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Story about a man meeting death in the desert...?

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Apr 26, 2009, 1:10am Top

Hi all, I'm trying to track down a story (I don't know if it was a part of collection of short stories, or this is a well known parable/fable) about a man running away from death. Of course death catches up with him and the man asks why is death hounding him? Death says something like: "This was always our intended meeting place".

If anyone can point me to even the name of the story, I'd appreciate it.

Thankyou for your time.

Apr 26, 2009, 1:57am Top

There are several variations of this theme out there. The most often repeated is Appointment at Samara. I have no idea where you would find the actual text though. I have only ever heard this orally but I liked it so much I made a transcript of it. Is this it?

A certain rich merchant was walking through the market place of Baghdad when, standing across the street, he suddenly saw the figure of Death, beckoning him.
The terrified man ran home, mounted his fastest horse, and raced five hundred miles to Samara. Later that night, there was a knock at the door. When the man answered it, there stood Death.
"Why did you beckon me in the market place of Baghdad today?" asked the man. "I did not beckon you." replied Death. "I was merely surprised to see you, for I knew that tonight, we had an appointment in Samara.

Apr 26, 2009, 8:13am Top

Isn't there a similar story in Clive Barker's Books of Blood?

Apr 27, 2009, 11:23am Top

OH, I've read this recently. I borrow most of my books, so I can't look it up. The only desert setting I have read recently is The Eight by Katherine Neville. The plot involves a lot of chess terminology. Any chance this is it?

I don't feel my suggestion is correct, but I have read that passage not very long ago. I'll continue thinking.

Apr 27, 2009, 1:15pm Top

I think Ennyl (#2) is on the right track ... John O'Hara uses it as an epigraph to his amazing book Appointment in Samarra ... O'Hara took it from an older story retold by W. Somerset Maughm in one of the latter's works ... don't know where Maughm got it ... I had always been curious about it, too, and looked it up a while back ... this is the version from the novel, I believe:

Death Speaks:

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.

Apr 27, 2009, 1:46pm Top

I always thought this was a traditional Persian legend. The versions I know have the man riding to Ispahan (Isfahan -- the spelling varies), but searches for "death surprised samara" yield more results than those with "ispahan".

The story itself has been referenced and retold in loads of poems, novels and interviews, so unless Nocturne25 can give us more information (hardcover/paperback, cover, period, ...) s/he could be talking about any version.

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