tutored in local temples and geographic shifts of Malta between Africa and Europe, the past Ottoman cruelties to the hospitallers and we sense we are learning more by cumulative Gestalt than we can ever give credit for. Nosebleeds, sundial manufacture and others’ retellings or extrapolations of the girl’s inducement of automatic writings and occult wisdom, I infer. Yet there is something even deeper, perhaps, as this morning I had cause here to dabble in variations on Chaud-Mellé, and am now drawn into St Paul’s shipwreck and the ‘Melite’, and other coordinates, ‘Mellieha’ and Melite “from the noun ‘meli’ meaning ‘honey’” (and I also somehow mentioned honey earlier above in my review of the Ghahwagi.)

    “, where the child had scratched a sundial into the earth. It was as if she steered by faulty coordinates displaced and wanting of recalibration and spiritual adjustment.”

  5. 69B4DBF9-B29B-4CAD-BB26-B9D5B6A6D09DPages 97 – 118 (end)

    “As the silhouette drew closer, she could make out that the figure was dressed in the black flowing garments of a għonnella. Visage darkened underneath a hood, it must have been carrying a child in its arms, for she could hear the sound of it crying.”

    A garment that to my ears or eyes is akin to a bodily part such as klitorá or ‘vulvic gullet’? At least not yet, but not long before another babe cries from “betwixt the in-between” of such, I guess. (Meghan also has personal connections as her great-great-grandmother Mary was born in Malta in 1862.) There is much that resides under this often florid alter-altar of prose, words to scry so as to tell spilled intestines from serpents. Or to tell crimson sunlight from blood. Maltese Miracle from fell foulness. Sacrificial albino lamb from innocent girl whose neck or gullet is thus used. Man from woman, or vice versa.
    My own retellings or extrapolation of this thoughtful, sometimes visceral or vital, work — to add to other scribes alike thus working on the triangulations of its inspirations and other coordinates. A holy revelry. Another child of the crimson sun now due.


    Pages 119 – 159

    “‘Yes, perhaps the Devil is striving to break up Europe,’ the Commissioner said with more acerbic jest than he had intended in the circumstances.”

    Much intriguing and well-characterised build-up of the historical / religious background of this area of the Czech republic, Hussite, Catholic et al. As Izabel – another mixed American, here mixed with Czech – has arrived to investigate, in an X Files like fashion (?), hauntings, while also facing the resistance of the local authorities. All beautifully deployed by the text, if with a few minor typos. Including the local Napoleon Wargaming Society, and their alchemies of painterly modelling of miniatures. Mad Hatter Syndrome, notwithstanding. There are 4 types of such modellers: collectors, wargamers, terrain builders and history enthusiasts. Is it a coincidence that there have been 4 hauntings? But, there again, there is a fifth category, ‘totalitarians’, forming a gestalt of the 4 categories. One such totalitarian having died recently…

  7. Pages 159 – 191

    “…strange cabinets, meekly illuminated by slivers of silvered light, which irregularities in their age-beleaguered contours, had allowed to enthuse into the corridor.”

    This continues to be a remarkable text, and something I forgot to mention earlier, is the effect of mirrors in forming this book’s need for gestalt, a need I hope I fulfil to some extent, and I begin to wonder whether the seeming few minor typos are intentional as part of this process, infused into the text, part of its lead poisoning. I certainly feel an uncanny, inexplicable power when reading this whole book, a power at the end of this story of an imperfect model, but particularly when I followed Izabel into the house where the ‘totalitarian’ miniaturist had lived, and his backstory, including his son who died in boyhood (“…he burned with the radiance of a crimson sun . . .”) As she explores the Old Dark of the attic. A labyrinth of discarded artefacts, and she sees miniatures of other parts of this book, miniatures of miniatures, and where she has been and where she is to go again after epiphany… I, as reader, had definite frissons of genuine fear.

    As a perhaps irrelevant aside, there was a composer called Dvorak who, inter alia, composed miniatures as well as the opera Rusalka, but his greatest work, for me, was his setting of the Stabat Mater.

    “She remained standing still, as the light enthusing from the direction behind her, grew slowly, steadily, more prevalent.”


    • From review above –
      As a perhaps irrelevant aside, there was a composer called Dvorak who, inter alia, composed miniatures as well as the opera Rusalka, but his greatest work, for me, was his setting of the Stabat Mater.

      “She remained standing still, as the light enthusing from the direction behind her, grew slowly, steadily, more prevalent.”
      – from A Haunting in Miniature by Karim Ghahwagi reviewed above.
      Dvorak turns out to be an important name in it, without giving too much away.

  8. Meghan says today that her new son is a dream. If not a Messiah for St Agatha’s Tower, Mellieħa, Malta.
    Also his name just announced as Archie. Well, I did use the word ‘architectural’ above.

  9. Pingback: A Midsummer Conjuring | Karim Ghahwagi

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