Appointment In Samarra
By John O'Hara
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Appointment In Samarra by John O'Hara ranked # 22 on The Modern Library's Top 100 Novels list as selected by its Board Members.
Appointment in Samarra, published in 1934, is the first novel by John O'Hara. It concerns the self-destruction of Julian English, once a member of the social
elite of Gibbsville (O'Hara's fictionalized version of Pottsville, Pennsylvania).
The novel describes how, over the course of three days, Julian English destroys himself with a series of impulsive acts, culminating in suicide. O'Hara never gives any obvious cause or explanation for his behavior, which is apparently predestined by his character.
The title is a reference to W. Somerset Maugham's retelling of an old story, which appears opposite the title page of the novel. A merchant's servant tells him that in the Bagdad marketplace a woman, whom the servant recognizes to be Death, has just made a threatening gesture toward him. Borrowing the merchant's horse, he flees at top speed to Samarra, a distance of about 75 miles (125 km) and an almost impossible day's journey. The merchant asks Death why she made the threatening gesture. She replies "It was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra."
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