Category: Syria

Faysal Khartash: دوار الموت ما بين حلب والرقة (Roundabout of Death)

The latest addition to my website is Faysal Khartash‘s دوار الموت ما بين حلب والرقة (Roundabout of Death). The novel is set in the worst part of the Battle of Aleppo in 2012. Our hero, Jumaa, an Arabic teacher, his family and frirneds are trying to survive the horrors of thew war, which include regular bombs and missiles from Russian planes, sniper fire, lack of food, water and electricity, arbitrary arrests and tortures and the inability to move easily around because of damage, roadblock, sniper fire and the Russian plane attacks. But Jumaa is not going to let it get him down. He is going to sit in his favourite café with his friends, in the main square, probably safe as it is under regime control and when it is no longer safe – it gets bombed – they just move to another café. His poor mother suffers – her house is bombed – and his wife is particularly upset when their son is arrested. While Jamma is very concerned for his mother, his wife and their son, he is determined not to let it get him down too much, even when he goes to Raqqa, under the control of the Islamic State.

Rafik Schami: Die dunkle Seite der Liebe (The Dark Side of Love)

The latest addition to my website is Rafik Schami‘s Die dunkle Seite der Liebe (The Dark Side of Love). Coming in at around 900 pages this may be a suitable book for the lockdown. It will keep you entertained for days. It is about the love affair between Farid and Rana, whose families have been having a bitter feud for some time and are of different religions, not Muslim vs Christian, but Catholic vs Orthodox. We follow not only their stories, but the stories of their relatives, families and friends, many of which are violent. Sex abounds but so does mistreatment of women, abuse of human rights and other unpleasantnesses. The story starts with a murder, that of a secret service officer, which is seemingly resolved quite quickly. Culprits are found but though they are punished, they are not guilty. The rest of the book is the background to the murder and, given the length, we soon forget the murder victim, who only pops up late in the book. It is colourful, at times funny, often grim but a wonderful set of stories to keep you entertained during lockdown.

Rafik Schami: Erzähler der Nacht (Damascus Nights)

The latest addition to my website is Rafik Schami‘s Erzähler der Nacht (Damascus Nights). Salim is a great coach driver and a great story-teller. However, he owes his story-telling ability to his good fairy and one day she tells him that she is retiring and he will become dumb. If he gets seven unique gifts from seven people within three months, she will be replaced. His seven friends come up with various ideas but none work, till they realise that each one has to tell a story. We follow each of the stories and something of the man telling the story but this book, is above all, about story-telling, Arabian Nights style and very good stories they are.

Olga Grjasnowa: Gott ist nicht schüchtern (City of Jasmine)

The latest addition to my website is Olga Grjasnowa‘s Gott ist nicht schüchtern (City of Jasmine). Grjasnowa is an Azerbaijan-born German national, married to a Syrian. This novel primarily takes place during the recent Syrian Civil War. We follow the fate of three Syrians caught up in it. Hammoudi has studied medicine in Paris and briefly returned to Syria to visit his family and renew his passport. However, though his passport is renewed, he is not allowed to leave the country. Amal is the daughter of a rich man, who is studying drama. She is also demonstrating against the repression by the Assad Regime. She meets Youssef, a young director. Amal and Youssef both get arrested and later leave the country, though their troubles are far from over. Hammoudi works as a doctor in his home town of Deir ez-Zor, while under heavy attack from both the Syrian army and Isis, before escaping to Turkey and also having further problems as a refugee. It is a thoroughly grim novel but interesting to see the crisis from the perspective of the ordinary Syrian trying to survive.

Shatila Stories

The latest addition to my website is Shatila Stories, a collaborative novel, set up by Peirene Press and written entirely by Palestinian and Syrian refuges in the Shatila refugee camp and edited into a coherent novel. The novel tells of life within the camp and it is naturally not generally pretty. Conditions are poor, violence, drugs and sexism are rife, opportunities are limited and life is not good. We follow the stories of a few of the refugees, those who try to make a better life for themselves but also those whose life has gone sour. A young girl is married off to an older man, to help pay her family’s debts, a young man and young woman enter a music contest, a young woman tries to get to university in Canada and all struggle to survive and bring meaning to their lives. Given that the novel was written by amateurs and edited by professionals, it has turned out remarkably well and is a really fascinating read.

Rana Haddad: The Unexpected Love Objects of Dunya Noor

The latest addition to my website is Rana Haddad:‘s The Unexpected Love Objects of Dunya Noor. This is the first novel by a Syrian woman who has spent her adult live in England. This novel tells the story of a Syrian woman, daughter of an English woman and a Syrian heart surgeon, Dunya Noor who, growing up in Syria, does not behave either in the way a young woman is expected to behave in Syria nor does she uncritically support the (Hafez) Assad regime. When she refuses to attend a voluntary demonstration, her mother takes her back to England before there are serious problems. There she meets another Syrian, Hilal, who is a physicist, studying the Moon. They live together but, when Hilal learns of his father’s death six months after the event, they decide to return. Hilal disappears and Dunya, with the help of a singer she meets in a men-only café, tries to track him down. This is a fascinating feminist, anti-Assad love story.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén