The Jewel Garden

A Novel
Verlag LangenMüller Munich 2016

What did Laura really want? The roaring of the crowd was painful. “We have a crisis. We’ll be able to find each other again.” She looked for her cigarettes. Her hands were trembling. The carousel came to a stop. Jenny jumped off, into her father’s arms. He gave her a ride on his shoulders. Laura followed them. Was everything already over? The ball was rolling, and nothing could stop it now. Had she lost her chance? She found her cigarettes.

That night, she seduced him. “I want to be reconciled,” she whispered in his ear afterwards. “Life consists of two parts,” Younis said. “The past – a dream. The future – a wish.”


For Laura, Christmas Eve 1955 begins like so many others, with discord in the family home. But then an unexpected visitor shows up: Younis, a young man from Baghdad. And all at once everything changes. Before the year is out, Laura and Younis are a couple. Laura leaves Vienna, her parents, and her friends, and follows Younis to Baghdad.

In the Garden of the Gods in the epic of Gilgamesh, the trees, leaves, and fruits are made of precious stones. There are no thorns, only crystals; no darkness, only sunshine. For Laura, the path into her new life seems as fabulous as this vision. The world of the Near East with its colors, fragrances, and sounds immediately draws her under its spell. But beyond the magnificent mansions of Baghdad, where the affluent live in isolation, this idyll comes to an end. The assassination of the royal family topples the Iraqi monarchy. Alone at home with her small child, Laura experiences the outbreak of civil war. Nothing remains as it was. Younis too becomes a different person. He leads a second life that Laura is not allowed to know about. She realizes she has married a stranger.

Alte Ansicht Shat-Al-ArabSusanne Ayoub tells the story of a brave young woman’s attempt to gain access to a foreign culture, of differing worldviews and social norms. She describes the high and low points of a marriage and sheds light on the background of a politically dramatic time, from the assassination of the Hashemite royal family to the revolutions and civil wars that followed.


“Susanne Ayoub overcomes the hardened fronts in view of the Islamic and Western worlds.” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)

InterviewS WITH Susanne Ayoub