'We are despised, yet we grow. We are tortured and crucified and yet we flourish. We are hated and still we multiply. Why is that? You must wonder, how is it we survive?'
In a far corner of the Roman Empire, a radical sect is growing.
Alone, unloved and battling his sexuality, Saul scrapes together a living exposing these nascent Christians, but on the road to Damascus, everything changes. Saul - now Paul - becomes drawn into this new religion and its mysterious leader, whose crucifixion leaves followers waiting in limbo for his promised return. As factions splinter and competition to create the definitive version of Christ's life grows violent, he begins to question his new faith and the man at its heart. Damascus is an unflinching dissection of doubt, faith, tyranny, revolution, cruelty and sacrifice. A vivid and visceral novel with perennial concerns, it is a masterpiece of imagination and transformation.
Christos Tsiolkas is the author of The Slap, which won Overall Best Book in the Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2009, was shortlisted for the 2009 Miles Franklin Literary Award, longlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize and won the Australian Literary Society Gold Medal. He is also a playwright, essayist and screen writer. He lives in Melbourne.
The novel Tsiolkas was born to write
A visceral portrait of the life of St Paul
Guardian - Rob Doyle
A powerful testament to spiritual yearning and the human desire to transcend the physical world.
A narrative of shock and awe, fear and trembling, so large in ambition it will probably be the book for which he will be best remembered... Tsiolkas has made a career of taking sanctioned narratives and flipping them to reveal a dark human underbelly... At its best, which is miraculously often, the novel is conjugated not in the simple present but in what is knows as the "prophetic perfect".
The Weekend Australian
There are too many highlights to count in this daring, shocking, speculative work of biblical fiction by one of Australia's highest-profile authors. Captivating...
The Herald Sun
One of the most significant contemporary storytellers at work today
A vivid novel... an insightful and sympathetic portrait of a man assailed by doubts, envy and pride, and tormented by his own homosexuality. Both insider and outsider, Tsiolkas writes with enormous respect and admiration for Christianity's message of love and equality, while recognizing all the flaws that Christianity, like any religion, is subject to - intolerance, populism and fundamentalism, and grubby worldliness.
An enormously ambitious novel... Tsiolkas' message is ultimately one of hope and humanity... This is a brave, unflinching book.
Hyper real. I could taste the salt of Saul's sweat as I gasped and cried my way through the book... This latest release confirms his ability to identify and describe both the best and the worst of us humans, whether we wear sandals or sneakers.
Startling... Moving and powerful...
There aren't any cinematic sandal-and-toga moments here; these people are hyper real. I could taste the salt of Saul's sweat as I gasped and cried my way through the book.
Sunday Star Time
A deeply researched, crafted fictional world created by one of Australia's greatest literary talents.
Sydney Morning Herald
Tsiolkas takes on nothing less than the birth of Christianity - and does so with rigour and grit. This is as-it-happens history, deeply immersive, yet alive to hindsight irony. It's a brave book, and sincerely spiritual.
Sydney Morning Herald
One of Australia's best writers... rough, gutsy and sometimes shocking book, but always a gripping read.