Calligraphies of the Desert
By Hassan Massoudy
2020, Saqi Books, 978-0-86356-177-1, $14.95 pb.
Reviewed by Sophie Kazan on July 6, 2021
Hurufiyya, a term deriving from the Arabic harf (letter), alludes to a fusion of art and calligraphy that strikes a balance between the formality of Arabic calligraphy and the fluidity of painting. A master calligrapher and artist both, Massoudy here responds to world poetry and philosophy using traditional Arabic calligraphy inspired by several international writers, poets and philosophers including Lebanese philosopher Khalil Gibran, poet and essayist Charles Baudelaire, philosopher Zuang Zhou and the historian Herodotus. The artist’s wife, Isabel, also contributes to this book with an evocative narrative that provides context for Massoudy’s sweeping, colorful images. The result is a beautiful expression of diverse philosophies that resound throughout time and space. One does not have to be an Arabic reader to appreciate Massoudy’s balanced, elegant and ultimately serene lines.