Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Appointment in Samarra

I had read this story years ago, and loved it. Happened to remember it recently and Googled for it.

There was a merchant in Baghdad 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 marketplace 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 marketplace 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 Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.

(Somerset Maugham)


  1. Wonderful, and quite a surprise when I came to the author's name -- as I was reading it, I thought it was from Nasreddin Hodja. I suspect Maugham was familiar with those stories, because the delivery is very much like them.

  2. Mike, I think it is a revised version from one of Maugham's plays. I do not know the author of the original. Perhaps it is Hodja as you suggested.

  3. That's interesting. It feels like there is who is the author and what is the meaning of the story?