Charlatan. Guru. Master of disguise. Ahead of his time, wise beyond his years, a simple opportunist or the great pretender; however you choose to see him, one fact is certain: Dr Ragab is a mysterious man. Talked about by pretty much everyone in 1920s Cairo, only a few get the chance to make his acquaintance, and fewer still -- one person, in fact -- get to study his life lessons. Hertwig is that lucky soul. Or not so lucky, perhaps: not when he finds himself, at the very end of the second world war, imprisoned in a bunker by a gang of thugs. And yet . . . there is a possible way out. Not in the conventional sense, it's true, but when you're holed up several feet underground, unsure of how long your captors plan to keep you alive, convention isn't necessarily a good thing, as Dr Ragab would be the first to proclaim -- and it's his Universal Language that may just provide Hertwig with the escape route he needs. As unconventional as the eponymous Ragab, Robert Twigger's novel takes the reader on a surreal journey from Ealing to Egypt, via Germany. Clever, funny and thought-provoking, Dr Ragab's Universal Language is, in every sense, beyond belief: part tall tale and part self-help manual, it is, like Dr R himself, impossible to pin down -- or, indeed, to put down. Part Boys Own adventure, part magical mystery tour Metro Wonderfully inventive and entertaining The Times Mixes Paulo Coehlo with The English Patient. An unlikely combination but, magically, it works Financial Times

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